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From the Tech Desk
What the Changes at Pronoun Mean for Independent Authors
Almost two years ago, the self-publishing service Pronoun debuted with the goal of being the company that was going to put authors first. The company had previously been known as Vook, but relaunched in 2015 with a new look and a new mission. In July of that same year, we took a look at Pronoun for a From the Tech Desk column, outlining some of the ways in which the service was committing itself to better serving independent authors and writers. Certainly, Pronoun sounded like an attractive option at the time. The company was offering to give authors complete ownership of any work created through the service, provide detailed analytics and insights to help authors make key business decisions about their books, and give authors access to the latest publishing industry tools. Early on, Pronoun was boasting about another big selling point as well: the elusive 100% author royalty rate.
If you’ve used Pronoun since it launched, this last piece of information might have you scratching your head and wondering whether or not you missed a line in the paperwork. Don’t worry, you didn’t: Pronoun’s promise of a 100% royalty rate was, to be frank, a somewhat confusing pledge. Justin Renard, the head of marketing for the company, even admitted this fact in a Publisher’s Weekly article from mid-January. He claimed that when Pronoun promised a 100% royalty rate, they actually meant that authors would see “no charges on each e-book sale.” What Renard is basically saying is twofold: first, that Pronoun’s services—including eBook production, distribution, and marketing tools—are all free to members; and second, that Pronoun itself doesn’t actually take royalties.
Of course, just because Pronoun offers a free service and leaves royalties alone doesn’t mean that authors actually get a 100% royalty rate. After all, there are still the retailers to think about, and the retailers—from Amazon to Kobo to Google Play—all take their own royalties. The bad news, in other words, is that there will probably never be a way to get a 100% royalty rate on your eBook sales unless you sell exclusively from your own website. In order to reach customers, you are probably going to have to keep working with a few of those royalty-snagging retailers.
The good news is that Pronoun is still living up to its promise to put authors first. In mid-January, Pronoun announced a new set of royalty rates, giving its authors a monetary boost. If you’ve used Pronoun in the past and were disappointed by the fact that you didn’t get a 100% royalty rate, it might be time to give the service another chance. According to a press release from the company, Pronoun authors will now receive a 70% royalty rate on books priced at $9.99 or less. For books priced above $9.99, the revenue decreases slightly to 65%. The new royalty rates apply to all books sold in the United States and Canada. Authors who have published and distributed books through Pronoun in the past will be able receive the new royalty rates on all future sales.
Again, there’s some confusion to slice through here. Pronoun’s press release doesn’t expressly note the royalty rates authors were receiving before—though that fact has more to do with the different royalty rates across Pronoun’s supported retailers than it does with any attempt at subterfuge. Pronoun can distribute to Amazon, iBooks, Nook, Kobo, and Google Play, and all of those services follow their own royalty rules. Not too surprisingly, the biggest royalty boost will come from Amazon. Say you self-publish a book through Amazon KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) and set the price at $2.99. For every sale of that eBook, you will receive a 35% royalty rate (about $1.04). If you distribute your book through Pronoun, though, you can publish to Amazon and set the same exact price, but receive a royalty of 70% (about $2.09) instead of 35%. That’s a big boost, and it suggests that Pronoun’s new owners (Macmillan acquired the company in May of last year) have given the service a bit more sway with the industry’s major digital retailers.
In any case, this breakthrough in royalties positions Pronoun as arguably the go-to method for independent authors to publish their books online. With better royalty rates than you can get by working with retailers like Amazon individually—not to mention free eBook production and post-publication support—Pronoun is now the service that authors were probably hoping it would be when it launched almost two years ago. Sure, the company might still be living down that early promise of a 100% royalty rate, but in an industry that delights in—shall we say, screwing authors over—70% is nothing to shake a stick at.
You can learn more about Pronoun’s author services here.
Craig Manning is currently studying English and Music at Western Michigan University. In addition to writing for IndependentPublisher.com, he maintains a pair of entertainment blogs, interns at the Traverse City Business News, and writes for Rockfreaks.net and his college newspaper. He welcomes comments or questions concerning his articles via email, at firstname.lastname@example.org.