Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Is Aggregation Aggravation?

By:  Kimberly Hitchens is the founder and owner of Booknook.biz, an ebook production company that has produced books for over 750 authors and imprints.

Before starting out today, I can’t let the moment pass without noting that our own LJ Sellers was prominently featured in the today’s KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) Newsletter today—way to go, LJ!  For all none of you that didn’t see it, the KDP Newsletter, talking about KDP Select, said that “L.J. Sellers, author of the Detective Jackson Mystery/Thriller series, saw that 25% of customers who borrowed one of her books also bought one of her books, all of which are also available in the lending library.” 

Way to rock the KDP Selct, LJ!  I can honestly say that the other authors with whom I work have also been very positive about their KDP Select experiences—I hope, if you’re using it, that it works for you as well.  

Which brings me to today’s topic: distribution, also known as “aggregation,” also known as “publishing.” Not a day goes by that I’m not asked about distribution, as the vast majority of eBook retailers, unlike Amazon (Kindle) and Barnes & Noble (Nook), don’t go out of their way to facilitate the publication and sale of ebooks created and published by Indy Authors. If you want to publish your tome to the iBookstore, for example, and you don’t have a Mac—you’re out of luck. Apple’s barriers to entry aren’t as high as some—but they’re higher than the Silverback, Apple, and its slightly lesser gorilla cousin, Barnes & Noble. As noted in this link: https://itunesconnect.apple.com/WebObjects/iTunesConnect.woa/wa/bookSignup the initial hurdle at Apple is that you have to be an iTunes publisher in order to publish your book on the iBooks platform, and that requires Apple computers, operating systems, QuickTime 7, a broadband internet connection—and an approved application. Many Author-pubs simply don’t have that equipment. Other retailers, like Diesel, Fictionwise, (possibly still Kobo) and others, have no self-publishing mechanism at all. So: if you want to be the next LJ Sellers—how do you get your book onto all these platforms?

The answer is to use an Aggregation Service, like INscribe Digital or Lulu. Some authors already do—you use Smashwords, which calls itself a “distributor.” At the end of the day, no matter what they term themselves, what these companies essentially do is function as your publisher. They have hundreds if not thousands of books and author clients; they (often) issue the ISBN’s that are used in these books (which makes them the “Publisher of Record” at Bowker, all ISBN.org records and libraries); because they have high volume, and are considered a “publisher,” they can distribute your book to all four corners of the world. You create; they distribute (publish); they collect the monies from the retailers, and give you your royalties from the monies they’ve received. One of the good things about the part they play is that due to their sheer volume, they usually get paid by Apple monthly (if not more often); whereas you, as a single author, would have to wait until you had $500 in accrued owed monies before Apple would pay you. If you’re not Dan Brown, that might be a long wait. In return for these services, most Aggregator-Distributors take a percentage, ranging for 14.25% (Smashwords) to 15% or higher. If you’re a bestselling author or celebrity, almost all Aggregators will “make you a deal,” in order to land you—so don’t forget to ask for a better royalty rate, if your sales have earned it.

Now, I’ve a fair amount of experience with Distributors, and my personal Distributor of choice—despite some bumps in the road in the early days—is still INscribe Digital, which is a wholly-owned subsidiary of InGrooves (one of the first music publishers to iTunes). INscribe says, about itself:

“INscribe Digital is the most trusted solution for authors, agents and publishers of all sizes to effectively navigate the emerging digital publishing marketplace. We bring a decade of digital media distribution experience to the table, coupled with years of executive-level publishing, bookselling and marketing know-how. We believe in the future of bookselling and want to help remove the complexity of the process to ensure you achieve your goals. Let us help you make your digital imprint. “

There are other companies that are still in the Aggregation/Distribution game, although most have fallen by the wayside as technical requirements and standards have gotten tougher and higher. The list of those remaining is shown here: https://itunesconnect.apple.com/WebObjects/iTunesConnect.woa/wa/displayAggregators?ccTypeId=13

One thing that is absolutely fabulous about INscribe is that it has NetGalley available to its authors. If you’re not familiar with NetGalley, and you’re a self-published author, you’re missing the boat. INscribe has NetGalley available (on a space-available, first-come, first-served) basis for highly affordable rates—so if you’re already an INscribe customer, don’t forget to ask for this, as well!

Disclosure: Booknook.biz was recently named a Preferred Conversion Partner for INscribe Digital. INscribe Digital’s Partner blurb about Booknook.biz states: “INscribe works with a number of conversion partners in this digital marketplace, but there is no question that BooknookBiz provides a level of service so focused on producing quality content that it is unmatched in this ever-changing landscape. INscribe is happy to call BookNook a preferred partner. “


  1. Thanks for a great post (and a nice shout out for me.) I worked with INscribe and was very pleased with the company. If I hadn't put all my books in Amazon's Select program, I'd still be with them. But I didn't know they had an agreement with NetGalley. That is great news for authors.

  2. Congratulations on your status with INscribe, Hitch.

    For now, I'm very happy with KDP Select. For me, going that direction has saved me from additional brain damage at a time when everything is new. However, if I decide to venture out beyond Amazon, I'll take a close look at INscribe. If you and L.J. recommend it, I'm good.

  3. Great post Hitch. As always great insights for authors.

    As an indy one of the hardest things is that publication and distribution tasks are one offs that require a lot more time and energy than they would for someone who has regular contact with booksellers (digital or print). The distraction from writing is a major frustration.

  4. When I looked at the Kobo upload system, it made a lot more sense to use Smashwords as a distributor.
    It's just easier. I've been tempted by KDP, but ninety days exclusive seems like a lot to me for five days free promotion. I may try it at some point, but I like being independent of any one platform. Part of this is because I sell more right now on B & N, and all the distribution channels far outweigh what I'm earning on Amazon. Obviously, others have different experiences to draw on when making a decision.

  5. Great news Hitch, I really appreciate you making us aware of this servioce. I am with KDP Select for now and very happy but the brain damage for all the "one offs" as CJ so politely calls them, is growing. Most days I feel as if writing has become secondary to these issues so it's nice to know there are services out there to help lessen the load.


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