Will my book come out as an ebook?
WILL YOU PUBLISH IN EBOOK FORMAT?
As of November 2010, all new titles have been published as ebooks, multi-platform (but see below under "difficulties"), with a very few exceptions where the cost of converting the book is prohibitive, or where the formatting doesn't convert to digital.
As of October 2012, we are no longer agreeing contracts where the author wants to retain ebook rights. It just leads to too many complications, how the print and ebook editions are then presented on the same page on amazon etc...takes us more time to figure these things out than to produce the ebook....it means we can not sell overseas rights, because increasingly other language publishers want digital rights as well, and do not want to get into separate correspondence with the author, etc.
The record of ebook sales on the Financials page was started in November 2011. Prior to that they have been kept separately and reported in your six-monthly royalty statement.
All our ebooks go through a conversion house in the USA, and are distributed from there around the world. So the sales column for the USA reflects total ebook sales. (We may be switching later this year to a conversion house in the UK, in which case all ebook sales would appear in the UK column - it makes no difference to the price or royalty - ebooks, by definition, can be supplied from anywhere).
We distribute the ebook usually within a week of the print edition. It is generally towards the end of the month. We can not give you an exact date, different distributors take varying times to load the ebooks into their system. It will not show on sites like Amazon before then (unlike the print book) as they only display the information when the book is available in ebook format.
WILL THE EBOOK COST ME EXTRA?
It is a myth that ebooks don't cost the publisher anything. See for instance Cost nothing to produce. And check this one out -
making ebooks is harder than it looks.
Are publishers making a killing on ebooks? and
There are plenty of others.
We have regularly been changing how we produce ebooks, as the market and technology changes. Despite a 50% author royalty, and the option of choosing a low price, and the distributor's cost (averages £0.50/$0.80, which comes out of our share) we include all ebook costs with every contract- There are no additional fees and we do the conversion from the final manuscript.
Up till August 2012 we were absorbing straightforward conversion costs and deducting from royalties the more complex conversion costs, on a page-by-page basis (x amount for extra bullet points, pictures, tables etc). But it was too complex. Then we started deducting a set amount per page from the royalty calculation. We have an updated approach where conversion costs of up to £150 are now included with all new contracts- This covers the vast majority of our books and we let authors know if their title exceeded this amount. Typically this happens for complex titles that include many footnotes, graphics, tables, etc. In 2013/2014 we may well change again, as we move to XML workflows and storing and distributing ebooks ourselves, which should cut out most of the expense.
A little background on the technology and how it works. We create ebooks using the ePub format, which is really just html and uses the paragraph tag to break paragraphs in titles. By default it has a one line margin so this is what appears in the final ebook releases. Because of the many devices and readers out there, you may see your title displayed differently depending how the ePub format is interpreted. We try to leave the html code as "stock" as possible in our ebook conversations to ensure the highest level of cross-device presentation.
“Basic” – straight text, no special text styling or formatting. Images are OK. Includes linked TOC. £0.30/$0.50 per page; (not many of these, at least in non-fiction; fiction- more likely).
“Basic Plus” – has some special text styling/formatting and/or tabular data (however little). £0.50/$0.80 per page; (the majority).
“Advanced” – has a lot of text formatting and styling and/or tabular data. Also the occasional title that gets completely ripped apart in the PDF file and has to be reconstructed. Included academic texts with linked endnotes. £0.90/$1.40 per page.
"Custom" - will get back to you separately on these, to agree a cost in advance, which we will need to invoice you for, if you want to go ahead. A text with mathematical equations for instance can easily push the conversion cost up to $1,000 or so (very few of these).
These costs are deducted from the Ebook royalties, not charged separately. On an average £6.99 ebook, 200 pages, the deduction would come to £100/$160, representing a sale of around 30 copies before the royalty kicks in.
If the expected conversion costs for your title are £150 or higher (typically due to additional work related to things like charts, illustrations, tables, long manuscripts, or endnotes), we will ask for those authors to cover the total amount upfront- This allows us to do just one invoice, which keeps it simple for everyone, and author royalties can then start to be collected on the first ebook sold.
Some ebook outlets are pickier than others. Apple iTunes will reject any book with notes or references that are not linked, this element will add to the conversion costs, approx £0.10/$0.17 per page for one-directional notes. Our sales through Apple are marginal. We will assume you prefer not to have the cost deducted from royalties and are happy not to have the book available there, if your book has notes, unless you say otherwise.
Other reasons why Apple will reject titles
- spaces in the .xhtml file names
- too small a front cover
- pictures with too many pixels
- prices on the cover
- any charts/tables/images that are scanned in
- too much interactivity
It is the designer's decision whether a title is simple or complex, and we prefer not to get into conversation about this, the sums/quantities invovled are not significant enough.
WHEN WILL MY EBOOK BE PUBLISHED?
We give the ebook the same publication date as the print edition. But we can not control the exact timing of availability. Because the ebook goes for conversion after the files are finished, the details come later. Because some conversions end up being problematic and costly, they may take a little longer.
Once the ebook file is finished, we release it in the following month, even if that is some time before publication. It can be helpful for use in promotion. Also, if we delay release till the month of publication, there is the problem that Amazon will show book details for the print edition, and a pre-order facility, but they will show nothing for the ebook until they have the file. so then there's a couple of month's worth of questions ("the print edition is being shown, but not the ebook, isn't it coming?").
One quirk of our distributors' databases, is it does not work the other way around; if you want the ebook published early, the print book will be given the same date.
For backlist titles that you ask us to convert it takes around one month for the conversion, and a further month to make it available to retail.
Note; September 2011
If you have a backlist title and we have not already converted it to an ebook, we convert them for free if sales have reached 1,000 copies over the previous 12 months. Otherwise, please expect a price in the region of £100/$200 (it depends on the complexity of the text design). If you would like to go ahead with an ebook conversion, email firstname.lastname@example.org, and we will get a quote to you. Please then send a cheque into the UK office (Laurel House, Station Approach, Alresford, Hampshire, SO24 9JH, U.K) and we will add your title to the next months batch of conversion titles.
If your title is published in November 2010 or later, the publication date will match the physical version. If it is a backlist title, the publication date will match the date of the ‘ebook file loaded’ stage on the editorial and production page.
WHAT WILL BE THE PRICE OF MY EBOOK?
Our standard pricing, irrespective of page extent, is;
USA & Canada - $9.99
UK - £6.99
Europe – 7.99 Euros
These can vary. When customers search for titles in some foreign markets, for example Amazon UK, the list price they see will include the Value Added Tax required for eBook sales in that country. This means that if we set the GBP and EUR prices as 1.49, customers shopping via Amazon UK, France, Germany, etc. would be paying 1.53 including VAT (this price would apply in countries where Amazon does not add a $2 surcharge).
On childrens' fiction, our standard pricing is lower;
As of November 2011 new authors can choose their own price, with a minimum of £2.99/$4.95. (We have a lower price still of £1.99/$2.95 on some short series of titles, the Made Easy series, Pagan Portals, etc). Well before the cover has been designed and approved and before the titles has been scheduled, please post your request your choice of ebook price on the Author Forum in the Editorial section with detail title ISBN and new eISBN. We can not offer that retrospectively yet. Prices have to end in .99 cents or .99 pennies - iBookstores will not accept an ebook that is priced otherwise. The ebook price we set at publication cannot be changed and will be kept until we review it at 500 copies, because that is when the next publicity effort kicks in.
As of end 2011 ebooks account for about 20% of sales in publishing generally. Few doubt it's going to be over 50% within two or three years. Most think that by 2020 digital sales will account for 80%+, with the new generation coming up through school more used to reading on screens of one kind or another than paper. The implications for authors and publishers are huge. The big publishers are keeping most ebook prices close to print prices.
Bringing it out at a lower price does not in itself guarantee any sales. Readers still have to find it on the internet. It does mean though that they are far more likely to buy it on impulse, particularly if there are good reviews. And if they like it, they may recommend it. You still make about twice the royalty on a $5 ebook at 50% (after retail discount income probably $4, so $2) than on a $20 print book at 10% (nearer $1, after shop discounts).
Our partners may run temporary promotions to have your title promoted at $.99. As a long-term set price, we can not get down to the $0.99/$1.99 kind of level. That doesn't cover the costs we're charged on for the distributor's cost and the cost of uploading the files to the different retail databases. Also, they are often associated with shoddy formatting.
The sweet spot for ebook pricing, balancing sales aagainst margin, is generally reckoned to be in the $4-$8 range; http://www.digitalbookworld.com/2013/the-ebook-pricing-sweet-spot/
1. Please note that the retail trade are not keen on these low priced titles as it affects the percentage of sales that are generated through the trade. Some retail accounts and trade distributors may penalise ebooks priced this way, or refuse to offer them at all. We can not get into discussions about which, and what effect that might have, it's too variable.
2. Most titles, particularly in non-fiction, have a fairly clearly defined market. People buy them because they want to know more about that subject, not for an impulse read. An ebook priced at $10 is still competetive, and can give you around five times as much royalty income as an equivalent print book. So by cheapenning the price you may just be missing out on a financial opportunity.
It is going to take a few years for ebook pricing to settle down. Check out for instance this post, 3 January 2011; http://ireaderreview.com/2010/12/31/the-race-to-zero-6-94-and-2-18-are-the-new-9-99/
You can only view pricing on Amazon if you are in the country where you can download the kindle version. So a UK based author, cannot view the pricing for amazon.com as they can not download from the .com site.
WHAT ROYALTY WILL I GET ON EBOOKS?
You will receive 50% of our receipts, less conversion costs (see above). Retailers will still deduct a trade discount, with amazon for instance it is usually 30% of the retail price. In the UK there is VAT (sales tax) to come off as well. That applies across all titles on the list that are bought out as ebooks. There's a useful post on how income divides at http://www.idealog.com/blog/the-ebook-value-chain-is-still-sorting-itself-out-and-so-are-the-splits.
HOW WILL MY BOOK BE CONVERTED INTO AN EBOOK?
Currently (November 2011) we use the final PDF file to convert into an Epub file and web ready PDF. These files are distributed to the major ebook retailers including those listed below. Though some of these retailers use a format other than EPUB, we convert it into the correct format in order to supply them. The ebook should be available in the month of publication.
Please note – you will only be able to view your ebook file on these pages if you have an ereader that accepts this file type. If you have a Kindle or ereader that doesn’t support this file type you can download Calibre (http://calibre-ebook.com/) for free and it will convert it to the correct file for you.
The difficulties with ebooks
The economics and processes involved in ebook/print conversion are rapidly changing, and sometime in 2012 we will probably be going straight to ebooks from ms in most cases, rather than doing a PDF first.
Ebooks are essentially produced by dumping print design files into software that performs a standard conversion process, converting every ebook the same way. This often does not work brilliantly. Tables, for instance, often get muddled. It usually produces terrible results in poetry. The only way to solve that is to do the coding by hand, book by book, but that is expensive. It also does not solve the problem. Because different web browsers, ebooks, ereaders, ereading apps, and so on, interpret the code and style in an Epub file differently. Kindle has its own proprietary file format and style, and we provide separate formatting for them, but the same file can look different in iBooks, Kobo, Sony Reader etc. An indent might look right on one ereader but not another, because the two platforms are interpreting the same code differently.
Over the next few years, this industry-wide problem is likely to get sorted, but for the moment, we can not get into discussions about individual lines or tables that do not come out right in an ereader. For the next couple of years at least - if your title has diagrams, charts, tables - its a question of either accepting they may not come out right, or we do not bring it out as an ebook.
IF MY BOOK IS ILLUSTRATED, CAN YOU BRING IT OUT AS AN EBOOK?
As of late 2011, the answer is no. There's a useful post on this at http://www.idealog.com/blog/searching-for-the-formula-to-deliver-illustrated-books-as-ebooks. As of summer 2012, it is getting easier, particularly with b/w, but the results can still be variable.
WHERE WILL MY EBOOK BE SOLD?
In the USA NBN distributes ebook titles to all the main ebook retailers including the list below. Currently Amazon is outstripping the competition, but all bases are being covered. Google Books in both USA and UK supply independent bookstores. In the UK, Google Books, also supplies to ‘The Hive’. This is Gardners Book’s retail site, they are mainly known as a trade distributor. ‘The Hive’ aims to credit a percentage of the sale to the nearest independent bookstore of the orderer.
We also plan to sell the books from our own website in the near future. In the meantime, all ebook sales (worldwide) are listed in the US sales column on the Financials page because they are run through a US distributor. You can check on relative US/UK sales on Kindle (not on other ereaders) on the Novelrank programme (more in Amazon/online retail). The retailers are listed below (some of these are selective, so not every title goes into every account):
A Book Company, LLC
All Romance eBooks
Amazon (SITB and Kindle)
B&N (Nook & Search Inside)
Bilbary through Ingram
Books on Board
Campus eBooks A/S
Computer Manuals Ltd
Digital Pulp Publishing
eBook Pie, Inc
Entourage Systems, Inc.
Publisher Services, Inc.
Sentient 6/MedUsa, LLC
UK and Europe
AKADEMIBOKHANDELN BOKUS AB
ALMA ARTEX LTD
CAMBRIDGE INTERNATIONAL BOOK CENTRE
CAPITAL IDEAS REATIL LTD
CENTRO LOGISTICO PORTO EDITORIA
CLIQ DIRECT BV
CONNECT 2 BEAUTY
DE NORSKE BOKKLUBBENE AS
EDIX RETAIL LTD
ELIBRIS/SILVA CONSULTING UK
GOES HERE LTD
JOHN SMITH & SON LTD
KENT BOOK CO LTD
MAPSTOP/GLOBAL MAPPING LTD
MIKE'S FAMOUS BOOKSTALL
OLD HALL BOOKSHOP
ORELL FUESSLI BUCHHANDLUNGS AG
PREMS LIBREXIM SRL
RAHVA RAAMAT LTD
SF BOKHANDELN AB
SMARTEBOOK.COM CO LTD
SOL Y SOMBRA BOOKS SL
SPARKLE DIRECT LTD
ST PETERSBURG DOM KNIGI
STOCKMANN / AKATEEMINEN
THE BEST YOU CAN BE
THE ENGLISH BOOKSHOP
TITE LIVE BELGIQUE
UNIVERSITY OF WARWICK BOOKSHOP
NBN fusion do NOT distribute ebooks to Google Ebooks (2012)
Further overseas, it's a complicated picture. Check out for instance this post;
HOW CAN I MARKET MY EBOOK?
While excerpts of your book can be shared to help promote ebook purcahses. It is important that authors do not upload their manuscript/PDF/ePub to any 3rd party sites. Our publishing system automatically handles the listing of your title on many ebook stores listed above- this includes the big ones you would expect such as Kindle, Nook, and iTunes. We automatically handle all ebook transactions for authors who publish with us.
General information on ebooks
Long term, most books are likely to be read digitally rather than on paper. They will be part of the "information universe", with everything linked to everything else. The way they are written and produced will keep changing.
Update; November 2011 - ebooks are accounting for around 15% of sales in publishing overall. In many areas of fiction, subgenres like romance, SF, fantasy, crime, horror, its more like 75%+ for new titles. Most pundits expect ebooks to account for more than 50% overall sales within a couple of years.
Most ebook sales are of fiction. Non-fiction tends to be more formatted: subsections, sidebars, pictures, diagrams, pull-quotes, etc. It’s “browseable,” not necessarily for reading straight through. Things that work on the printed page are hard to replicate in an ebook.
It is going to take a couple of years to sort out which ereader is going to become the standard, and until that happens, or files can be swapped between them, and the price comes down, the cost of delivering the files in different formats to the different ereaders (which are not interchangeable) for the occasional title is high. Its easy to spend a disproportionate amount of time and expense delivering extras, which add little, if anything, to sales, rather than focusing on getting the book itself into the hands of the right people.
Right now, the main problem is that there are at least half a dozen major ebook platforms, like; Amazon's Kindle, Barnes and Noble's Nook, Sony Reader, iRexiLiad, Hanlin, Foxit eSlick. They each have advantages. There are several new ones on the way, like Fujitsus FLEPia (the first with a color screen), Plastic Logic, Papyrus. Most of these support the EPUB format, which has the edge across most of the world, but Kindle does not. A major question is whether it will in the future. (Update in summer of 2010, there are now several dozen, with three entirely new platforms on the way; Google Editions, Blio and Copia; see http://www.idealog.com/blog/three-new-ebook-platforms-nearing-their-debut.)
Most publishers are pushing to keep prices for ebooks the same as printed books, and royalties close to the level of printed books, or 25% max.
Authors accuse publishers being greedy. Its not that simple. The conversion costs to an ebook means that its only bestselling authors that can generate enough sales to really make it worthwhile converting the files. The vast majority of ebooks sell a handful of copies, at best.
The distribution and warehousing charges for ebooks are as high as for print books. Wholesalers like Gardners in the UK charge 50% of the income. They argue, as do publishers who handle it themselves, that there are still large costs relating to ebooks, like building, managing and keeping secure e-warehouses, among other things. They Are just different to print costs. There’s a useful article on this subject at; http://www.bookbrunch.co.uk/index.php?option=com_content&view=section&layout=blog&id=17&Itemid=116.
We are going forward on the basis that, medium to long term, digital books are going to be important, though ereaders may be temporary. That the costs of production, and hence retail price, are going to be much lower than printed books. That the authors are going to demand, and get, a much higher proportion of the income.
These ebooks as produced by us are not protected by DRM (Digital Rights Management). It means that it may be possible for a reader to copy the book and pass it on. Regarding no DRM, the majority consensus amongst industry pundits, and publishers and authors who have tried this, is that though this results in some lost sales, these are outweighed by the greater exposure and extra sales that result from wider distribution. To protect the ebooks by DRM means creating it for each ebook in each digital format for the different ereaders, and we cant do this. So the way it is then handled today is 3rd party ebook sellers such as Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Apple do usually add a layer of DRM to our given file that then attempts to lock the file to a specific user account and on thier device. If you object to this approach, feel free to opt out of giving us the digital/ebook rights.
NB; see May 2012 article, the death of DRM.
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