Before you publish a book yourself, here are 7 questions to ask before committing to an e-publishing service. A quick search online will provide you with enough evidence that there’s no shortage of services dedicated to helping self-published authors find their legs in this challenging industry. From agents and consultants, to distribution channels and promotion platforms, it seems like there are a hundred solutions for every one problem you’re bound to encounter.
To ensure you’re making the right moves for your situation, we’ve compiled a list of the most important questions to ask before signing up with a particular service.
- What are the terms of the arrangement? We’re so used to glossing over the details of terms and conditions, but there’s one proviso definitely worth ctrl+f-ing. And that is, exclusivity. Most direct-to-author services offer non-exclusive contracts, however it’s always good to verify if it’s the case as exceptions are lurking (e.g. Amazon’s Kindle Select). If the service is indeed exclusive, which basically means you are forbidden from using a competing service, then you’ll want to understand concretely what the exact terms are, particularly the length of the contract.
- Who decides how much it is going to cost? If it’s a solid service, chances are the author will have total control over the pricing of the book. Some might have clauses about not offering better prices elsewhere.
- What about nasty hidden fees and charges? There are a lot of elements to take into account if you don’t want to rack up extra costs. If your book isn’t respecting a standard format or if your format isn’t adapted to the e-book market or has any sort of special “needs” whatsoever, you’ll start to accrue added costs.
- Do I own my e-book files? That would be the goal, yes. There are rare occasions though where you don’t. Surprisingly, free services are often the worst offenders in this case. They provide you with an e-book version of your document but don’t intend on you selling it afterwards.
- Who will be distributing my e-book? When Amazon provides a service like KPD and you use it, your book will be available on the Kindle. Same for Barnes & Noble and the Nook. If you’d like to see your e-book on both of these devices, why not use a multiple-channel e-book distribution service? Keep in mind that the Kindle & Nook alone take up nearly 80% of the market.
- How can I edit my e-book once it’s on sale? Editing is easily done when working with retailers. You simply upload your new version whenever you want. Be careful though, because some multiple-channel distributors like Smashwords will charge you to change your words, forcing you to hold your tongue.
- How are royalties calculated? Every service has their calculation. What you should do though is know upfront how much you expect to earn. That should be clearly defined by every service before you agree to work with one. With services like Amazon KDP and Nook Press, they’ll take a 30-40% cut. Other services like Smashwords leaves you with 85% of your sales from their site. If they’ve sold your book to a retailer though, you’ll see about 60% of your sales. Your best bet is to be well informed before making any decision so that your book gets the distribution it deserves, at a fair price, with fair earnings in your pocket.
The truth is, the seven questions above are only scratching the surface of the total picture. So as not to overwhelm you, we’ll stop ourselves here and expound upon the topic in future posts. Know that by asking yourself these questions, and by researching solutions as much as possible, you’re already on the best track to figuring out the right way to accelerate your career (or hobby) as a self-published author.
— Marquina (@Marquina) November 17, 2015