Ideally this eBook revolution makes it possible for an author to write and then sell his work independently of all except for the internet book shop sites. Many authors do this and it works for them. You may well be one for whom it’s a route worth following.
For others there is a way that stops them having to reinvent the wheel. The mechanics of putting an eBook on sale are not particularly easy for a non-US resident, and even in the US many prefer to use an eBook aggregator.
Here in Thailand we fell into this role almost by accident. We have been selling printed books published in Thailand over the internet for many years. In fact we were the first company not only selling books online, but the first company with an ecommerce operation based in Thailand. Over the years we have built up working relationships with many independent authors. Towards the end of 2010 we decided to get involved with eBooks, initially selling them ourselves at eBooks DCO, a part of our DCO Books websites.
The first problem we encountered was that our authors knew about eBooks and were keen to give it a try, but didn’t know how to format an eBook. We offered to do that for free as we saw our income would be generated on the sales. The next was once we decided we needed to get the books on the large US based internet eBook sites like Amazon, these compamies tended to be very US-centric. This was especially so with payments and taxes.
We will use as an example one the big players. They will pay the non-US resident for US sales by bank cheque once the amount reaches $100. They will withhold 30% to cover US taxes for those unregistered with the US tax authority, the IRS. Finally the author takes the cheque to his local bank, in our case in Thailand, and pays a $10 bank charge to clear it which takes up to 45 days.
The outcome is with about $204 in sales the retailer takes at least $61 commission, then the remaining $143 is taxed leaving a payment of $100 from which the author eventually receives $90. That works out at the author receiving 44%. So 56% has gone. Although this is far better than the author would receive in traditional book publishing, it still isn’t good enough.
The economic benefits from using an aggregator like ourselves are as follows. Firstly we have a US tax number which reduces the 30% withholding tax to 5%. (It must be said that there are ways for any non-US author to get a US tax number but it does involve jumping through a few hoops.) Secondly because we have numerous authors selling books we can spread the $10 bank charge for clearing cheques among so many that it becomes negligible. Even with retailers who pay by PayPal we can get the US Dollars converted at the current bank exchange rate rather than at the PayPal exchange rate which many will know isn’t that great.
So far we have only really talked about the financial benefits and the free formatting, but probably the biggest reason isn’t either of these. With an aggregator the author is no longer alone. He joins with other authors who have already made the transition to eBook publishing. We have already found the best retail deals and built relationships inside this new business. There is no longer the need to commit valuable time to the manufacturing process instead of spending it on more creative pursuits. There is no need any longer to reinvent the wheel!