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Watchdog: Ebook Distribution Takes A Leap Forward

Watchdog: Ebook Distribution Takes a Leap Forward

Photo of Giacomo and his dog

Giacomo Giammatteo, ALLi Watchdog

ALLi Watchdog Giacomo Giammatteo shares exciting news about some great new features to be offered by ebook distributors that will benefit all indie authors who used them to sell their self-published books. .

Publishing Is Changing, And Ebook Distribution Is Changing With It

It wasn’t long ago that self-published authors faced a never-ending list of obstacles in order to get their books published, but ever so slowly, things began to change. Some of the more significant changes have happened on the distribution front. Distribution is normally a dull topic of conversation—not so in the book world. If you don’t arrange proper distribution, you can’t be found, and if you can’t be found, you can’t sell books.

Traditional publishers have always been the gateway to brick-and-mortar stores—and with their marketing muscle—to print sales in general. But the big publishers were left behind in the ebook explosion, at least temporarily. Amazon, Apple, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Google, and a seemingly endless list of other retailers are all scrambling to sell ebooks. As more players enter the market, managing those channels becomes more difficult and time consuming, and many authors have already reached critical mass[1].

That’s where the distributors come into play.

Ebook Distribution Takes A Leap Forward

In the past, when you signed up for distribution, you faced mountains of frustration:

  • File conversions that were difficult, time consuming, and often rife with errors.
  • Upload times that often took days or longer.
  • Changes in price or content took days again.
  • Sales reporting was always too late to do any good.
  • Reach through retail was minimum.

All of that has changed. The companies at the top of the game—Smashwords and Draft2Digital—have streamlined most of these processes, and improvements have been made to their systems that allows for changes to take place in hours, sales are reported from most retailers daily, and reach through the retail channels is growing exponentially to an international market.

If you need more convincing, take a look at the list of retail channels available right now:

Barnes & Noble
Baker & TaylorX
Library DirectX
Page Foundry

You might not think much of some of these because you haven’t heard of them, but Flipkart is India’s number one bookseller. Scribd and Oyster are two of the drivers in the subscription book market and have 500,000 books each to offer subscribers, and OverDrive is the world’s biggest supplier to libraries. Last year alone they had more than 100 million ebooks downloaded!

To add to the list, Draft2Digital and Smashwords are aggressively pursing deals with other channels, giving authors who sign up with them much broader exposure.

And Now Draft2Digital Is About To Take Things To Another Level

Here are a few things you can expect from Draft2Digital in the next couple of months.

  • Territorial pricing will go live within the next month or two. (This is fantastic news!)
  • Timed promotions—I can’t believe all of my wish lists are coming true. Great news.

Territory Pricing

If you don’t immediately grasp the significance of these two features, let me provide some detail. One of the biggest problems with selling internationally is the high cost of books in other countries related to the cost of books here. We might be able to sell a solid mystery or fantasy for $5.99 in the US, but take that price to Mexico, Brazil, or India, and your book will likely sit on the virtual shelf forever.

We have had the ability to manage prices individually as long as we went direct to the retailer. As an example, on Apple’s iBooks I price differently for many of the 51 countries they offer. So I sell for $5.99 in the US, $3.99 in the UK, and 99c in many countries like India, Japan, Mexico, etc. (You can also set prices according to local currency which makes it nicer, too.)

Here’s a quick chart to show you how you could set prices.

US Dollar$5.99
UK Pound Sterling£1.99
Brazilian RealR$.99
Mexican Peso$4.99
Chinese Yuan¥12.99

The currency shown above might not mean much to you if you’re not familiar with the rates, but the table below shows what it would look like if you simply let an app automatically adjust price to other currency.[2]

US Dollar$5.99
UK Pound Sterling£3.83
Brazilian RealR$15.57
Mexican Peso$92.00
Chinese Yuan¥36.95

As you can see, this pricing strategy is offering discounts to other countries and offering them in the countries’ own currency.

That is why I’m so excited about this option. We have had this ability to manage prices if we did it ourselves—with some distributors—but we haven’t had that ability if we used a distributor. This option will make a big difference and is yet another reason why indie authors might be better off using distributors instead of wasting time doing everything themselves. I don’t know the details of how Draft2Digital’s system will work yet, but the mere fact that we’ll have access to it is great.

Timed Promotion

The second item on the list is also fantastic. Again, we’ve had this ability with Apple, and I have taken advantage of it numerous times. I missed the convenience of doing that with the books I have with distributors. This feature’s value becomes apparent when you do any kind of promotion, like with Bookbub, FKBooks and Tips or a Countdown deal. You can set the time you want the book to go on sale, and when you want it to come off sale. And then you can forget about it.

There are other, new things coming out of Draft2Digital next year, and I know Smashwords is also working on improvements. I like how both of these companies do business. It is a good sign for the future of indie publishing that we have great partners like them to work with.

If you enjoyed this post, please share.

  1. more on that in a future post
  2. based on a $5.99 US price.

Author: Giacomo Giammatteo

Giacomo Giammatteo is the author of gritty crime dramas about murder, mystery, and family. He also writes non-fiction books including the "No Mistakes" Careers series.
He lives in Texas where he and his wife have an animal sanctuary with 45 loving “friends.” His website is at www.giacomogiammatteo.com.


This Post Has 13 Comments
  1. […] With Amazon, there is some control over how you price your books on the international front, but with Apple there is complete control. This can be a big factor if your strategy is to use price to break into a new market. With Apple you have 51 countries where you can adjust price individually, and even put the price in the local currency. I’ve included a piece from another article I wrote for the Alliance of Independent Authors. […]

  2. I’m now not certain where you are getting your information, but good topic. I must spend a while studying much more or figuring out more. Thank you for magnificent info I used to be looking for this info for my mission.

  3. Great piece. I just published my first book and have it on Smashwords. They do seem like a really well-intentioned company with their eye on the long term. Look forward to see where they are headed.

    1. Jake: I agree. Both Mark Coker (Smashwords) and Kris Austin (Draft2Digital) are focused on helping authors as their strategy. Everything they do is geared toward helping authors make more sales, which in turn, helps them make more sales.

  4. Great news, Jim. Please keep us posted. Am especially keen to know when Smashwords will make the pricing by country available. Thanks!

  5. Great news, and all the more so in light of Bookbaby’s latest policy change.

    Though the news we’re really longing to hear is that D2D or Smashwords will get us indies into Google Play’s 60+ global stores.

    One point of clarification. The Smashwords distribution arrangement with OverDrive is *only* for OverDrive library partners, not for OverDrive retail outlets like the UK’s Waterstone’s store.

    1. I know that Draft2Digital is working on Google. It seems as if these negotiations take a long time. And yes, thanks for the clarification on Smashwords. I should have put that in there.

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