Thursday, November 8, 2012

eBook Distributors Versus Self-Distribution

They say you get what you pay for. Who ever "they" are, is probably right. I have given up on trying to upload my ePub versions directly to Google Books myself. It is simply too confusing for me. Yes, I am fully aware it is probably quite easy to do and takes only minutes per book to upload.

The problem is, what is simple and intuitive for many people is not for me. As I work to expand the "infrastructure" of my business to increase sources of revenue, I have to make decisions about the best way to use the limited time I have to work for myself.

I have a full time job as a high school history teacher and coach. If any of you are or have been teachers, you know teaching is not a job for clock watchers. Neither is coaching.

The predicament I currently find myself facing is I have to spend all my time working on my website, my other blogs, my newsletters, etc, in order to expand my potential customer base. In other words, I am no different from any other self-published author.

So it made sense to me to try to find an ebook distributor. I thought about what my requirements for an ebook distributor would be. This is the list I came up with:

1) Must be extremely easy to use.

2) Must allow me to deal with both Amazon and Barnes & Noble directly myself. Since I "Aim at Amazon" all of my marketing efforts direct my customers to Amazon. I already have most of my Kindle books available as Nook editions at Barnes and Noble. All of the additional retailers are simply extra sources of sales I would not be able to generate otherwise.

3) Must distribute ebooks to as large a number of retail outlets as possible.

4) If there are costs involved on my part, those costs must be as low as possible.

5) I set the retail price.

6) I receive as large a piece of the pie for each sale as possible.

7) There must be no hidden costs or surprises.

8) Everything is transparent. I must have the ability to track all of my sales and royalties owed with ease. I like the Member Dashboards of CreateSpace for my POD titles, Amazon's KDP reports for Kindle sales and the set-up Barnes and Noble has for Nook sales.

9) Payment needs to be on a regular, predictable basis.

10) I want good customer service that is available to help me with my inevitable goof-ups in uploading my files or any other seemingly impossible mistake I will be able to make.

Jane Friedman wrote an excellent blog post titled 10 Questions to Ask Before Committing to Any E-Publishing Service. If you are searching for an ebook distributor I suggest reading this post.

My initial research led me to create a short list of three companies to consider: Smashwords, BookBaby and Pigeonlab. Smashwords is a pretty well known name and one of the first ebook distributors. BookBaby is another familiar company. I had never heard of Pigeonlab but that particular ebook distributor is recommended by the company I use to do my ebook conversions, eBook Architects.

I ruled Smashwords out nearly immediately. The more I read about their "meatgrinder" process of conversion and the problems associated with it, the more certain I was I would not use their service. A lot of my books have photographs and detailed diagrams. These have to be as high quality as possible as the ebook medium is not the best to begin with for this type of display with the current levels of ereader technology.

This left BookBaby and Pigeonlab. After visiting the two company's sites here is the side-by-side comparison of the two distributors.

My plan is to start with one book using BookBaby. Once that book earns out the $99 investment I may, or may not, list a second book with PigeonLab just to have an actual comparison. Whichever company I finally select, my plan is to only add one book at a time as the cost of listing a new book earns out from previous books distributed by one or both of these companies.

I just simply do not have the time and it might be worth the money to use this source of distributing my e-books. So I will start slow with one or two of my best selling titles and slowly expand as I learn.

As always, I will keep the readers of The Self-Publisher's Notebook informed of what I learn.