On November 6th, the Macmillan owned Pronoun announced that they are shutting down their services. Pronoun gave an author-focused service, inspiring competitors to innovate, and I believe their presence will be missed. This article is aiming to help former Pronoun authors (and others looking for a change) decide what to do in the information-overload that naturally follows.
Pronoun’s closing must have come as a shock for many: as an author you could think that a self-service portal backed by a big publisher is a safe place. You have probably already planned your Christmas promotions, prepared your new releases, and now you have to start everything all over again. But looking at the current chaos: this is no time to mourn. This is the time to share verified, true information.
To decide your next steps, you will have to consider the pitfalls of ebook distribution. Choosing a distributor is never easy. How to do your due diligence on your next partner?
If you are a writer or an author taking themselves seriously, do not rush this decision. You will have to think about the long-term consequences of finding your next innovative publishing partner. There are six questions you have to ask.
1. Are they trustworthy?
Communication is one thing; turning words into action is another. Check for trusted partners, companies, and talk to current and former users of the service. Look for others who have already put their faith and trust into your potential partner. Most of the times a simple Google search is enough: are there any serious complaints? Check their website thoroughly. Are they secretive or transparent? Never go into a partnership without having relevant info.
2. How are they calculating royalties?
That can be the trickiest part, especially if you do not have a business background. There are percentages, different business models and definitions of net/list price. While it is not uncommon to scan the contract for the numbers only, the bigger is not always the better.
Check if the royalty numbers displayed are calculated from the list price (the price you gave the store) or from the percentage your distributor receives (list price minus retailer’s cut). While these seem like small differences, they can add up to several dollars.
If you are not sure about how much you will get paid, because the terms and conditions are not clear, just ask the support or search for an example on their website. If someone is not comfortable sharing this with you, it should be a red flag. Even if you go to a distributor directly, you have to understand how your royalties are calculated for different price points in different countries.
3. Are there any pricing methods, price matching solutions?
You are a writer: but still, you will have to understand how different pricing methods work to give your readers the best price (and approximately the same price in every store). Since the book industry works with different business models (agency, wholesale, library, subscription), your mind can be overloaded with numbers and business buzzwords.
Simply look for terms where you set only one the price which will be used for distribution. Let your distributor do any necessary changes in the background.
Sometimes going to stores directly is not the solution: you set a price on Google, but as per the wholesale model they have right to change it. They discount it, setting Amazon’s price matching in motion. As this is certainly not a new issue, look for a distribution partner who already has a solution for problems like this.
4. Is the contract exclusive?
Exclusivity ties your hands on the long-term. As the rights holder, you should be able to sell your books in your store, on your website, on Facebook or wherever you want. You have to look for a non-exclusive partnership. Preferably with the option to choose from any of the stores where you want to sell.
Amazon KDP Select is the best example of how publishers are missing out on other markets when going exclusively with them. Based on our recent sales data, at least 61% of the sales come outside from the tech giant.
Going to stores directly and using different aggregators, however, can lead to duplicate content. Make sure to keep a close eye on your imprints and channels: duplicate content is confusing not only for the readers but for yourself.
5. Are they wide?
If you are using a platform for distribution, you have to find a partner with the widest network of possible readers. The main reason is to cut your time on quality assurance, pricing discrepancies, contracting new markets: you can get all the perks of reaching out to new markets in China, Southeast Asia and Europe without hassle. Find a partner who takes care of the legwork, so you can focus on the most important job: creating beautiful content.
6. Are they forward-thinking?
As you could see, Pronoun’s innovative approach appealed on the market. But you can’t stop there: authors need to get a better understanding of the market and of their books with the help of new technologies. This is where we are pioneering: PublishDrive is already using AI and NLP to help authors understand their opportunities and obstacles. We were invited by Google to take part in their accelerator program in Silicon Valley to work towards our mutual goal: innovating the publishing industry. So let’s keep in touch: we are here to provide cutting-edge technologies.