What to Ask Before Hiring an E-Publisher

As a writer it is imperative to educate yourself on hiring the best publishing company with high quality services to properly guide your self-published book or help the distribution for your soon-to-be released e-book. Since the competition is so high for authors to land a good publisher, it is also imperative you do your research to hire the right publisher. So choose a publishing company to trust and one that meets your expectations, knowing what to ask before hiring an e-publisher.

1. Choose Non-exlusive or Exclusive Services?

Most often services from a publishing company will operate on a nonexclusive basis, meaning they will sell your e-book using their services and locations, but also selling your e-book to places you desire.

According to JaneFriedman.com there are two categories these services fall into:

  • E-books created with Apple’s iBooks Author tool (available only to Mac users). This only applies if you plan to charge for your iBook. If your Apple iBook is made available for free, you are welcome to distribute anywhere and everywhere outside the Apple iBookstore.
  • Self-published e-books made available for lending through Kindle Select. Amazon asks for a 3-month exclusive if you join the Kindle Select program (which allows your book to be lent out to Kindle users).

2. Is the Contract Read in Full?

When working with an agent to publish your e-book, you will more than likely be asked to sign a contract with a 2- or 3-year term (experts highly recommend you do not take on a longer contract). This is to ensure your commitment with that publisher is not going anywhere. So after your e-book files are prepared, your cover designed, and everything else in place, the publishing company is protecting their rights with you so you won’t jump ship and suddenly change your mind and take your e-book to someone else. Be sure to read over the entire contract and expect sufficient upfront costs from the agent, just keep in mind that cost and other fine print details throughout the contract.

3. Do you control the price?

Several services will hold pricing restrictions on your e-book (i.e. holding all costs at a minimum of 99 cents), confirm these restrictions as an author verify control over pricing.

4. What are the upfront fee and/or how is the royalty calculated?

Fees should be transparent and upfront when using all services. Look over the services and their costs before signing away your hard earned money.

FREE services like Amazon Kindle, Barnes & Noble PubIt!, and Apple’s iBookstore are simple and easy to use. They make their money by taking a cut of your sales. Usually you earn 60-70% of your list price (assuming you price in the range they specify).

For other services always check the fine print. Check it for transaction fees from your publisher, check it for royalty fee’s, check it for everything that you wouldn’t even imagine would happen or read, because publishing companies will insert this text and commitment where you least expect.

Two other common fee that is often overlooked is the “file formatting” fee and the “special needs” fees. The inconvenient file formatting fee requires more hours of attention, which is common with PDFs and if you have several charts, tables or image formatting then you could also end up paying more than standard rates for conversion and formatting. Also, if your book runs longer than initially agreed upon then expect a fee for any additional “special needs”.  Look over this section of contact as a precaution for any extra fee’s that could have been added outside of the verbal contract.

5. File Formats Accepted & Ownership Rights?

It’s critical to know upfront which format your e-book will be available in as it determines whether or not you can even use these publishing services. This also verifies additional charges to any formatting and conversion needs of your e-book for other listeners.

6. Protections or Proprietary Formats Included?

DRM (digital rights management) is used to prevent piracy or illegal copying and distribution of your e-book after it is sold. However, several arguments continue that DRM is not reader- or consumer-friendly, and should not be used. The industry standard e-book format, EPUB, does not use DRM.

According to reports, there are only 2 areas where you’re likely to run into a proprietary format or DRM.
Amazon Kindle uses a proprietary format with DRM. If you use the Kindle Direct Publishing program to publish your e-book, no matter what type of file you upload, they will automatically convert it to their proprietary, DRM-locked format. However, because their service is not exclusive, you can always make your e-book available in other formats through other services, without restriction.

The Apple iBooks Author tool creates e-books in a proprietary format. No other device aside from an iPad or iPhone can view an e-book created by the Apple iBooks Author tool.

7. Distribution Locations & Authority of Distributions?

If you’re using Amazon Kindle Direct, or Barnes & Noble PubIt!, then your e-book will only be distributed through those specific retailers. However, if you use a multiple-channel e-book distribution service (such as Smashwords or BookBaby), then the mix of retailers they reach will vary. Valuable fact: Kindle & Nook currently make up about 85% of all e-book sales.

One common strategy among authors is to use Amazon Kindle Direct combined with Smashwords (which distributes to all major e-book retailers except Kindle). You can probably reach up to 95% of your market with that approach.

Now, if you’re working directly with retailers (e.g., Amazon and Barnes & Noble), you can upload new and revised files as often as you like, same with Smashwords. However, if you’re using a multiple-channel distributor other than Smashwords, you will likely have to pay fees to make changes.

To hire the right publisher for your e-book, keep in mind these seven questions to ask before you make the commitment and sign your talent away.

photo credit: Marcus Ramberg via photopin cc