The Value of an ePublisher

09 Jan 2013 1:32 PM | Digital Rights Committee (Administrator)

Whenever I hear about a new entry into the world of online publishing, I want to know: what are they doing for their authors.  In the past, before the emergence of author-friendly services like KDP, PubIt, and Writing Life, writers were limited in their options outside of traditional publishing.  Thus, ePublishing was a great solution for many authors; cheaper and more professional than self-publishing in the event that traditional publication was not a possibility, for whatever reason.  However, not all ePublishers were…well, actually publishing their authors.  Oh, they might have been paying for an amateur cover, doing some basic conversion to ePub or PDF or Mobi, and uploading the book to retailers.  But all of that can now be handled by an author with some time, money, and know-how (oftentimes, not even all three).  Given that, ePublishers who are only doing such work are hardly justifying their 40-60% net fee.

So what should you expect out of an ePublisher in today’s market?  Agents, looking at ever-shrinking genre imprints at traditional houses, would do well to consider this question as many authors are actually requesting that we look for ePublication solutions.

Yesterday’s announcement brought this question to the forefront of my mind: relative-newcomer to the digital publisher space, Entangled, has signed on to have their global digital distribution and, in limited cases, their print distribution, handled by Macmillan Publishers.  Initially, this seems like great news for Entangled authors: surely, they get a great deal more reach with this new partnership!  But in a world where–even globally–the eBook market is still dominated by at most four or five retailers, I’m not certain I see the value for authors.  For Entangled, certainly–in-house retailer relationships are complicated and difficult.  But is Macmillan’s staff going to be pitching Entangled authors’ books to retailers for those Gold Box or Special Finds deals with quite the same fervor?  When those titles get pulled down for no reason, or the descriptions go up completely incorrectly, or the price change just doesn’t get made, how much longer will the fix take when it isn’t handled in-house?  And financially–is the distributor’s cut being taken out of the author’s share?  I’ve certainly run into ePublishers where that’s the case.

Of course, a smaller publisher having a larger publisher manage their distribution is nothing new and perhaps no cause for concern at all.  And, indeed, Entangled may have been handling their distribution through a third party already.  To me, though, it feels like in a digital world where even a single author can handle eBook distribution (to an extent), ePublishers must try a little harder to prove their value to their authors–and the agents who are representing them in the digital-only space with increasing frequency.

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