Searching for the next book distributor

I currently distribute my ebooks via three main channels – Draft2Digital, Smashwords, and Kindle Direct Publishing – but I am always on the lookout for another. Draft2Digital claim to reach several outlets, including 24 Symbols, Apple Books, Baker & Taylor, Barnes & Noble, Bibliotheca, Kobo, OverDrive, Playster, Scribd, and Tolino. Smashwords claim to reach, SmashWords, CloudLibrary, Gardners Library, Gardners Extended Retail, and Odilo. Kindle Direct Publishing simply puts my books on Amazon as both ebooks and books on demand.

My Latest Book

If you enjoy reading Gothic Horror, it is likely you will enjoy Forever Young:

Forever Young is a modern take on a classic Gothic novel, combining horror, death, and romance. It is firmly in the tradition of the most famous books of the genre but it is also something new. The book introduces us to Jasmine, a student of the occult, newly arrived in Venice, and to Violetta, who is trapped in an ancient and violent world with no escape. After the two meet, Jasmine gradually awakes in Violetta the desire to escape.

The book is also available at Kobo and at Smashwords.

However, even though Smashwords claims to distribute to Gardeners, when I went to the Gardners website and looked for one of my books, I could not find it. I even typed in the ISBN, and nothing. I guess it is more like my books are offered to all these outlets, but are not necessarily being accepted by all of them.

I am fixated on Gardners in particular because I used to work in a bookstore in the UK and I remember that we used to use Gardners to order books. In an attempt to get onto the Gardner’s list I started to investigate IngramSpark. They say that their titles are made available to tens of thousands of retailers, libraries, schools, e-commerce companies, and other channel partners. It’s a much more impressive list than even D2D’s and their Gardner’s integration seems to be more direct. But then I thought for a second, something about that language set off an alarm bell.

Making something available is very different to ensuring it is listed and included on a system. In two minds about IngramSpark already, I went to the page where they explain how to upload a file. The page starts with a stark warning. It says: Avoid paying a revision fee to fix unnecessary mistakes by using the below guidelines to get it right the first time.

My Best Seller

I write sci-fi novels that belong to a series called Dark Galaxy, which starts with Galaxy Dog:

What starts as an ordinary invasion of an alien planet brings to light an ancient archeological site of huge importance. A young man called Knave makes a life-changing discovery there and rises from a lowly position as an infantry trooper to become a player among the powers of the galaxy.

The entire series is available to buy from Amazon.

I gasped out loud at the temerity of that. Neither Draft2Digital, nor Smashwords, nor even the union-busting neoconservatives at Amazon require revision fees. My enthusiasm draining away, I glanced at the format requirements on the page.

For print on demand books, they require a pdf of every page, including blank pages, whether they are numbered or not, along with a book cover file that must also be formatted as a pdf. But, pdfs created using the “save as” function from MS Word are not supported. Yikes, it was already sounding like a nightmare, but there was more. The margins must be a minimum of 0.5” (13mm) from final trim size on all sides, and a gutter margin is required on the bind side of interior, along with a 3mm bleed. All pictures must also be converted to grayscale or CMYK images.

My mind boggled. To make a beautiful book with Draft2Digital requires only a word processor file and a JPG for the cover. The Ingram Spark process is incredibly laborious and taxing, so much so that I gave up without even attempting it.

The page even admits that the process is way too complicated. The way they phrase it is: If you are not experienced in creating digital content or don’t have access to book layout software, enlisting the help of a professional book designer is advised.

So, if neither Draft2Digital nor Ingram Spark is going to get my book onto Gardners, how was I going to get it included on the Gardners list? I went to the Gradners site and rooted around until I found an answer. Not a good answer, but an answer.

Gardners say that for a physical book, publishers must be registered with Nielsen. The book must have an ISBN or EAN, with barcode. Also, their suppliers must have UK Sales & Marketing activity and have stock available from the UK. Even when these hurdles are surmounted, there is more. If you meet these criteria, you have to send a sample copy for review to a physical address. But Gardners do not return samples or even acknowledge their receipt.

I don’t live in the UK. And I am not a publisher, so there is no way I am going to be able to satisfy these requirements. Forgetting, reluctantly, about ever getting one of my physical books on Gardners, I decided to investigate what it would take to at least get my titles listed as ebooks.
Gardners claims to be a leading digital distributor of eBooks, able to help in maximizing revenue in the expanding digital market. Initially the requirements seemed much easier. To be listed an ebook  must simply have a valid ISBN and be in ePub format.

That’s easy, I thought, but then I noticed an extra requirement, right at the bottom of the page. The ebook files need to be Adobe Digital Editions compatible. That set my teeth on edge because it means Gardners are going down the DRM road. Adobe Digital Editions is a content protection service that digitally protects EPUB content.

The thing is, I’m against adding DRM to my work. It hurts sales and increases costs. An author should be trying to lower barriers to consumption of their books. Adding DRM only increases user frustration, and a little bit of sharing of your book often actually increases sales. It would also lock buyers into Adobe’s ecosystem, which is a fate I wouldn’t wish on anyone. That’s why the Library of Congress ruled that it was okay to crack the DRM for purchased Ebooks, so you aren't held hostage by some big company in their ecosystem.

In the end I have given up on IngramSpark and Gardners, but I am still searching for other distributors. You never know when the next big platform will come along, and I want to be part of it, whatever it turns out to be.

To end, just a reminder that the best way to support this blog is to buy one of my books. Simply go over to Amazon, or Kobo and get one.