Why should I use an ebook aggregator?
by Amanda Greenslade

This article was written by an Australian, for Australians, but it could be relevant to indie authors worldwide.

'Aggregator' means an intermediary that brings things together. In this case, we distribute ebooks to vendors like Apple, Amazon, Kobo, GooglePlay and EBSCO for authors and publishers that don't want to go directly to the vendors. Read more about our Australian ebook aggregation service.

If you would like to use an ebook aggregation business, it operates like any other wholesaler in the book business. For example, Australian eBook Publisher keeps a small percentage of the sales, and this helps to pay for the time it takes, and the money it costs, to run the royalties dashboard, enter sales reports and vendor payments, and pay you.

Considering that publishers pay something like 5-10% of the RRP, the fact that an ebook aggregator pays 80% of the net receipts, or higher, is a great benefit. The reason for this is they have not had to put up the financial risk in the first place, to produce and publish the book. You will have paid for that yourself.

As mentioned, Australian eBook Publisher has a royalties dashboard, a custom-built database to handle all the sales and payment data. Its job is to ensure our authors get accurately paid and can see the data (either by looking at the sales receipts or logging in) for all of the ebooks we have aggregated. You will not be able to reach it except by invitation. If you have a current contract with us, please contact us if you need to be invited.

If you decide to distribute your ebook to vendors yourself, you may not be able to get it as widely listed. You may be surprised to discover how complicated it is. If you manage to distribute on a number of vendors yourself, maybe it will work better for you to be able to collect the full—up to 70%—from ebook vendors. Or maybe you will be frustrated by the limited number of vendors you can sign up to as an indie author, or unimpressed by the tremendous amount of work and complexity involved.

What's involved in self-distribution of ebooks direct to vendors?

1. Time
You will need anything from 3 to 10 hours, depending on the accounts you wish to set up and how complicated your business and tax situation is. You will need hours, every few months, to manage it and download information, depending on how many ebooks you have and how often you want information.

2. Be tech-savvy
You will need to be technologically-minded to be able to set up and manage accounts to sell ebooks. If you struggle to use a computer, install software, side-load ebooks, keep files and folders organised, work with multiple spreadsheets, etc. you may need to consider working with only one ebook vendor to keep things simple. Or, use an aggregator like Australian eBook Publisher.

Also, you will need a Mac, not a PC, to run the software required to distribute ebooks on the Apple store. Apple also requires that its publishers have a website.

3. Tax management
You will need to sign forms with the IRS in the USA to ensure you don't lose 30% withholding tax on your book or ebook sales. You will need to work out and understand a lot of tax and finance-related questions. If anything confuses you, be prepared to clear these questions with your own financial advisor or tax accountant, who will need an understanding of international tax treaties to properly advise you.

4. Decide which vendors
Once you've jumped through those hoops, we can help most people to sell ebooks through Apple, Amazon and Kobo. You won't be able to get the same royalty deal as we do through Kobo, as Australian eBook Publisher is listed with them as a publisher, whereas indie authors are on a slightly different program. As for GooglePlay and Nook, they are not taking on new accounts at present.

Library/lending distributors like EBSCO do not start new accounts with indie authors, only publishers with a certain number of titles coming out each year. To reach most bookselling vendors, indie authors are expected to go through an intermediary like Australian eBook Publisher.

5. Ongoing data management
You will need to be able to get the information that you need for your business accounting, and data about sales when you want to know what's going on with your ebook(s). This is all neat and tidy through the Australian eBook Publisher dashboard, but the raw data is messy. Payments may be coming to you from all different subsidiaries within each ebook vendor (eg. different marketplaces). These could be in all different currencies, using exchange rates of particular days of their choosing, to add to the complexity.

6. Small business management
You will need to have a business name, an ABN and be registered for GST to do business with Apple. In other words, you are becoming a small business manager. You could call it 'John Smith Publishing', for example. But along with that comes BAS (business activity statement reporting to the ATO), legal and trademark considerations, business structure considerations (personal risk etc.), professional indemnity insurance, personal income tax ramifications etc.

If you have an existing business, check with your directors or financial advisors whether you can just sell ebooks through it, and if there are any legal, compliance or insurance factors to consider. You will also have to account for the sales through your business, whereas when you receive small or sporadic amounts of income for book sales, it's usually considered hobby income and doesn't even need to be declared as income. See here for more details and do not take this as financial or legal advice.

7. Pay more international bank fees
One more thing to consider is that handling ebook distribution yourself may mean that all the bank fees for international exchange will apply to just you, on your every payment from overseas entities. Using an aggregator like Australian eBook Publisher, on the other hand, means that because we have hundreds of products for sale, the bank fees end up being a negligible cost when talking about one ebook sale.

In summary
The above issues can be overcome, especially if you only want to distribute with one or two of the major ebook vendors, but it may help to have someone who knows what's involved, to ask questions of. I can check all the details for your situation, and advise you when you need outside help, as part of publishing consultation.

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