Self publishThe individual stands alone as we all know and our friendly enemy Amazon know this, and exploit it to the detriment of self published authors.

The truth hit home for me last week when Kindle Direct Publishing added Amazon.fr to the list of Amazon sites now selling Kindle ebooks. Terrific, a new market. But hold on. When you read the fine print you discover how Amazon are raking in millions and letting authors hang in the breeze.

To get paid on sales on amazon.fr you need to accumulate 100 Euros in royalties. Now, that is a lot of sales of English language books in a non English speaking country. The same applies for amazon.de in Germany. I’ve sold some books in Germany, but hell will freeze over before I accumulate 100 Euros in earnings on 99c ebooks. Worse is amazon.co.uk where you need to accumulate £100. Then of course there is amazon.com, but their minimum is a reasonable at $100 considering the volume of sales that are generated there.

So, to get paid a penny from French, German and UK sales, I need to sell the equivalent of approximately $450 in royalties. I have the distinct feeling that I’m being screwed here.

So, what’s the solution?

One alternative could be a new breed of agent. One that manages self published authors. My thinking here is that say an agent has a list of perhaps 300 authors and is managing the publication of titles and royalty payments, the amounts would then exceed these limits and allow authors to receive payments for their sales, no matter how large or small. While one English author will not sell 300 ebooks in France in one month, perhaps 300 authors will.

After looking around, I have yet to find a publisher working on this basis. There are many Vanity Press operators out there who will charge you $1000 to publish your ebook but do little else. This is not the way to go.

Most self published authors know how to prepare a file in ebook format and how to prepare a pdf version of their manuscript for Lightening Source, Lulu or Createspace paperbacks, so preparing the files is easy. If these could then be transferred to a central source for publishing on Amazon under one (cooperative) agent/publisher the rewards could be well worthwhile. The addition of a modicum of quality control wouldn’t be a bad idea either.

Of course this does entail finding an honest broker, but for some who are involved in publishing already, perhaps this type of ‘no frills’ publisher could be worth considering. I would be very interested to know if anyone is considering this approach.

Managing Self Publishers
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19 thoughts on “Managing Self Publishers

  • 25/10/2011 at 3:42 pm
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    Interesting that you should write about this, Derek. I’m selling very few books in France or Germany, so I haven’t been overly concerned about foreign royalties, but I do see a need for an agent to manage the business end of things for indies. As you say, it’s easy enough to get books in print and online, but marketing takes tremendous time and effort; add business dealings and you’re left with little time to write. Thank you!

    • 25/10/2011 at 7:27 pm
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      Your comment says it all Terri. You’ve sold very few books in France and Germany. But you deserved to be paid for these sales. Not just line the greedy pockets of Amazon. Can you imagine the profit from god knows how many authors selling a few ebooks on Amazon FR and DE?

      I’d like a slice.

      In most languages it’s called robbery.

  • 25/10/2011 at 4:05 pm
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    It’s an interesting issue, and one reason why distributors can be useful. If you can combine sales from multiple retailers in many countries in one place it is easier to accumulate enough to get paid – certainly easier than trying to hit payout level on any one retailer in one region! For example, for my small press titles I direct readers to Smashwords instead of Amazon to avoid issues with currency, regions, and so on. As a fringe benefit, it also makes accounting easier.

    • 25/10/2011 at 4:55 pm
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      I agree VF that Smashwords have it right. With a $25.00 minimum, Paypal payments and truly international distribution, it’s a great example of how it can and should be done. Unfortunately, Smashwords do not supply Amazon, and this is the problem. No 1 click functionality and very often readers have no idea how to load a file up to their devices. (My wife is prime example number one!)

      If Amazon had the same payment model as Smashwords, all would be well with the world. But they don’t.

  • 25/10/2011 at 4:09 pm
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    A useful post. It’s an interesting issue, and one reason why distributors can be useful. If you can combine sales from multiple retailers in many countries in one place it is easier to accumulate enough to get paid – certainly easier than trying to hit payout level on any one retailer in one region! For example, for my small press titles I direct readers to Smashwords instead of Amazon to avoid issues with currency, regions, and so on. As a fringe benefit, it also makes accounting easier.

  • 25/10/2011 at 4:23 pm
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    How much should a self-published author be willing to pay this individual to help them collect their few dollars in each market? Will this agent be cost effective, or are writers going to pay them $300 to help them collect their $25 royalties from France and Germany?

    • 25/10/2011 at 4:58 pm
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      Good question James. It would depend on how big a list they managed. But I would think around 10%. Even 15% may seem equitable for some authors.

  • 25/10/2011 at 4:33 pm
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    The Vandal could do this, couldn’t it? You have struck on a business opportunity for yourself. I hope you keep thinking about this topic.

    • 25/10/2011 at 5:00 pm
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      David, I write because my maths are atrocious! Perhaps a better idea would be that someone who can add up and multiply grabs the idea. :)

  • 25/10/2011 at 5:02 pm
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    I hear what you’re saying, Derek. I’m not expecting to see the royalties from my six Germany Kindle sales anytime soon. However, I’m not sure I’d want to lose the access to sales info by having someone else basically as my publisher. For this to work, all books would be ‘published’ by this agent. That said, access to sales info couldn’t be shared with the authors unless nobody minded everyone else seeing their sales…

    • 25/10/2011 at 5:16 pm
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      My reply to VF Holland earlier probably clarified my disenchantment. It is with Amazon. There would be no need for authors to ‘gang up’ together so to say, if Amazon had a fair payment system similar to Smashwords. By dividing up UK, US, FR, DE and soon JP sales, it can only line Amazon’s pockets to the detriment of authors.

      Your six sales in Germany are a good example. Why shouldn’t you get paid for them? Even if I lump my five with you, we’ll still never set that money.

      But, my few sales in Germany via Smashwords have been paid, because they were part of my total sales worldwide on Smashwords for Apple, B&N, Nook, Sony etc. That’s fair.

      I know Amazon can’t use Paypal because it is owned by Ebay, (a stupid excuse, but it’s just like that) but if they paid electronically for ALL Amazon Kindle outlet sales together, it would solve the problem, even for authors with a small number of sales each month.

      As for an agent sharing information, I share your view. Each individual’s data would have to be kept private.

  • 25/10/2011 at 6:24 pm
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    The problem is that not only will Amazon take it’s big cut on .99 books, but then the agent would take another cut. Derek, you should research Celerytree.com, set to launch next month. It may be the answer you’re looking for.

    • 25/10/2011 at 7:22 pm
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      Thanks for the link Karen. Unfortunately it doesn’t give any information at all. But I look forward to hearing what it’s about.

      • 25/10/2011 at 7:50 pm
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        Oh right, that’s the holding page. If you go to my blog there’s an icon that will take you to the CeleryTree blog, FB and Twitter links, which have a lot more information

  • 25/10/2011 at 9:25 pm
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    Hello Derek, have a look at what Seth Godin (out of New York State) is doing, it is called the Domino Project and is ironically powered by Amazon. It’s worth a look though, http://www.thedominoproject.com/about
    All the best, Jane

  • 26/10/2011 at 9:36 am
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    “RE: After looking around, I have yet to find a publisher working on this basis.”

    We’ve been offering this service to authors for a year now. We were frustrated too and, as you say, the way to ensure small royalty payments is to have someone like us collect them so the total ends up large enough for Amazon et al to bother with. All our authors get paid quarterly whether they have ‘earned’ $1.20 or $89 or $6,000.

    http://www.etextpress.com

    Cheers
    Peter

  • 26/10/2011 at 9:49 am
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    Thanks for letting my readers know about your services Peter. I’ve just had a quick look at your site and it seems like a concept many authors may be interested in investigating. One point I couldn’t find covered in your site’s FAQs was the matter of withholding tax. If you have any thoughts on this topic I’m sure my non-US readers would be interested in knowing how you handle this component.

  • 15/01/2012 at 6:37 am
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    I see the point here. I suppose that’s nothing we’ll (aka, Raventide Press members) be too worried about, though, until we start making real sales in Germany, U.K., and France. And by that point we’ll reach the 100 euro/pound mark anyway. To speak for us, we’re honestly just glad to have a place to FINALLY indie publish to our personal needs, and Amazon really does offer that. I don’t really care if we see the very small amount of international sales or not.

  • 15/01/2012 at 6:58 am
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    Thank you so much Derek,

    Like many I’ve fallen into the Amazon roundabout with my title on Kindle, having said that it’s also available in paperback, published by the lovely people at YWO. Now FeedARead, basically the same people different name and still funded by The UK Arts Council. I won’t go into the KDP thing…it would take too long…lots of ranting and raving. I recently received an email from them saying their KDP fund has risen from $500 to $700, for the month of January. (dangling a very pretty carrot) I just wanted to say, I agree with everything you’ve said re self publishing!

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