How to Choose an eBook Publisher – or DIY

06 Dec

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 offer all these services, but don’t act as publisher and don’t take any commission from the whole sale price. You receive 100%.

Read the fine print; know your contract.
Before you commit to publishing an e-book with any company, always read the fine print.

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.


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3 responses to “How to Choose an eBook Publisher – or DIY

  1. digitaldivaducky

    April 10, 2012 at 2:06 am

    Glad to see that someone else sees through the Smashwords hype. Mark Coker let it slip in a heated discussion several months back that they get their ISBN’s in blocks of 50,000 so in essense they are paying $1.00 each for the “free” ISBN that they “give”. For that outlay they get a commission and royalties from B&N and Amazon. We refuse to do “building” for Smashwords because everything that I have seen from them is a poorly formatted work. If the sample offered on B&N lists a Smashwords license note I don’t even bother going further in my reading.

  2. ebooksinternational

    April 10, 2012 at 4:40 am

    Deena, this is a really interesting fact. Wow, $1 per ISBN… Becoming the “publisher” for $1
    Canadian authors get ISBN’s free from the Canadian government, and I am sure they are not told this from aggregators.
    I like your blog and congratulate you for the submit buttons to all major social media networks. A win-win tool that very few bloggers use so far.

  3. ebook publishing

    February 19, 2013 at 6:02 pm

    Can I simply just say what a relief to find somebody who truly understands what they’re talking about on the web. You certainly know how to bring a problem to light and make it important. More people need to look at this and understand this side of the story. I was surprised that you aren’t more popular given that you most certainly have the gift.


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