Book Distribution

Amazon’s Worst Attack on Authors & Publishers


Writer and journalist Douglas Preston explained in the New York Times:
Month’s ago, Amazon quietly changed the way it sells books when allowing third-party sellers to trick Amazon’s customers by selling books as “new” that may not come straight from a publisher or its wholesaler. These third-party sellers are now featured atop the primary purchase button for new books. This was always the spot for Amazon’s own inventory, delivered directly from the publishers or indie authors.

Approved third-party sellers “win” this placement through a secret algorithm that considers, among other things, price, availability, seller’s rating and shipping time. In doing so, Amazon abdicates its role as the prime retailer on its own website. The main requirement is that the books offered by the third-party seller must be “new.” So when a customer hits this main buy button, they expect to get a brand-new book, right?  No, not necessarily. But how can third-party sellers offer dozens of “new” books at prices way below even the discounted Amazon price?”

  • One of the reasons is that such books could have been bought in bulk by a handful of giant online third-party sellers to be re-sold through Amazon as “new” books, while some are not.
  • Bookstores can return unsold books for credit.  The publisher or distributor will sometimes sell these returns at a discount in bulk as overstocks, or sell excess inventory as remainders. Huge online bookstores buy these books (perfectly legal). Often, these books are marked with a line indicating they are remainders.  But sometimes, they are not. In such cases, the online bookstore might resell them as “new” on Amazon.
  • Blemished books also seem to feed the gray market for “new” books. Bookstores will return shopworn books or those damaged in shipping under the category of “hurt books.”  The publisher sells these books as used books.  Online bookstores may buy them in bulk, sort through them, and resell as “new” the least damaged through Amazon.
  • Publishers sell books to international wholesalers at large discounts on a non-returnable basis.  Due to contract, these books must be sold abroad, but wholesalers could quietly dump these books in the American market through a third-party seller on Amazon, cheating the publisher.”

How Amazon’s Secret Policy Change Hurts Authors & Publishers:
Publishers and authors, deprived of income and royalties, have long worried about this gray market. Amazon, to its credit, quickly tightened up its definition of a “new” book, to the one cited above. These definitions make clear that remainders are not regarded as “new” books, and the company insists that it follows a strict policy as to what qualifies.  For publishers, the cost of policing the market, marking and tracking books, and suing malefactors have proven to be daunting.”

Remainder overstock sales bring some revenue for publishers, but the authors receive little to no royalties.  See also our former blog: The Shocking Fact Why Authors Don’t Get Paid

Don’t Buy a “New” Book on Amazon from 3rd Parties
Nick Douglas wrote on LifeHacker:

“Amazon, a company Jeff Bezos invented to piss off everyone in the book industry simultaneously, likes to make books as cheap as possible.  To that end, this spring they moved third-party options up to the top of the page, sometimes even listing third-party sellers as the default buying option.  You might see a “new” option that’s cheaper than Amazon’s actual new option.  Here’s who misses out: Mostly the Author.

Usually, authors get royalties from the sale of new books. If you buy a typical used book, you at least know that the author got their royalty when it was first sold. But with a third-party “new” book, the author often gets nothing, or very little. Under most contracts, most or all of an author’s royalty is a percentage of the sale price, rather than a flat rate per copy.”

“In the short-term, buying third-party can save you money.
But in the long term, you are supporting book piracy!”

If you want to save money on a book, go ahead and buy it used, or borrow it from the library. Most of the time, you’re sharing or inheriting a book that once earned money for the publisher and the author.

Amazon’s policy is bad for books, bad for authors and bad for Amazon’s customers.  This Amazon action comes at a time when authors are struggling more than ever to make a living in the harsh economics of the digital marketplace.  Amazon’s policy will undermine authors’ incomes even further if it directs customers to “new” books for which the author receives no royalty.

As an author, how can you prevent – at least partially – to be screwed by Amazon and their sellers?
For years I wrote in many blogs and in my publishing guidebooks: “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.”

1. Sell your e-books and books on your own website
2. Diversify – Sell your books through distributors worldwide

Sell From Your Own Website:
The ideal way to sell an e-book is from your own e-commerce site, especially if you have a large, dedicated followership.
– You keep 100% of the revenue (minus a small fee to the e-commerce app)
– It drives more traffic to your website
– You will receive immediate payments.
– You will know your readers, which is absolutely not possible when you sell through online retailers

How to Set-up Your OWN Online Bookstore
Excerpt from: 111 Tips on How to Market Your Book for Free
With all of these fantastic options via e-commerce apps, you have plenty of reasons to sell your book directly from your website in addition to your sales through online retailers.  Put your eggs in several baskets – not just in one!  And it is good to have access to your readers, to know who is buying and reading your books, in order to communicate with them and inform them about your next works.  It is important for your author website to have a large outreach, which can be addressed in this way…

Distributors Who Bring Your Book to Retailers – Worldwide
Loading up your e-books – and now even print books – is easy on Amazon.  And you should do it yourself for more control and as you have to set up your author website anyway.  However loading up to other large online retailers, such as Apple, Kobo, Barnes & Noble can be daunting.   Some retailers might not even want to deal with single authors (Apple) or don’t want to deal with authors from outside the US (such as Barnes & Noble).

Distributors, or aggregators, how they are often called, offer sometimes even free e-book formatting, such as D2D.  Some require a yearly fee and don’t deduct any commission, for example, eBookPartnership.  Some are only distributing e-books, others distribute print as well.  We work with several distributors, one for each author, and are very happy with D2D for e-book distribution.
But all of them are delivering to bookstores, online retailers, and libraries in North America, Europe and many other parts of the world.
If you registered your publishing business and have your own ISBN’s then you can even distribute through LightningSource/Ingram.
When choosing an aggregator/distributor: ask, compare and research before you decide which service company you choose.
In our blog “Who is the Best? Book Distributors Compared” you will find lots of info and addresses.

Publishers and Author-Publishers find info regarding POD and distribution via LightningSoure and Ingram here.

Instead of dealing with many different single-channel services, accounting systems, and payment variations, you deal with only one service and revenues from several online retailers reach you in one amount, which saves writers and small publishers certainly a lot of accounting work.

Read More:

On a personal note: I loved to order from Amazon in the 90’s.  But not anymore.  The company became only a warehouse/shipper with a terribly cluttered website. As a customer, you are always wary of the third-party sellers, their goods, and warranties.

And being a supplier of books/ebooks to Amazon feels equally uncomfortable, as they are taking advantage of their market power and changing policies without the consent of publishers and authors.


Pro’s & Con’s to Distribute eBooks via Pronoun



You might have read several articles in this blog about converting ebooks and distribution via aggregators, such as LightningSource, CreateSpace, IngramSpark. We also introduced Draft2Digital and the British eBookPartnership.

Let’s Have a Look Today at PRONOUN
Created by Macmillan Publishing (one of the Big 5), Pronoun is a site which distributes your ebook to online retailers.  But not only that: Pronoun offers you to create a free landing page for yourself, including for each of your books, from where you can add links to any or all of the five largest English-language ebook retailers: Amazon, Apple’s iBooks, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, and Google – to which Pronoun distributes your e-books.
You can pick and choose your retailers on Pronoun.

Pronoun’s greatest benefit is that they pay out a full 70 percent of the book’s cover price on all sales for all ebooks under $10 – and 65 percent for books priced over $10).  Pronoun pays the full 70 percent revenue even for e-books priced under $2.99.

See What You Would Receive Elsewhere:

  • Amazon pays 70 percent revenue minus the $0.15 per megabyte transfer fee for ebooks priced $2.99 to $9.99 while paying 35 percent for lower- or higher-priced e-books.
  • Barnes & Noble pays 65 percent revenue between $0.99 and $9.99 and 40 percent for higher priced e-books.
  • Google Play pays 52 percent revenue.
  • Apple and Kobo pay 70 percent.
  • On June 7, 2017, Pronoun announced the addition of the library distributors OverDrive and Bibliotheca to its retail distribution.  Authors are now able to add OverDrive and Bibliotheca as distributors when publishing on Pronoun, adding their ebook to catalogs from which over 20,000 libraries can purchase for circulation.

Conversion of eBooks is FREE

  • The best file format to deliver to Pronoun is docx – not doc.
  • Files are converted for free to mobi (for Amazon, and ePub for all other online retailers)
  • You can choose separate pricing for of major currencies.
  • However, prices are available only in amounts ending in $0.99
  • Revenue is paid out monthly, forty-five days after the end of the month in which the sale occurred.

Pronoun is helpful for authors and offers a number of amazing features, such as showing you your book cover next to others in its category, as well as suggesting less crowded categories and more effective keywords.

Now the Con’s:

  • Only English-language books are converted and distributed through Pronoun.
  • If you let your book distribute to Amazon through Pronoun, you can’t advertise your e-book using Amazon Marketing Services
  • You cannot list the title through the exclusive KDP Select or the KindleUnlimited program – well, after all, they pay you 70 percent revenue!
  • You can’t add any links to other online retailers – as Apple iBooks, for example, refuses to list e-books that have a link to Amazon in their text.

eBook Conversion
Pronoun’s conversion tool is based on the open-source software Calibre.  You can choose fro six book design templates.  So, novels are best suited – not so much non-fiction books with complex layouts…

A well-paying aggregator that converts novels for free, and distributes to all major online retailers – offering even a free website for you and each of your books.  In the future, many authors will want to use Pronoun as their one-stop solution.

Read also:



Author Discussions: Amazon’s New Buy Button



Publisher’s Weekly alerted authors and publishers: “A new program from Amazon is drawing a range of reactions from those across the publishing industry, from fear to downright anger. The e-tailer has started allowing third-party book re-sellers to “win” “buy buttons” on book pages.  The program, publishers, agents, and authors allege, is discouraging customers from buying new books, negatively affecting sales and revenue.”
Interesting comments from authors and publishers on this site too.

And Brooke Warner,  contributor to Huffington Post, wrote: “How Amazon, Once Again, Is Driving Down The Value Of Books And Undermining Authors.  Third-party sellers can now ‘win’ the Buy box.  Here’s what that means:
When you go to a product page on Amazon, the ADD TO CART button is the default offer.  Other used options fall below the ‘Buy Box’.  Where books are concerned, the default “Buy Box” option has always belonged to the publisher.  When you buy a book, Amazon pays the publisher 45 percent of the list price, so authors are making a profit (albeit small) every time you buy.  This contributes to authors’ royalties and also means that your purchase is supporting the entity that published the book, namely the publisher.

Now, Amazon’s policy states that “eligible sellers will be able to compete for the “Buy Box”, but in this case, we had been completely wiped off of Amazon as an eligible seller in any capacity, without being notified.

A Big Question Comes to Mind Here:
Where is Amazon’s accountability to publishers? The impact this policy has on publishers’ backlist (typically meaning any book that’s six months or older) is potentially devastating, especially because consumers don’t understand what’s going on here.

Small publishers, in particular, are dependent on backlist sales for their livelihood.  Amazon is a Herculean player when it comes to backlist sales because bookstores favor front-list books. If you’re looking for a book that’s a year old or more, you’re likely to go to Amazon to find it.  Second Wind was published in 2010, but the way Amazon has set up this listing, it’s as if the book were out of print with the publisher.  I know for a fact it is not.

• Amazon, once again, is attempting to drive down the value of books, and therefore intellectual property and creative work in general.

• Amazon suggests that one of the ways you can win the Buy Box is to keep books “in stock”.  This poses a major problem for self-published authors and any backlist author whose books are print-on-demand.  Print-on-demand automatically means there’s no stock.  The books are printed to order.  If Amazon is penalizing books that are set up as POD titles and favoring third-party sellers who have stock due to any of the above-mentioned means of procurement, authors will again be dinged when their own listing, or publisher listing, doesn’t exist on Amazon.”  Read the whole article with screenshots here:
Nate Hoffelder counters in Digital Reader:
In recent weeks, Amazon’s new Buy Box policy has received a fair amount of industry attention and blowback, leaving publishers and authors speculating about Amazon’s motives for implementing it.  While some think the industry reaction is a tempest in a teacup, with publishers raising their hackles once again over an Amazon business decision, others see the policy—which allows third-party sellers to “win” the “Buy Box”, thus relegating publisher listings to the “Other Sellers on Amazon” section—as an aggressive move against publishers and authors.

The revelation early last week that Amazon is allowing third-party resellers to compete to win the featured “buy buttons” on the e-tailer’s book pages led to criticism from publishers, authors, and agents, as well as a fair amount of confusion over how the program actually works.

Up until March 1, the featured buy button had been reserved for books that Amazon sold on behalf of publishers.  Under the new program, to win buttons, resellers must meet various Amazon criteria that include some combination of price, availability, and delivery time.  In addition, the program is only open to books in new condition.  Amazon noted that it permits resellers to compete with it on the sale of new items in most of its other product categories and that the recent change allows resellers of new books to compete in the books category.

The “Buy Box” Change
Announced in November 2016 without much fanfare, in a seller forum notifying vendors: “Sellers will be able to compete for the Buy Box for Books in new condition.”  The language of the announcement was geared toward vendors, not publishers or author-publishers.

And despite the controversy, some people’s reaction to the change has been ambivalent: So what if a publisher’s listing ranks third or fourth under “Other Sellers on Amazon?”  The argument supporters of Amazon love to make is that e-tail giant is just beating publishers at their own game – so publishers should start playing the game better and stop complaining.

Here’s the problem: Amazon is much more than just a retailer. It’s the go-to site for books. And reliance on Amazon as your only vendor is a dangerous business strategy.
Many in the industry speculate that Amazon’s ultimate motive with the “Buy Box” policy relates to the company’s plans to expand its POD offerings.  Amazon’s guidelines for how to win the “Buy Box” states that vendors must excel in pricing, availability, fulfillment, and customer service.

Print-on-Demand Books
For authors using CreateSpace for POD titles, the only one of these areas Amazon will not directly control is pricing.

  • Authors who distribute their POD books through CreateSpace can choose an option called expanded distribution.  The authors agree to take a smaller royalty (40% vs 60%) in order for the book to be listed with third-party retailers like Barnes & Noble’s website and Walmart’s website.
  • The thing about expanded distribution is that those third-party retailers can price the book however they like.  They can discount the book if they so choose, and they can sell the book at twice the list price.  What’s more, those third-party sellers can also list the book on Amazon’s marketplace.

Authors who choose expanded distribution could now see the “Buy Button” going to third-party sellers that offer the authors’ books at a discount.  On the other hand, given that most indie authors have anemic print sales because POD books are so expensive, any discount is bound to result in an increase in print sales and a net benefit for authors. But they will also be getting a smaller royalty on the list price, meaning they’re earning less per title.

While publishers and authors acknowledged that Amazon has the right to facilitate sales of used books through resellers, they are mystified about how third-party resellers can sell new books at the low prices they are charging and, more importantly, about how they are obtaining the books.

What is a New Book?
In a letter sent to resellers about the new program, Amazon said books must be in “new condition,” a phrasing that made publishers and authors believe resellers are using the term as a loophole to sell used books. Amazon said that, though the reseller letter does use the phrase “new condition,” the definition of what new means is found in its guidelines; a new book must be a “brand-new, unused, unread copy in perfect condition. The dust cover and original protective wrapping, if any, is intact.”

In a statement, Amazon said it has procedures in place to make sure new books are in fact new: “We want customers to buy with confidence any time they make a purchase on Amazon and require all sellers to sell authentic products. We use a variety of methods to review sellers and individual offers depending on the situation and this can include asking for invoices, identity documentation, and other information.”

Lot’s of Comments From Readers
The impact of the change is far from clear at this stage; a number of observers believe it will hurt smaller publishers more than big publishers. But all publishers and authors see it as Amazon taking another piece of the book revenue pie.

“Amazon no longer needs to sell books at all, so there’s no reason that it will fail to extract all possible profit from all transactions.”

“It’s not about extracting profit as it is eliminating the profit margin in order to drive down the price. Amazon has always, always gone for volume.  They sell as much as they can as cheaply as they can.  This latest change is another step in this direction.”

“On the other hand: If you distribute through IngramSpark and offer the short discount of 40%, then you will always get 60% regardless of downstream discounts. Net of print costs – but that applies everywhere.”

“Amazon is getting a profit margin from the sales. And they’re pumping up the volume (to increase their total margin) by dropping the price.”

“They’ll keep it up until they’ve moved every drop from our column into theirs, by forcing the share of the prices offered to (self-)publishers down, and manipulating the demand and supply curves until they’ve got all the available margin possible.”

“Given that Amazon is a publicly traded company, and a near-monopsony, they have no other ethical option.”

“As I understand it, PoD (at least at CreateSpace and Ingram) pays out based on the cover price that I list, not the sales price (the way KDP pays out). Who cares what discount anyone wants to run? I get the same royalty, and (hopefully) a sales increase.”

What Authors Can Do:
The only way to escape somewhat from Amazon’s near-monopoly is to expand to other online retailers, such as iBooks, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, Scribd etc., setting up an account with each of these retailers or use the services of distributors.

Draft2Digital for example formats your manuscript for free into the epub format and transfers it to dozens of online retailers in North America and Europe – in hours! and promote your book through Books2Read.  They get a 10% commission on sold books. eBookPartnership in Great Britain charges for formatting, but don’t take a commission. Smashwords also takes ten percent.

Sell From Your Own Website!
With all of the fantastic options via e-commerce apps, you have plenty of reasons to sell your book directly from your website in addition to your sales through online retailers. Shopify, Selz, Gumroad or Ganxy offer easy and inexpensive shop programs for your website. Put your eggs in several baskets – not just in one! The best part: you have access to your readers, you know who is buying and reading your books, in order to communicate with them and inform readers about your next works.



Easy eBook Formatting and Distribution

Can you imagine to upload your ebook manuscript as a Word document within 2-3 minutes (including the sign-up process) to an ebook distributor?  That you get your manuscript formatted for free, and find your book at Apple iBooks, B&N, Kobo, Tolino (in Europe), and several other online retailers within 24 hrs?

At a self-trial, I experienced just that.  After reading several positive articles during the last two years from a variety of authors, I wanted to see it myself.  Now I can second all of their praise!

Formatting a book and submitting it to all the different platforms (besides Amazon) can be tedious work.  Apple’s iBooks require even the use of a Mac computer.  And to “put all your eggs in one basket” is not an option for smart self-publishers.  So how do you get your books to Barnes&Noble, Kobo, iBooks or (in Europe) to Tolino users?  An aggregator (distributor) will help authors to achieve this.

All Sales Channels Open for this eBook:
I uploaded the manuscript .docx “Helping Refugees on a Greek Island” for this pro-bono ebook to raise funds – author Charmaine Craig – on January 17 and not even 24 hours later I got the message that the book is already available at B&N, Kobo and Tolino (a European Online Retailer)

Barnes & Noble – Published on Jan. 18, 2017, 5:17 p.m.

Kobo – Submitted to Distributor on Jan. 17, 2017, 8:32 p.m.

Tolino – Published on Jan. 18, 2017, 5 a.m.

eBooks in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland:
eBooks distributed by D2D are available for example at:

It has been said that Tolino controls 42% of the German-speaking (including Switzerland and Austria) e-Book market, which is the third largest English-language e-Book market in the world.

Why use conversion distributor/aggregator D2D:

  • No up-front fees – D2D is absolutely free: for conversions, and for upload to online retailers
  • Self-publishers get daily sales reporting
  • Draft2Digital pays monthly by EFT, cheque or Paypal
  • Commission, once the book is sold, is 10% from list price
  • Authors don’t have to wait until $100 are reached to get your cheque ($25 is the threshold)
  • Receive only one revenue check a month instead of a couple of checks from different platforms.
  • D2D offers FREE ebook conversion – which can save you a lot of time or money.  File output is in ePub, but you can also download a .mobi version.
  • Books can be uploaded and sold on Apple, Barnes&Noble, Kobo, Tolino, Inktera etc

However, I suggest to upload to Amazon directly, as it is easier to create and maintain your author page there – even if D2D one day might distribute to Amazon. This is true for all distributors or aggregators, as they are called.

Seriously Service-Oriented
D2D does not charge authors to update book files with corrections, be it the book’s content or the book project data, and that’s a big winner for self-published authors. Authors can also choose which channels to use for distribution.

You can call D2D and talk with a human person about any issues or questions you may have.  They pick up the phone right away, and a competent person answers your questions.  Unlike at Amazon, where a clueless call center rep gives you the impression they couldn’t care less – after you waited already twenty minutes or longer for the next available “customer service” person.  Or even worse: CreateSpace where I wait since over a week for an answer to my email.

Draft2Digital only requires your text in a Word document with chapter headings styled in Header 1 and body text in Normal.  Draft2Digital sends a confirmation email every time your title is successfully uploaded on an online retailer’s site, with a link to your book’s sales page.

NEVER place your book to only one online retailer!
Learn also how you can get a free single link to all online bookstores where your title is listed at D2D:  Thanks for this tip via an article by author Derek Haines.


IngramSpark for POD and Book Distribution?


There are some good reasons to choose IngramSpark for POD: They offer stunning colors, sharp graphics, and crisp text, such as for children’s books, travel guides, cookbooks, graphic novels – all at prices comparable to black-and-white.  And: they produce even hardcover books!

Book distribution is via LightningSource/Ingram which is connected to a global distribution network of 40,000+ booksellers around the world – in stores and online. Ingram has printing facilities in the UK, Australia, and partner agreements in other countries.  However, most brick-and-mortar stores will order it if a customer requests the title, but they won’t stock it automatically.

Another Benefit is that IngramSpark Bought
This acquisition is a great opportunity to sell on your own website and allow Ingram to do order fulfillment. The Bookseller wrote last month how Ingram’s concept works out:

  • For standard Web operations: “Embed a storefront on your site. Share and sell in social streams. Add Buy buttons to existing pages.”
  • For social media in-stream sales: “Share products on Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and more. The cart and checkout are included.”
  • Even for brick-and-mortar stores: “Extend your product selection with an storefront. We’ll pick, pack, and ship to your customer’s door.”

Prices for POD at IngramSpark are slightly higher than at CreateSpace, as they charge a set-up fee, but customers say their print quality is pretty good, plus international distribution is really excellent!  There is another perk at IngramSpark: Once the book is approved for production, they will automatically send a pre-order information to their list of retailers, libraries, and more. Ingram will start scheduling the book to be printed ten days before the launch date to ensure that pre-orders are received by then.

Discount for Book Stores
At IngramSpark you can choose between 40% or 55% discount for distribution to bookstores – while CreateSpace takes 60% (and only for Amazon 40%).  If you don’t want to have your book stocked in every brick-and-mortar store, choose your 40% discount at Spark.  That means with every book sold, you will earn way more than with CreateSpace.

If you want to see your title in bookstores, you will need the 55% discount – as stores want to get a true industry-standard discount and also: the books are then returnable. Which might be a bit of a risk…  Another solution – which quite a few self-publishers use – is to have CreateSpace for Amazon sales, but IngramSpark for distribution to other stores.

Excerpt from Guidelines to Upload Your Book
Interior files:

  • Must be uploaded as a separate file from the cover PDFs created using the “save as” function from MS Word are not supported!
  • Use single-page format (1-up per page) Do not include crop, registration, or printer marks
  • All fonts must be embedded Make sure the final page is blank
  • Must include CMYK images at/72dpi or higher.
  • CMYK value should not exceed 240%. Elements should not be built in “Registration”.
  • All spot colors with/without transparencies must be converted to CMYK.

Cover Files:

  • Resolution 300 dpi
  • Color Space: CMYK

A very detailed instruction manual helps authors to navigate the uploading of their manuscripts.

One Important Advice
Buy your own ISBN!  Unless this will be your only book you ever publish or unless you don’t care if you are considered the publisher, and unless you don’t want it to list in the worldwide list of books available.

Read also:

Author G. Giammatteo’s comparison of IngramSpark and CreateSpace

Author Melinda Clayton: Moving Print Book Files from CreateSpace to IngramSpark



Another Trap: Agent-Curated Self-Publishing


Lobster Traps

The New York Times reported once: “A new Perseus unit, called Argo Navis Author Services will be available (only) to authors who are represented by an agency that has signed an agreement with Perseus.”  For me it was somewhat shocking to learn that Ingram acquired Perseus’ distribution elements – which includes Argo Navis at the end of March 2016.

Perseus emphasized that while Argo Navis provided distribution and marketing services, the author remained the publisher.  While authors get a higher share of the revenue under this arrangement, they’ll receive fewer (or almost none) of the services, and financial support, provided by publishers under more conventional contracts.  Argo Navis will provide basic marketing services, like placing product pages on retailer Web sites.  It will also make more extensive marketing services available for a fee.”

… Which is essentially just uploading the cover image and book details, a part of the distributing process, and has nothing to do with marketing.

The Passive Voice Did the Math:

What’s In It For Authors?  Participating authors get lower royalties, no sales reports, slower payments, and lose the ability to make quick changes to things like pricing – which is essential for marketing.

An author self-publishing directly with KDP will receive up to 70% of list price – an author who self-publishes via Argo Navis will receive 41.65% of list price.

Or in other words:
A self-publisher with a book priced $4.99 on Amazon nets $3.49 per sale.
Argo Navis clients with a book priced $4.99 on Amazon receive $2.08 per sale.
“Most Argo Navis books are selling 1 copy a month (or less!). Instead of getting a better deal for their authors, these literary agents are ensuring their authors get a much worse deal.”

Why Are Literary Agents Using Argo Navis?
Bestselling Author David Gaughran wrote about this money grab from them and the literary agents: “Argo Navis has been very clever with how they market their service.  It’s pitched as agent-curated self-publishing.  Argo Navis don’t (and won’t) deal with authors directly, and will only accept titles for distribution submitted by literary agents.  Given the abysmal rankings of books published via Argo Navis, it’s not a challenge that they are handling well.”

“But what’s in it for the agent?  For starters, royalty checks come to their offices first (after Argo Navis have taken their considerable bite).  This allows the agent to deduct their 15% before the author sees any money.  Of course, it allows unscrupulous agents to take a little more – something enabled by Argo Navis only providing sales reports to agents rather than directly to authors – but I digress.”

“These agencies are simply passing the manuscripts from the author to the distributor, Argo Navis, billing the author for any services they need, plus taking their 15% cut.  And what have they done for that cut?  Put them in the hands of a crappy distributor who is taking 30% of their revenues (on top of the 30% the retailers take and separate from the 15% agents are getting).  At this point you would be forgiven for thinking that no reputable literary agency would go for this.  Well, I wish that was the case…”

See a long list of well-known agencies that have signed up with Argo Navis – and who may not fulfill their legal obligation to seek the best deal for their authors, on David Gaughran’s blog.

Mick Rooney from the Independent Publishing Magazine wrote  already three years ago: “We’ve witnessed agents and publishers alike happily clamber into affiliation programs, partnerships and arrangements with solutions services offering anything but fair and transparent deals for authors.  It makes you wonder if agents and publishers know, bother or even care about the reputation and quality of a company they choose to do business with.”


Who is the Best? Book Distributors Compared


“In my experience, it’s almost always advantageous to go direct where you can.  Benefits include faster payments, up-to-date sales figures (crucial for measuring the effectiveness of any marketing), more direct control of which categories you appear in (important for both discoverability and visibility), and the ability to make changes to your metadata quickly, e.g. to change price for a temporary sales price campaign.  But there are roadblocks: Barnes & Noble only allows US self-publishers to upload books.  Apple famously requires self-publishers to use a Mac to upload,” writes bestselling author David Gaughran.

Are you living outside the USA as an Indie Author / Self-publisher and you don’t want to go through all the hassle with opening a US branch, or US bank account and tax number?  The easiest way to circumnavigate this dilemma is to use the help of a book distributor, also called aggregator.
An ebook aggregator deals with ebook authors directly and connects them with ebook retailers such as Apple, Kobo, Amazon and Barnes & Noble.  There are two categories of e-book (and often also print) distribution services:

Online Retailer Upload:
These services, typically retailers such as Amazon, distribute and sell your work through only one channel (their own) or their devices, such as Kindle Direct Publishing and PubIt! by Barnes & Noble (for US writers and publishers only), Kobo WritingLife and Google Play.
Apple iTunes allows DIY uploading of your iBooks too if you’re an Apple Mac user.  Single-channel distributors / online retailers do not offer any assistance in converting your e-book files, although they sometimes accept several file types for upload.
Many other on and off-line book retailers work only through an aggregator/distributor.
Multiple-Channel distribution:
These services, such as eBookPartnership, Draft2Digital, Smashwords and BookBaby, act practically as middlemen and upload your work to a variety of retailers and distributors.  It reduces the amount of work an author must do tremendously.  Instead of dealing with many different single-channel services, accounting systems, and payment variations, you deal with only one service and revenues from several online retailers reach you in one amount, which saves writers and small publishers certainly a lot of accounting work.

Quite a few of these distributors also offer basic and advanced conversion services.  Some act as full-service companies, requiring no effort from you, the author – for a hefty fee.  However, in exchange for the services of a multi-channel distributor, you typically have to pay either a yearly upfront fee per book and/or give up a large percentage of your sales.
Book distribution is not a “set-and-forget” task.  No matter if you self-distribute, or use an aggregator, you need to periodically monitor your book’s presence, out on the digital bookshelves.

Many authors start by using Kindle Direct Publishing, then add on a multi-channel distributor such as eBookPartnership, Draft2Digital, BookBaby, Smashwords (which distributes to all major devices and retailers except Amazon KDP).


When choosing an Aggregator / Distributor: ask, compare and research before you decide which service company you choose.  Are you willing to pay for convenience?  You pay one way or another: either a yearly fee or a commission per book sale.

  • Cost: lump sum per year – or percentage of each book sale?
  • Ease of upload, and do they explain it on their website?
  • Sales reporting: how often and how detailed? Ask them for an example
  • Do they let you set up an author page at the online retailer’s site, will you get the password to do it yourself?
  • Payment schedule: monthly or quarterly?
  • Sales channels: how many retailers and which ones?
  • Revenue: is there a deduction per sale?
  • Speed and cost of changes after your book is distributed?
  • Pre-Orders at online retailers possible?
  • Customer Service – can you talk with a life person?
  • Conversion / Formatting quality – VERY important!
  • Formatting / Conversion costs: Formatting is when a designer polishes your manuscript to professional standards for both print and eBook formats. Conversion is just taking the manuscript and turning it, with the help of software, into epub or .mobi format.
  • ISBN’s:  An ISBN is not required for e-book distribution to Amazon Kindle or Barnes & Noble Nook, however Kobo, Apple and other retailers and services do require one.  Authors will need an ISBN for their e-book.  Some services will provide you with an ISBN as part of the fee for their services, however, it means THEY are considered the publisher – and you cannot ever reverse it!

Buy your own through!

ISBN’s make you look professional.
ISBN’s get your books into more places, you are considered a publisher.
ISBN’s make your books easier to find – your book gets into a worldwide database

Upfront Cost: $50 per year
Deduction per sale: NONE
Formats accepted: doc, docx, odf, pdf, rtf, mobi, kf8, epub, pages.
Distributes to: Apple, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, OverDrive, Scribd, Baker & Taylor, Gardners Books, EPSCO, Scribd, GooglePlay, eSentral, Textr, Waterstones, BookMate, Indiebound, BookTopia, Angus & Robertson, BookFoundry, Feedbooks, Goodreads, Ingram, Kalahari, StoryTel, Books-a-Million, Whitcoulls, Askews & Holts, and StoryTel – just to list some of the more than 150 partners and 65,000+ libraries.
What’s more: ebook conversion, cover design, and book scanning services

Upfront Cost: $0
Deduction per sale: 15%
Formats accepted: Word .doc, professionally designed epub
Formatting: By the author with the help of a formatting guide (unless a fee is paid)
Distributes to: Apple, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, OverDrive, Scribd, Baker & Taylor, mobile phone app vendors and other online venues (must upload to Amazon KDP yourself)
What’s more: Coupon generator for free books

Print Distribution: $199 for any printed book order of 25+ books.
Upfront Cost: $299 (without ebook-formatting $149)
Deduction per sale: 0%
Formats accepted: Word, PDF
Formatting: Included
Distributes to: KDP, Barnes & Noble, Apple, Kobo, Copia, Gardners Books, Baker & Taylor, eSentral, Scribd, Flipkart, Ciando, EBSCO, ePubDirect,
What’s more: Print-on-demand and book cover services available. However, their site is tricky built, users are constantly lead to their other (high-priced) services when authors just looking for distribution.
Upfront Cost: $0
Deduction per sale: 10%
Formats accepted: Word .doc or .docx, RTF
Formatting: Included
Distributes to: Barnes & Noble, Apple, Kobo, Scribd, Tolino, Page Foundry etc.

The authors must upload to Amazon KDP themselves
Giacomo Giammatteo wrote a great article about Timed Promotion and Territory Pricing that is offered by Draft2Digital.

There is no easy way to find out the cost (other than the one-time setup costs) for distribution and what they are deducting per sale – unless you sign up for an account and give your credit card first.
Indie publishing strategist Sellbox wrote: Ingram pays out a flat 40% of NET sales (after they have all their costs covered) when the eBook is sold.
Ingram’s website says: “E-book distribution from more than 70 online partners.”
*And: If you have provided any e-books to Amazon for the Kindle in the past 12 months we will not be able to provide service to Kindle through the IngramSpark program.
**If you currently have e-book content available on Apple, you will need to remove those e-books from the iBook store prior to uploading those same titles into IngramSpark.  Also, note that any reviews or ratings of that content will NOT transfer when your titles reappear in the iBook store!
It seems their main business is more print book POD / combined with availability for distribution…


Created by Macmillan Publishing (one of the Big 5), Pronoun is a site which distributes your ebook to online retailers.
Pronoun also offers you to create a free landing page for yourself, including for each of your books, from where you can add links to any or all of the five largest English-language e-book retailers: Amazon, Apple’s iBooks, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, and Google – to which Pronoun distributes your e-books.
You can pick and choose your retailers individually on Pronoun.

Pronoun’s greatest benefit is that they pay out a full 70 percent of the book’s cover price on all sales for all ebooks under $10 – and 65 percent for books priced over $10).  Pronoun pays the full 70 percent revenue even for e-books priced under $2.99.

Knowing the Rules and Terminology:
“Access to over 39,000 retailers, libraries, schools, and universities…” for example means only that readers can order your book via any of these suppliers – NOT that your book is automatically delivered to all of those…
Your ebook will be only uploaded to several major online retailers, while for the rest of the retailers, bookstores, libraries etc. your book is listed as “available” if someone orders it.

There are also roadblocks in terms of Amazon KDP Select – think book sales campaigns, free days, Matchbox, countdown deals etc. as it would require to take down all your books from your other retailers as Amazon requires exclusivity when you choose KDP Select.
If you think Smashword’s 15% distributor commission is a bit much, then read our next article where an “Agent-Curated Self-Publishing Distributor – Argo Navis – is taking 30% commission!  And where unscrupulous literary agents are getting an additional 15% for not doing anything, other than just handing over the name and manuscript of authors to this distributor…



How Smart Authors Get Their Books into Libraries

Library of Congress in Washington D.C. – Wikipedia

Do you want to get your books into libraries, but don’t know how to do it?  Get here the background info from librarians – and which library supplier and aggregator is the best for author-publishers!
I just read an article by Nate Hoffelder where he curated: “Why Librarians Don’t Want Your Self-Published Book”.  For sure a catchy title that gets author’s attention! It was first used by Librarian Molly Wetta on her “Wrapped up in Books
blog post from August 17.

Librarians are NOT Resisting Self-published Books.
They are just facing tight constraints on both, their time (to purchase books) and budget.  And they are bound by certain procedures.  Including a book, for example, requires to have existing records ready to add to the library’s catalog.

Librarian Molly Wetta Explains:
“Self-published books might not be available from the library’s main vendor, who has to do a number of tasks to make the book ready to be shelved in a library (a protective cover, property stamps, stickers to identify the proper location of the item, etc.).  This is as an extra step if it is purchased by a different vendor – and that’s only if the policies allow the library to do that in the first place (sometimes a library is restricted to specific vendors).”

“Even when librarians want to buy a self-published book, they are still constrained by a limited budget.  Books need to be in DEMAND and of great QUALITY.  This certainly applies to all books, and not just self-published, but the latter are often more difficult to quantify.
It’s not that librarians are completely unwilling to buy self-published books, it’s just that the systems aren’t in place yet (or aren’t yet robust enough) to make it easy to evaluate the quality and to efficiently bring them to patrons.”
Another Librarian and Book Purchaser Commented:
“I make a special note to go into the self-published section of the Overdrive marketplace and locate some gems.  It appears as if the full Smashwords catalog is not immediately available in the OverDrive Marketplace – as I find the faceted searching very basic and apt to yield similar results.  However, as a librarian, if there is a title you know of, but can’t find, you can place a request to have it added.  Make sure you have a great cover.  I will only purchase books whose covers can sit well next to ‘published’ titles.  Also the better the price, the more copies I will buy if the title is in demand.”

Who Supplies Books to Libraries?
OverDrive, eBooksAreForever, Quality Books Inc., UniqueBooks, eBookPartnership, etc. are suppliers for the libraries.  OverDrive, for example, initially isolated self-published books in a “ghetto”, separating books from Smashwords, from others.  As an author you might see your own book, uploaded from Smashwords on their library list, but librarians who have different pages to order books, don’t see them.  As a librarian explained in a comment:
“The e-books from Smashwords are still separated from other e-books and placed in a ghetto along with e-books from Author Solutions…  This happens in the backend site that librarians use to purchase material – not the site library users / readers or authors – have access to. Librarians looking to purchase ebooks from Smashwords have to know what they are looking for, because they are in a separate catalog and can’t be found through a regular search.

The Problem with OverDrive / Smashwords
“Both are not even remotely solving this first large hurdle to getting self-publishers into libraries.  It has little to do with tiers or the self-publishing ghetto, but much more to do with the fact that roughly 200,000 titles were dumped into Overdrive’s platform without any system in place to help librarians evaluate those titles.  It’s also worth noting that a large majority of the more successful indies bypass Smashwords altogether; why pay Smashwords 15% of net when you can just go direct – with  Also, Overdrive / Smashwords only net authors 45% of list price for library purchases.  It’s just not a solution to the problems librarians are dealing with.”

“When librarians are purchasing ebooks from OverDrive, they are on a special website that is only available to libraries who subscribe to OverDrive.  On that site, ebooks from Smashwords are separated from the main ebook catalog in a special section that can’t be searched or browsed without going to it specifically.  This means that librarians purchasing ebooks, have to make a special effort to go there, and it isn’t intuitive to find it or use it.  There is a public version of the OverDrive catalog, and the self-published titles are integrated there, but librarians doing the purchasing aren’t using this.”

“Self-published ebooks are available in the main purchasing catalog through eBookPartnership,  but the ones from Smashwords aren’t and never were.  This issue was never resolved because OverDrive refuses to consider it as a problem that needs resolution.“

The Solution for Authors: eBook-Partnership
eBookpartnership works with more than 65,000 libraries! and additionally places your book in North America also to Apple, Baker & Taylor, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and Ingram. In Europe, they upload / deliver to Askew & Holts, Blackwell’s, BlioBook, Depository,, Waterstones, Whitcoulls, and WH Smith for example.
You certainly can make yourself more flexible in terms of organizing KDP sales promotions – place your book by yourself to all Amazon’s Kindle Stores: US, UK, France, Germany, Italy and Spain, Brazil, Japan, India etc.  However, eBookpartnership can upload it for you to Amazon as well.  There are no fees for updates to your metadata from them – which is very rare among aggregators – but you can do it faster on Amazon by yourself.

The Benefit of eBookpartnership
eBookpartnership’s annual fee – no hidden costs – is for 1 to 9 titles just $50 (£35) per title. Authors can save at least several dozen hours for uploading their books, and even more hours (and headache) for accounting with these retailers.  If you work on Windows, you would need to use a Mac computer for the upload to Apple. It’s easier to let them do it.
Best of all, eBookpartnership does not take commissions. You will keep 100% of the revenue from online retailers and “brick & mortar stores”.
However, you should always buy your own ISBN’s, preferably a block of ten before publishing and don’t forget to register – for free – your book worldwide with Bowker’s database, which goes to all bookstores and libraries in the world.

Promote Your Books to Libraries
Many libraries accept purchase requests from their patrons (which can be online on their websites or in person in the library).  Once a book is in their shelves and receives a couple dozen hold / lending requests, they will order more copies!
Minimum requirement for selling to libraries or their suppliers is certainly that you are the owner of the books ISBN (NOT from Smashwords, CreateSpace etc.) and that you listed your book into the worldwide database of books in print titles at Bowkers.
And don’t forget: ALWAYS have your contact, social media sites, your book sales pages and a request for a review in your last pages of every one of your books, no matter if print or e-book! See also The Secret of Professional Author Publishing.

How to Demonstrate the Quality of Your Books
Aside from proofing high sales numbers, authors could put their e-books into Biblioboard’s Self-e platform, which means visibility which could lead to sales.  Maybe even paid book reviews from a legacy source (PW, Kirkus Book Reviews etc) would help?

Books for library use in the USA need to be registered with the Library of Congress Catalog “Books in Publication”.  A note printed on the upperleft back cover should indicate the type of book and the topic: reference/book publishing, writing/reference, history, autobiography, parenting, and so forth. Get detailed information about registering your books (before and after publication date) from the Library of Congress website and information about Bowker’s worldwide book listings at our blog

A note, printed on the upper left back cover of the book layout should indicate the type of book, and the topic, such as history, autobiography, writing/reference, parenting etc.

Local Authors Collection at Libraries
“The Greater Victoria Public Library in Victoria, BC, Canada – GVPL – started an Emerging Local Authors Collection this year, intended for (mostly) self-published books.  They report: “Clear guidelines were posted on the library’s website, including the geographic area where the authors live, the durability of books and the fact that one copy of each book would be donated by the author.  The books were fully cataloged and the collection was launched with an evening reception for the authors and their guests.  The books are prominently displayed at our Central Branch and have been circulating briskly.  At the end of one year, books that have proven themselves by high circulations may be added to the permanent collection.”
Writer Audrey Driscoll: “ Next spring another collection will be made available, possibly including e-books.  I am one of the authors with a book in the collection.  I sent in my application like any other local author.  I think this is a good way to showcase local authors. But it did take considerable time for two librarians (a collections librarian and a cataloger) to make it happen.”

Have an excellent book who’s genre is in demand, which has been professionally edited, with a fantastic cover, lots of positive and professional reviews and proven sales, many people that request your book at libraries, your own ISBN, listed at the Library of Congress, listed in Bowker’s worldwide database of books, and distributed to libraries via eBookPartnership, and be included in the Library Journal’s curated collections, SELF-e Select.

Talk to the programming or events coordinator at your library and offer a free reading from your books or a free class for local writers where you explain the writing / publishing process – and maybe even find a couple of new readers or book buyers for your own work.
Once you have “your foot in the door” your next books will be much easier to get into libraries.
More about the first of Library Journal’s curated collections, SELF-e Select in a future blog post.  Stay tuned.



If you would like to get a mentor and our support in all things publishing, have your book intensively promoted and learn how to navigate social media sites – or learn how you can make yourself a name as an author through content writing: We offer for three months all this and more for only $179 – or less than $2 per day!  Learn more about this customized Online Seminar / Consulting / Book Marketing for your success:

To learn more about professional book marketing and publishing, please read also
“Book Marketing on a Shoestring”

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Archaic Procedures: Book Returns


As a publisher of an aviation magazine in the 90’s I learned about a criminal way of “ print distribution”: A pilot friend showed me one of our magazines that he bought at an airport store in Amsterdam / Netherlands.  I was a bit surprised as our distributor had Amsterdam not on the list of retailers.  One could opt for having unsold magazines returned (at an outrageous hundreds of dollars) or to have them send to the garbage (free).  I was curious how our magazines could end up in a different country, sold by a retailer that was not on my list of paying customers.  It took me months of investigation, but I finally found out that there are gangs who have connections to warehouse employees who do not “dispose” these unsold magazines – but sell them to other “distributors” and then those sell them to retailers… Maybe this happens only in the magazine business, but who knows what happens with book returns?

Book Returns are an Ancient Distribution Method
Somewhere once upon a time, the notion that a book could or should be returnable might have been a great idea to stand out against the publishing competition.  One of publishers came up with this idea — and eventually it became industry standard.  The book publishing world has changed, but the old model is still the same stagnant one that gives massive cuts to bookstore retailers and allows them to return whatever they can’t sell – an archaic practice of book distribution.  Bookstores rarely host signings by self-published authors — maybe if the author is local and offers books in consignment.  “Why not?” I asked a bookseller. “We can’t return them was his answer.“

Solution for Authors
He showed me examples on his computer of self-published authors who use Lightning Source and offer both “Regular discount” (i.e 40%) and return-ability. He orders these books through Ingram/ LightningSource , just like books from traditionally published authors. So it’s possible with Lightning Source, at least.  The easier authors make it for independent booksellers and the big book chains, the more likely they will be treated like mainstream authors – if their books are well edited and have an attractive cover.  Authors certainly don’t make as much as through an e-book on Amazon – but for sure more than they would get as royalties from trade publishers.
Bestseller Author Stephanie Chandler wrote a great article how to sell to bookstores and also offers a free Consignment Agreement form for you to download and modify if you want to make an arrangement with a bookstore to carry your books as a consignment.  Her statement: “It certainly can’t hurt to place your books at a few stores, but it probably won’t lead to fame and fortune!”

Booksellers Don’t Stock POD
Most booksellers will generally not stock POD books because they can’t return the book if it doesn’t sell and the percentage they get is lower.  Printing one book at a time is more expensive per book (usually twice as expensive) than publishing a few thousand.
Many self-published authors can’t get their books into the large chains, due to this non-returnability.  Book retailer chains only order blockbuster titles they know they can sell. Books-a-Million, one of the book store chains, for example states it does not allow POD books into it’s stores at all.

Being a returns-based business is bad from every angle, and also very bad for the environment.  There is more printed than it will be sold. While books sit in warehouses not moving, inventory must be available to fulfill actual orders that are moving. This forces publishers to overprint.  Concerned publishers, authors, and readers can and should band together over this issue.  Small bookstores might be upset by this shift, but their returns are already (generally) relatively low, and they can do their part and order accordingly too.

Stating for an author or publisher to not accept returns, or marking your self-published book as “non-returnable” is the kiss of death for your book, and no bookstore will touch your book.  It is frustrating to see the volume of books coming back from accounts that never needed to have ordered so many books in the first place.  Book publishing is changing, and authors and new publishers need to continue to fight against book returns.  We need to stop putting up with this.  And if it would be just helpful for the environment!


Read More:



If you would like to get a mentor and our support in all things publishing, have your book intensively promoted and learn how to navigate social media sites – or learn how you can make yourself a name as an author through content writing: We offer for three months all this and more for only $179 – or less than $2 per day!  Learn more about this customized Online Seminar / Consulting / Book Marketing for your success:

To learn more about professional book marketing and publishing, please read also
“Book Marketing on a Shoestring”

Our email newsletters with free insider tips are sent out once a month. To sign up, just go to the form on the right site of each blog post.



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