There is quite a difference between a real e-book publisher who pays an advance and then publishes your finished book or an e-book publishing company which is in reality often vanity publishing and takes a certain commission from your book.
And then there are author service companies who charge small fees to produce your ebook, but then do not tap into your royalty and where you can earn 100 percent of your ebook whole sale price. In all three variations the e-book retailers (Amazon, B&N, Apple, Sony, Diesel etc.) always get a percentage of the e-book sales, mostly around 30%, for providing their sales platform, point-of-sales cost, money transfer fees, workforce, marketing etc.
Compare e-book publishing company commission rates.|
E-book publishing companies hook you to have your book published without investing a dime, but as they act now as the official publisher they retain a big portion of your e-book sales to themselves – which is often not a good deal for you. They offer free ISBN numbers, an amount that is negligible ($25), and then take 15% commission (Smash Words). If your book becomes successful you lose out on a lot of money!
Your investment will not be more than $500 and $900 if you research for professional, yet inexpensive editing, cover design, ISBN number (free in Canada), book formatting and uploading. Author service companies such as BookBaby.com offer all these services, but don’t act as publisher and don’t take any commission from the whole sale price. You receive 100%.
Contact a lawyer who is specialized on publishing contracts and copyright issues and who can check your contract before you sign!
Research copyright details
Every publishing company plays by a different set of rules. Make sure that the e-book publisher you use allows you to retain the rights to your work.
This is another reason why you need to let a lawyer screen your contract.
Screen the e-Publisher
E-publishers can be anything, from very amateurish to very professional:
- Is their website professionally designed and easy to navigate? Is the text well-written and formatted? The website is the publisher’s shopping window, and should reflect professionalism.
- Does their staff have publishing, editing, or marketing experience? Beware of publishers that don’t provide this information on their websites.
- How long has the publisher been in business? Are there any complaints about the publisher or its staff? A web search on the publisher’s name (and words such as “complaint”, ”issues”, “problems”, “caution”) will sometimes turn up information–often on authors’ websites or in their blogs.
- Are other writers happy with the publisher? Contact a few of them, and ask.
- Order a couple of the publisher’s books. Are they of good quality? Professionally presented? How’s the cover art? Do they show signs of having been edited? Have they been proofread? What’s the caliber of the writing? Bad, poorly formatted, and/or sloppily-edited books do not encourage readers to return for more.
- For print books, if the publisher produces them, the royalty rate will be lower, but shouldn’t be less than what print publishers pay for trade paperback books–7%-10% of list.
- What’s the optimum price for an e-book? There’s no consensus, and prices are all over the map. The big print houses charge as much as $14.99, while independent e-Publishers tend to stick to the $4.00 to $7.00 range.
- How does the publisher market itself and its titles? As noted above, e-book authors are expected to shoulder a lot of the responsibility for marketing and promotion, but a professional e-Publisher will actively support its books–for instance, investing in some form of meaningful advertising to attract readers to its site, sending out press releases and advance reading copies, and attending conventions and book fairs.
- How forthcoming is the publisher? A reputable e-Publisher should be willing to answer your questions about things like sales figures and formats, give references, make its contract available for your review, and in general to provide information about itself and its publications (preferably on its website).
- A publisher that charges a fee or requires you to buy something as a condition of publication is either a vanity publisher or a self-publishing service, no matter what its claims to the contrary.
EPIC, an association for electronically-published authors, has a helpful list of contract clauses to watch out for. Explore their “Red Flag List” to find clauses that could become an issue with your future publisher.