Which E-book Publishers Should a Hybrid Author Consider?

Chip
MacGregor is the president of MacGregorLiterary, a full-service literary
agency on the Oregon Coast. A former publisher with Time Warner, he has worked
with authors as a literary agent for more than a dozen years, and was
previously a senior editor at two publishing houses. An Oregon native, Chip
lives in a small town on the Oregon coast. Chip is also the author of a couple
dozen books and a popular teacher on the craft of writing and marketing. Connect with him through his blog and on Twitter.
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Which e-book publishers should a
hybrid author consider?
I’ve
been one of those agents encouraging writers to consider becoming hybrid
authors (that is, publishing with traditional publishers, as well as
self-publishing some titles). That has brought me this question from several
people: Which e-book publishers do I need to consider? 
There
are a number of choices for authors who want to indie-publish a book. Everybody
tends to immediately think, “I’ll just post it myself on Amazon,” but
we’ve seen countless error-filled books done on Amazon, so if you want to take
a step forward, there are some options to consider. Of course, you need to know
what you want in a publisher. For example, do you want to pay extra for
marketing help? Does your non-fiction book need photos or maps in the text?
Will you want the capability of adding an audio version of your novel? There
are a bunch of choices, so let me suggest some places to consider checking out.
1. Amazon’s
Kindle Direct Publishing
 (you’ll find them at kdp.amazon.com). This can be a great choice, since it’s quick, easy, and fast.
KDP will make sure your book is available on every Kindle and every computer or
phone with the Kindle app, it allows you to be part of their unlimited lending
program, and has some special features such as their “countdown” deal
and their free book program. KDP pays you a royalty of 35% of the list price on
most sales, with the opportunity of a 70% royalty if you follow some pricing
guidelines. They pay monthly, and can do direct deposits. It’s a great way to
go for many authors… but the big drawback is that they will have some
Amazon-only restrictions. That means people who don’t own a Kindle won’t even
be seeing your book. Still, KDP is great for reaching the Kindle crowd, which
is roughly 60% of all ebook readers.

2. Smashwords (www.smashwords.com). This is who we almost always recommend to authors who
want to reach beyond Amazon. Kindle is great, but Smashwords will get you into
the iBookstore (for readers with iPads), the Nook bookstore (for Barnes &
Noble devotees), the Kobo bookstore (which works with indie bookstores in this
country, but is a big deal overseas), and Scribd. So instead of having to
upload your titles to every company independently, Smashwords takes care of all
the non-Amazon e-tailers, and converts your text into the various formats
you’ll need. They also have nice extras such as free marketing help, and
they’ll even suggest who can help you with the required formatting. They pay
70%, will send you checks quarterly, and we’ve never had a problem with the
accounting at Smashwords. This is a company we trust, and if you do both
Smashwords and self-publish a book on Amazon, you’re reaching all the major markets.

Stay informed about what’s out there.

3. BookBaby (www.bookbaby.com). This is a fast-growing company that makes it easy for
authors. They offer three packages, charge you a flat fee, and take care of
everything — formatting, distributing to all the e-tailers, and even helping
with marketing. They have some great extra features (like an author bookstore
page, or good cover design assistance) that cost more, but the authors I’ve
spoken with have been very happy with their experiences at BookBaby. This is
more of a one-stop shopping — so while posting your book on Amazon is free,
the convenience of using BookBaby will cost you, but it might be worth it to
you. They pay 85% of net. BookBaby isn’t as fast as the others, but they have
good customer service, and offer some really nice extra features (that you’ll
have to pay for, of course). We think they’re a good option for the right
authors.

4. Kobo’s
Writing Life 
(www.kobo.com). This one might be new to
you, but I mention it because it’s huge in other countries. Kobo currently says
they are the world’s second-largest e-bookstore, and that they’re doing book in
nearly 70 languages, reaching into almost 200 countries (that’s from their
website, so I’m taking their word for it). I’ve known authors who have worked
with them, and they rave about how easy it is — you upload a file, Kobo
converts it, they pay you 70%, and they’re now starting to offer some marketing
helps. But the big news is that they’re working closely with ABA bookstores,
which means all those indie bookstores will be helping you to sell your titles.
This is one of those companies you might be overlooking, so make sure to check
them out.
There are lots of options out there—it’s our job to
stay informed.
There
are certainly others. Apple has iBook Author (which people have
complained is cumbersome to use, but can be great for children’s books,
cookbooks, and projects with a lot of photos), NookPress (which
replaced PubIt, and is easy to use, but only for those who own the floundering
Nook), Vook (which can work with all the e-tailers, but works
on a different economic model than the others), eBookIt (the
competitor to BookBaby in terms of being a one-stop shop), and BookTango,
iUniverse, Trafford, 
and Lulu, who are all owned or
in partnership with the folks at AuthorSolutions. To anyone
looking at an AuthorSolutions company, I always say, “Do your
research.” There are good programs and bad programs, but understand that
AuthorSolutions is too often accused of being there to sell
services to you, as the author, not to necessarily sell books to
consumers. 
My
question to you: Which of these have you worked with, and what
are your impressions?  
Leave a note in the
“comments” section for who you liked and why (or who you didn’t, and
why not).

Chip MacGregor