Nadia Lee | NYT and USA Today Bestselling Author of Contemporary Romance » Carnal Secrets: Distribution: the Issues of DRM and Geographic Restrictions

Carnal Secrets: Distribution: the Issues of DRM and Geographic Restrictions

CARNAL SECRETS by Nadia LeeOriginally posted on Pearl’s World of Romance in March 2011.

For those of you who know me on Twitter or Facebook are probably aware that I intensely dislike DRM and geo restriction on ebooks. DRM signals “You aren’t trustworthy”. Geo restrictions signal “Your money isn’t good enough to buy this just because you aren’t in America (and/or Canada)”. Now the latter one is a bit tricky, especially if the rights granted to the publisher do not cover all territories. Publishers can’t just make something available all over the world if the contract says, “the U.S. only”.

When I walked away from the deal on Carnal Secrets, I knew I had to do everything alone, and in order to succeed, I had to do it just as well as what the publisher who’d offered would’ve done, if not better.

With that in mind, I approached distribution with two objectives:

  1. Make the book available in as many places as possible.
  2. Make the book DRM-free, geo restriction-free and speech-enabled.

For most authors doing it themselves, the most obvious option is Amazon Kindle. I create a PRC file myself, using HTML, to add the cover, table of contents and so on. (I love getting an ebook with a pretty cover. I’m shallow like that.  :))  This file gets tested on Kindle for PC and uploaded. I always enable global distribution and opt out of DRM.

(For those of you who don’t know this—Kindle asks indie authors if they’d like to add DRM on their ebooks. So buying from indie authors does not guarantee that your Kindle book will be DRM-free because there are some who believe that DRM is absolutely necessary to stop piracy. *sigh* And this applies to Nook ebooks as well.)

And when we talk about Kindle, we can’t not talk about Nook from Barnes and Noble, Amazon’s biggest book retailer rival right now.  Again, I created an epub file with the cover and all. But what I don’t understand about Nook is that even though I opted out of DRM and enabled worldwide distribution, on the actual B&N Nook sales page, Nook books are available for customers in the U.S. only.

If I remember correctly, Nook is not available outside of the U.S. so perhaps B&N decided to restrict Nook purchases to the U.S. only. But for authors interested in making their books available to international readers, it can be a bit frustrating. I sincerely hope that Nook ereaders and ebooks become available to international readers soon.

Anyway, though I always enable worldwide distribution, it makes me unhappy that my readers who live outside the U.S. cannot get my books from Nook, and those who live in other countries (not including Canada or the UK) have to pay extra $2.00 to buy from Amazon Kindle. It seems hardly fair since Amazon pays half the regular royalty for international sales. So authors make less money, and international readers pay more. I ask you.

When I mentioned this to Zoe Winters, she told me to put my books up on Smashwords. It’s not as slick as Kindle or Nook, and it pays authors quarterly, not monthly like Kindle and Nook. Books there don’t usually come with covers and so on.  But it allows for DRM-free global distribution, and international readers don’t have to pay anything extra or go through any hassle to get the books they want. In addition, Smashwords has multiple file options (pdf, epub, prc / mobi, Sony, etc.), and readers can always go back and redownload their ebooks. It’s extra work to format for Smashwords, but I went to work immediately. I don’t believe readers who are already well-served by Kindle and Nook care, but I wanted to give another option for international readers.

Smashwords also pushes books to Apple, Kobo, Sony and Diesel. I have no idea if they apply DRM or geo restrict books there. I hope not, but whatever they do is completely out of my control. (And you thought indie authors had 100% control over everything! Ha!)

Finally, I put my books on All Romance eBooks (ARe). I like their interface and reporting tool, and I don’t believe they add DRM or geo restrictions. But I honestly have no idea how easy it is for readers to use ARe. I’d love to hear some of your thoughts on this.

Now that I’ve shared the process behind distributing ebooks as an indie author, it’s your turn: Who’s your favorite ebook vendor?  Why do you buy from there? What do you wish ebook vendors did differently?