In response to the post “Update to Interesting Timing” on May 31, Matthew Cavnar of Vook left a lengthy response on June 5. I was occupied with activities that didn’t involve a computer yesterday, so the comment wasn’t released from moderation right away. Vook sent both email and tweet in that time asking for the comment to be shown. Since it was such a matter of urgency, I thought I’d highlight it.
Look: Vook is most certainly talking to a different sort of writer than I am. As I mentioned in my response to their comment, I’ve been self-employed a long time. I’m not real big on folks doing my business for me, and I can get downright huffy when folks tell me basic administrative tasks are overly complicated. But I’ve heard from and spoken with many writers who’d just prefer to hand over the administration of their work to a third party in return for the feeling of being cared for. Companies like Vook are there to fill that desire.
But what I will always object to is the dual implication that the administrative process of self-publishing is beyond the ken of mere writers, and the most legitimate solution is to pay a premium for the administrative services of others. If a writer–after learning how the process actually works rather than depending upon the “But it’s so hard and mysterious!” mantra–still wants to pay someone for the service, then their decision is at least an educated one. I still advocate knowing how the process works because that’s the best way to judge if the services purchased are being done properly.
And being the curious sort, I poked around the Vook site a bit more.
The Distribution page lists two types of Amazon accounts. The first option lists a split of 55% to Amazon and 45% to the writer. The second lists the usual 30%/70% Amazon/writer split (for “sweet spot” pricing). Since writers then pay Vook 10% of their income, the writer would receive 35% of list price under the first option, and 60% of list price under the second option. That 35% option is so low because it prevents Amazon from lowering the ebook price for special promotions.
I had my sale price of Sword and Chant lowered once because Kobo was slow to update its pricing, and thus Amazon price-matched. That’s an act well within the bounds of their Terms of Service, quite clearly, which I understand many writers haven’t read. I dashed off an email to Amazon the moment Kobo updated. Amazon changed my price within twenty-four hours. Personally, I don’t think avoiding that sort of occasional thing is worth giving up 50% of my Amazon royalties all the time.
I’m assuming, based on the Distribution page, that the numbers in the March 2013 Vook blog post on the perks of using Vook are no longer valid, as the single Amazon rate listed there is an odd 46.2% to Vook and 56.8% to Amazon… which comes to 103%.
The Barnes and Noble royalty rate through Vook is listed as 50%. The writer will receive 40%, after the Vook 10% rate is subtracted. However, the standard BN/Nook royalty rate for me, a self-publisher who uploads to the Nook site directly, is 65% for works prices between $2.99 and $9.99. That means my Vook profit-per-sale drops from $.65 per dollar to $.40 per dollar. ETA 06/08/2013 15.01: The low rate is due to the wholesale account Vook holds with BN, which gives them access to promotional avenues not available to those self-publishing via PubIt/Nook. Those promotional efforts would need to provide an increase in sales of around 40% to break even.
Apple’s rate is the straight-forward 30%/70% Apple/writer split. After Vook’s service fee is subtracted, the writer receives 60%. That’s not bad, considering Apple has been a more difficult interface for self-publishers.
I was going to point out there is no listing for Kobo–so important as Kobo’s partnership with independent bookstores grow–but found a blog post from April 2013 mentioning that Kobo, Sony, Samsung and Google are now part of Vook’s distribution. Since these options aren’t listed on the main distribution page, I don’t know what the royalty rates through Vook’s distribution would be.
Additionally, Vook’s Terms of Service discusses subscription fees to be paid by those who choose to distribute through Vook. I do not know what those subscription fees are. I couldn’t find them on the site, and various searches just brought me back to the Terms of Service. I looked over many Vook pages, and could find no other reference to subscriptions. If I missed it, by all means point it out to me in comments.
Finally, I’m not at all against writers paying for individual services. I pay for some myself. And keep in mind that I’m a small fish in this pond. I’m a plankter, for heaven’s sake, who hasn’t even delved into true promotion because I don’t have enough titles available to make it worth my investment. But I do indeed object to the number of services being pushed on new writers with little indication that the services will result in better sales.
Third-party distribution of ebooks to primary platforms is, for the most part, one of those things–especially if it comes with a monthly fee, limits my ability to make changes, and delays my payments by up to eight months.
That’s just my stance on the matter. Others are free to stand where they wish.
Edited 06/06/13 to add a couple pieces of information and clarify some wording.