If you've been reading the ebook news lately then I'm sure you know all about the reaction by Kobo, Amazon, and B&N when "news" broke that they were selling adult content. They removed hundreds of questionable titles as well as ebooks that did not violate any rules or laws, with Kobo even going so far as to temporarily gut their self-pub section.
No matter whether you think their response was justified or not, the events of the past few days remind us that authors can't rely on the major ebookstores to be there forever. It's past time that they set up a fallback position with an independent ebookstore.
Rather than list all the possible options I thought it better to list a few of the things I think authors should look for. I am not an author but I have bought stuff online and I have sold stuff online. I know what I look for, and I know what features I wish the major ebookstores would offer.
I feel that a ebookstore's reputation is more important than payment processing, website integration, or almost any other feature. If an author uses a service with a bad reputation then they could lose customers.
For example, if there were an ebookstore with the reputation of Ebay then I would avoid it. I despise Ebay, and I only use it because it doesn't really have any competition. Authors aren't so lucky and they can't afford to drive away readers.
Author Website Integration
An indie author isn't going to be able to rely on their author page on Amazon.com to drive sales, and that means that they will need to make it easy to for a visitor to their website to buy the ebooks. Ideally this would mean that the ebookstore would offer a widget of some kind that could be integrated into an author's website, but that is just one option.
Obviously an author needs to make it easy for customers to buy, and that means making sure that the payment options match up with whatever the customer is used to using.
Authors also need to make sure that they will be paid in a timely fashion and in a way that doesn't raise their costs too much. Remember, it wasn't too long ago that Amazon paid international KDP authors via a paper check which was snail-mailed from the US. That incredibly inconvenient delay is a marked contrast to Smashwords, which pays via Paypal.
Most ebookstores will tell you up front the percentage of each sale which they pay, and it varies between the various services. Smashwords is one of the higher paying ebookstores/distributors, and Gumroad pays even more. Of course this last service does nothing more than payment processing and delivering the file, so it's not for everyone.
This is a hot-button topic with strong feelings on both sides. I have long been in the DRM-free camp, but I'm not going to use this post to convince you to agree with me. Instead I will point out a couple useful details.
- If an author chooses to require DRM then they'll have to make sure that readers can use the DRMed ebook. This will generally restrict the author to ebookstores that offer Adobe DE DRM (there are exceptions).
- Also, choosing to use DRM will cost the author money in terms of fees paid to Adobe. The author will probably earn less on average from each sale.
Before an author sells ebooks on a site they should first try to buy an ebook. Does the search work correctly? Do the pages load quickly and is it easy to figure out your way around? Does the cover and description lok good? And finally, can the author easily change the price for a sale?
If the ebookstore's website doesn't function well then it could discourage customers. And since there are a lot of competing services there is little reason to choose one which is subpar.
On the other hand this particular point is also something of a trick question. For example, Gumroad doesn't offer any sales site at all. It just offers payment processing, content delivery, and a higher royalty rate than some of their competition.
There are probably a dozen or more different issues which affect this topic. I don’t think i will be able to think of them all, so I am going to throw open the comments and let authors fill in what I missed.
What do you look for in an indie ebookstore?
image by brewbooks