Agency Model? The Real Danger for Authors

On March 1, 2011, Random House, the last holdout against the Agency Model for pricing ebooksbooks, caved. Random House joined other publishers by paying a standard fee of 30% out of author royalties to the distributor(s) of its e-books. The Agency Model for pricing e-book fees was signed onto last year when Apple debuted it’s iPad, and Apple began charging 30% for distribution of e-books via its iBookstore. Barnes & Noble and Amazon to some degree, followed Apple’s lead regarding ebook distribution fees. Where the ebookstores disagree most now is on pricing e-books. Print books by tradition are sold by wholesaling them to retail stores who then can price the books at the retail price they choose. Ebook pricing is quite different. E-books aren’t sold by wholesaling a limited number of copies. Instead, ebookstores are setting retail price categories for e-books. Amazon and Barnes & Noble have set a maximum retail price of $9.99 for their e-books and encourage authors to publish for even less than that. Apple, on the contrary, has encouraged a minimum retail price (the DOJ’s alleged Agency Model price-fixing) for its e-books by allowing publishers and authors to set their own prices. Apple’s e-book prices can be above Amazon’s $9.99 minimum and Apple charges the same 30% fee for higher-priced ebooks. All ebookstores encourage authors to publish at particular prices by the way each store sets their fees for distribution of e-books. The Agency Model – what is it? The Agency Model would have had all retail sellers of e-books taking a standard cut of 30 percent. Google, however, didn’t agree with that amount. Google’s One Pass services said it would charge only ten percent. Google claimed 10% covers all its costs in serving digital content. Google fixed its minimum cost per “copy” of an ebook title at an even lower than Amazon did! How, you might ask will Google make money? The answer is: as it always does, by advertising. Google ads are a lucrative business for both the sellers and the hosts of those ads. Apple and the publishers who signed onto it claim the Agency Model is the superior way of pricing ebooks. The Agency Model allows publishers and authors to charge what they choose for their ebooks. But what about the pricing of used e-books? Can you resell them? Apparently not. Like music, sharing of digitally downloaded books isn’t allowed. Digital...

How to Make an Ebook Index – 5 Tips

Authors, these are five things you need to know. Why? Because the indexer you hire to make an index for your ebook may not know them. Ebook indexing is a brand new field with few practitioners. Because of the technology involved, ebook indexing is not the same as print book indexing. If you are not familiar with what an ebook index looks like, please see my post on, “How to Use an Ebook Index“. (1) The index should be only one column This is because eReader devices have very small screens. Even the Apple iPad screen page will be small when the user rotates the iPad sideways so that two pages will appear on the screen. A double-column index will not fit on the ebook screen. Your PDF for your ebook, like most print book manuscripts, should have around 250 words on a text page in 12 to 14 point type. While print books can use a smaller-size font for the index in order to fit two or more columns on the page, an ebook index will use the same size font as the text. In addition, see Tip 3 below for what sometimes happens when  eReader formatting creates word breaks for a long line in an index that “wraps” over to the line below. (2) Don’t bother with “continued” headings When a main heading has a lot of subheadings, sometimes the subheadings run over onto the next page. When this happens, indexers will repeat the heading at the top of the new page followed by the word, “continued” in italics. This way the reader will know what topic the run-over subheadings refer to. But here’s the rub — eBooks do not have pages. Nor do ebooks have a standard font-size. Even if your ebook formatter specifies a default font for your index, Kindle will over-ride it. Apple will use your default font, but both Kindle and epub books will allow the reader to change fonts and font-sizes at will. This means that the index you create for your ebook won’t be the same one your book’s readers may be seeing when they use it. You can never be able to know where the list of subheadings will start to flow over onto the next page. (3) Keep headings simple and subheadings concise Because the font-size can be changed at will, and on some devices enlarged so big...

The Myth of The Cheap Ebook

To my surprise many authors have embraced Kindle’s deep discounts of books. They are pricing ebooks at $9.99 or less. Apple and five of the biggest publishers created an alternative model that lets publishers set ebook prices. This model helps Apple build a competitive advantage against Amazon’s Kindle books, and it pays more to authors, yet many authors are not happy with it. The reason for the Agency Model of ebook pricing Amazon sells millions of Kindle books: Apple’s iBooksore is still in the hundreds of thousands stage. Amazon can charge a 50 cent fee per copy on sales of 2 million Kindle books and sill make a million dollars. Apple, on the other hand, is presumed to want higher prices for ebooks so it can get a better profit from the smaller number of ebooks it now sells. The most important thing for ebookstores is not sales of individual titles as is the case with publishers. Ebookstores make their profit on their total volume of ebook sales. They collect a 30% to 70% flat fee from the price of each copy sold of the downloadable digital-book titles they display on their servers. While ebookstores do offer a so-called “bestseller” ranking system for books, it isn’t based on sales: it’s based on keywords and page visits to the book’s display. A giant ebookstore like Amazon does not have to care a whit whether or not if a particular book becomes a bestseller. What matters to it is that it gets a bigger total volume of ebooks to sell. Apple is way behind Kindle. So, with the blessing of five of the largest publishers. it’s pushing against Kindle’s deeply-discounted pricing of  ebooks. So far Apple has won its battle — at least for awhile. Investigations and lawsuits by readers have been brought against Apple and the big publishers for price-fixing. In addition, self-publishing authors are complaining Apple does not allow them to set their own prices. They feel they could make more sales if they could price their books themselves. Why publishers signed on to Apple’s Agency Model Why are publishers still going along with ebooks that are priced lower than the print copies? From a publisher’s point of view, an ebook is simply icing on the cake. They have already paid for all the expenses, including advances to the author for his/her expenses in writing the book. The cost...

The Digital Public Library of America

The Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) is asking developers to submit demos, code, and design ideas to help advance toward “the realization of a large-scale digital public library that will make the cultural and scientific record available to all.” The digital library movement This is newest and most ambitious of many attempts to build a public digital library on the Internet. The steering committee of the DPLA contains leaders of several existing ebook projects. These include “the Internet Archive, Public.Resource.Org, the Hathi Trust, American Memory, and others, as well as the Europeana project and the national digital libraries in the Netherlands, Norway, and South Korea.” The ebook distributor, OverDrive, provides libraries with global digital distribution of ebooks, audiobooks and more. In addition, The Open Library Project, offers 1,000,000 “World’s classic literature,” ebooks to readers. for free DPLA’s press release just announced that “The DPLA represents the broadest coalition of stakeholders ever assembled who are dedicated to free and universal access to knowledge for all, and the Beta Sprint will help us kick off an 18-month program to construct, brick by digital brick, this beautiful new edifice.” In case you’re taken aback by the promise of “free and universal access to knowledge” in the above paragraph, this has always been the dominant goal of libraries, even with regard to print books. It is the main reason public libraries exist. It is the reason why public libraries manage to reach 5 times as many customers (called “patrons”) as What DPLA’s mission means for you DPLA’s new initiative means libraries (public and academic) intend to continue to compete with Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple, and Google to be readers’ one-stop shopping place for ebooks and audiobooks. Why should you care? Because online library catalogs offer readers the best way to quickly identify books they want to read. No other provider of ebooks offers authors a comparable subject and keyword system to make their books so readily and easily available to readers. As an author, the library market will be the best market for your book. It is where more readers will be able to find your book and recommend it to others. That’s the best kind of marketing for your book that money can’t buy! Want to know more? My book Marketing Your Book to Libraries: An Insiders Guide for Authors is now finished. It will be offered for sale...

Marketing Your Ebook on the Web

Too many authors and editors worry about production and distribution and forget about the middle step – marketing. Sure it sounds great when a site like offers to do this for your ebook: • You upload your book as text or pdf. We do the rest to make it look great on Kindle®, iPad®, Nook® & more. • You own all files we create for your ebook. • Distribution packages through Amazon®, Apple iBookstore®,®, Indigo Chapters® & 28 resellers! • Earn up to 100% net royalties. But please understand, good as these promises are, there’s a big hole here. Something is missing. Librarians have done considerable research on how people look for books. They’ve found most library patrons do something called a “known-item search.” That means people usually look for a specific title or author that they’ve heard about. Sure, at the library, people browse shelves, and sometimes they look for subjects or keywords. However, “virtual bookshelves” at commercial online stores now contain millions of books. No one can browse more than a tiny fraction of all the titles that are out there. And people are busy. Most of us barely have time to squeeze in reading books we’ve heard about from friends or from reading book reviews. And this is the point: in marketing, “word-of-mouth” is by far the best tool for selling something. As an author or publisher you need to set up and carry out a system to promote word-of-mouth sales of your book – even as you create your book. We all know gossip spreads quickly. On the other hand, “buzz” about a new product or service takes a concerted campaign to build. Buzz is an excitement that snowballs because someone has worked hard to get the word out that something new is about to happen. This is exactly what you have to do for your book(s). If you’ve ever built a “snow boulder” to roll down a hill, you know how much work that takes. You also know the fun of watching it grow as it tumbles. So start building your “marketing snowball”...

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