Things have been busy in the world of self-publishing sci-fi books, one huge book aggregator is going out of business, while another has just won the coveted rights to send books to the big kahuna: Amazon.

So why is this big news, and what is an aggregator anyway?

Indie authors who want to sell books have to do it through companies like Amazon. They can upload ebooks to these online ebook retailers directly, but that is a lot of hard work, battling through unfriendly interfaces. A much easier option is to go through an aggregator. Aggregatora are a much the more efficient way to go, giving more time to do the creative stuff. This service doesn’t come free, of course, an ebook aggregator will collect a percentage, usually a small percentage like 15%, or something, which seems to me to be a fair trade for wide distribution and centralized accounting and payment services.

An aggregator is nothing, however, if it can’t make the deals to get its books into online retailers, and the biggest online retailer, is Amazon, followed by Kobo, then Apple and all the rest. Draft2Digital have been distributing through Kobo for a long time, but agreeing a deal with Amazon is big news because it makes them much more attractive than they were before. Amazon is the world’s largest bookseller, so large that it’s likely that 90% of any author’s book sales will come from them.

I have until recently been getting my books to Amazon through an aggregator called Pronoun, which is why them going out of business was potentially such bad news for me. Pronoun is , or was, a New York-based company that provided free book publishing, marketing, and analytics services. The company had a long history, starting in April 2009 when it was founded as Vook by Internet entrepreneur Bradley Inman. In January 2010, Vook raised $2.5 million in seed financing from a group of prominent Silicon Valley and New York investors, then in December 2010, Vook raised $5.25 million more financing. It was renamed Pronoun after buying the publishing analytics platform Booklr and the short-form ebook publisher Byliner. In turn, Pronoun itself was then gobbled up by Macmillan Publishers in May 2016. In theory it was a strong company, with a big backer, that was only getting stronger…in theory.

Pronoun was a slick self-publishing service for authors that provided free ebook distribution, with an automated conversion tool that made absolutely beautiful ebooks. It was an attempt to create a one-of-a-kind publishing tool that truly put authors first. Pronoun believed that the power of data could be harnessed for smarter book publishing, leveling the playing field for indie authors. I never understood that part, which all sounded a bit vague to me, but I didn’t worry about it too much though, as Pronoun was run by Macmillan and I figured they must have seen some advantage in the Pronoun business model.

Unfortunately Pronoun were unable to get whatever their business model was to work. For them, the challenges of indie publishing remained unsolved, and so Macmillan decided not to continue Pronoun’s operation. Pronoun anticipates ending all distribution by January 15, 2018. I have already migrated my books away from their service, and I doubt I will be the only one moving so quickly.

I have un-published my books from Pronoun and republished them to Amazon through Draft2Digital instead. Draft2Digital is an Oklahoma-based digital publishing aggregator providing conversion and distribution services for authors. They were founded in 2012 and they are one of the more recent arrivals to the self-publishing arena.

Their interface is as easy to use as that of Pronoun and it is free to upload a manuscript for conversion and distribution, just like with Pronoun. The problem was they didn’t use to include Amazon in their distribution channels, but as of a few days ago, now they do. For authors who want simplicity and ease of publishing, from an aggregator that can reach Amazon, Draft2Digital is now pretty much the only game in town.

Also, the sales reports on Draft2Digital are pretty transparent, much better than they were on Pronoun, because they show detailed information about sales from a given month. There is a little confusion because of the delay between the time when sales are made and the time when Draft2Digital receives royalties for those sales. This means payments shown on the royalty statement are really for sales from three months earlier.

Moving from Pronoun to Draft2Digital is a no-brainer now that pronoun is going out of business, and it would probably have been a good idea anyway - now that Draft2Digital reaches Amazon - but there is one fly in the ointment. All the Amazon links to my books I have been leaving across the Internet have now been destroyed. When Draft2Digital republished my books to Amazon, the links generated for the books by Amazon were all new and different. Just updating the links on this very blog means hunting down and changing round sixty or seventy links, at least.

The obvious solution might seem to be to change them all to the new Amazon equivalents, but there is an alternative. Draft2Digital offers a service they call Universal Book Links.

Draft2Digital created something called Books2Read some time ago, and Universal Book Links (UBLs) are part of that. As I have just found out, it doesn’t take long for a link library to get out of date, and all the hard work put into marketing on blogs, in book reviews, and on podcasts is suddenly undone as the links become out of date or even go extinct. With UBLs, Draft2Digital are trying to make things easier for authors by simplifying an avalanche of retailer links down from hundreds to just one.

A reader clicking on a UBL is greeted with a page displaying all the places the book is available online. They then select the storefront they prefer. And when they do, Books2Read asks if they want to make that their default bookseller. From then on, every time a reader clicks a UBL they will be taken directly to the book they are interested in, on the storefront they prefer. The UBL even allows readers to go to the Amazon store that matches their region, without the need to create a separate link. Basically, you get to keep an up-to-date link to your book’s sales page at every ebook retailer online, in one easy link, and you can share it anywhere you like.

The UBL is also supposed to provide better data, to give insight into who is clicking through, the storefronts they prefer and, of course, the books they’re interested in. Theoretically this data can then be used to improve or adjust marketing strategy, or determine what to focus on next in growing the author’s profile.

So all I have to do now is hunt down all those links - and change them to look like my brand new book link below.

Galaxy Dog (Dark Galaxy)

Start Reading the Dark Galaxy Trilogy

The first book in the Dark Galaxy Trilogy, always the best place to start, is Galaxy Dog. It’s a little more old-school and fun than a lot of the sci-fi that is around at the moment. It has spaceships, robots, battles, and brave warriors rebelling against an evil empire. Click the book cover and go to Amazon to buy it now, or follow this link.