by Raelene Gorlinsky
Where are your books, and how are they being sold? You do find that out when considering a publisher or publishing contract, right? As in, what formats will they be available in, what webstores will offer them for sale, and in what parts of the world will they be available or not available?
After all, you want to sell as many copies as possible, which means being sure that readers can find and purchase your books with relative ease. So you need to understand things like territorial rights, distribution, online vendors, ebook formats, and DRM.
Here's an example of the WRONG way for a publisher to sell your books. Both these readers were trying to get the same ebook. It is a novella by a very popular author, available only in digital format, not print. (NOT an EC book.)
Reader #1 contacted EC in desperation. She knew we didn't publish the book, but she is a happy customer of EC and knew our service is excellent and helpful. She'd tried emailing the publisher and the ebook vendors selling the book, and gotten no assistance. Please, could we help her understand?
She is located outside the U.S., and when she tried to purchase the ebook from vendor sites, received messages that it was not available in her country. Huh? It's an ebook, she said, she just wants to download it, how can it be not available? So I explained "territorial rights" to her, that publishers contract for the right to sell the book either worldwide or in specific regions. In this case, apparently the publisher has only North American or U.S. or some other limited territorial rights. They cannot legally sell the book outside the specific region(s). The e-vendor systems check your location when you click to buy and cannot allow a sale outside the territory. [BTW, EC always contracts worldwide rights.] Oh, and because the ebook was DRMed, it was not possible for her to get a US friend to buy the ebook and email the file to her--the DRM makes that impossible.
Reader #2 was also desperate for the same ebook. She searched, and found it was only available on a few e-vendor sites, and in only three digital formats. None were the format she needed, and all were DRM-protected. Which meant she could not print it to read it, could not convert it to another format, could not move it from her PC to any other device. In other words, the digital formats available were useless to her.
I think you can guess what is unfortunately the readers' easiest or only solution for both these problems -- pirate sites. NOT what an author or publisher wants to happen, but the only way readers can get the book in these conditions.
Luckily, these were both honest and ethical people. Yes, they might be driven to downloading from a pirate site, but neither wanted to cheat the author out of her income from the book, did not want to "steal" it. Reader #1 swore she was mailing a check directly to the author. Reader #2 went back to a vendor site and purchased the ebook; she didn't bother downloading the to-her-unusable format, but her action assured that the publisher and author would receive payment for one purchased copy.
So if you as an author want to maximize your sales potential and decrease pirating, you need to pay attention to where and how your books are being sold. Make sure your readers can buy them!
(BTW, there is a slightly happier ending for anyone in Reader#2's position. This ebook is now offered at more e-vendors and in additional formats, including ePub, although it is still DRM-ed.)