DRM – should you use it?

Whether you are published or self-published, you have choices to make about the Digital Rights Management (DRM) of your ebooks. DRM, if enforced, helps you protect the copyright of your work. Logic would tell you that if you protect the DRM of your novel, then it forces people to purchase your book instead of share it and sales should go up, right? Then why did this July 2014 Earnings Report just reveal that indie authors without DRM sell twice as many books compared to indie authors with DRM?

Disclaimer: Just because you turn off DRM for your ebook does not mean you will automatically double your sales. (Note: Amazon does not let you change your mind about DRM once you’ve published your book.)

book sales with and without DRM

This issue isn’t localized to the publishing industry. It has dramatically affected the music industry as well. In fact, the two industries are more alike than they are different, which suggests that the book industry should learn from the mistakes that the music industry made. But, what is at the core of the DRM issue that makes non-DRM novels sell better? Are consumer’s even aware if a title is protected by DRM before purchasing? I looked everywhere on the Amazon page for my short story (The Ravenous Flock), but did not see anything that mentioned DRM. That means that user’s are the ones that spread the word about a specific title having DRM protections. However, Kindle readers can still lend my ebook to other users for a short period even though I have DRM enabled. Additionally, they can still purchase the book as a gift for another user from the Kindle store.

As a side note, it’s also important to point out that DRM only applies to the ereader format that you selected it for. If I were to sell The Ravenous Flock on the Nook, I could set it for non-DRM.

So is DRM actually the root reason why sales were lower? Or is that just a correlation that was made? The folks that created the sales report believe that it is more than a strong correlation since non-DRM indie books sell better at almost every price point. But all that tells me is that price isn’t a factor. While I trust the fact that non-DRM books do sell better, (and is echoed in the music industry) I can’t help but question the reason why. According to the logic of the report, the answer lies in the behavior of the Kindle users. Apparently, the Kindle readers that purchase indie books must somehow find it easier to share the book when DRM is not enabled, and therefore become a word-of-mouth marketing machine for those books. Perhaps that is what is occurring, I can’t be certain. But whether or not we understand the true reason of why, it would be wise of us to learn from the music industry that has suffered from this same issue in the past, and would behoove us to follow the path that successful authors have already blazed before us.

What are your thoughts on DRM? Please your opinion in the comments below.

The Process of Publishing on Amazon



First, some administrative news: My fantasy short story, The Ravenous Flock, is now up on Amazon! So, I wanted to take the time to share my personal experience of independently publishing with them.

After part 2 of The Ravenous Flock was published by Myths Inscribed ezine, all rights immediately reverted back to me per the terms of their publishing agreement. The Ravenous Flock new coverI immediately recognized that I wanted my short story to be available on Amazon to reach a wider audience, so I combined both parts back into one seamless story and added the Prologue of The Soul Smith at the end to create hype for my novel!

The process of publishing on Amazon was fairly simple. I clicked “Independently Publish with Us” at the bottom of Amazon.com and chose to publish through their Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP). Once you log in, you click “Add a New Title” and begin entering all the information about your book (Name, Title of Series, Publisher, Description, ISBN, etc). The hardest choice was: What genre/categories should my book fall in? You can only choose 2, but I wanted to choose 3. I picked FICTION > Fantasy > Epic. And I picked FICTION > Action & Adventure. The 3rd category that I wanted was FICTION > Fantasy > General. I may have to change this in the future.

Next I got to upload my book cover (or you can design one in their Cover Creator). Without getting into a huge debate, I knew that having a poorly crafted cover can negatively impact sales, so I spent a considerable amount of time ensuring that the graphics looked clean and professional. Once complete, then you get to upload your book. It didn’t give me any guidance as to what format it accepted, so I’m under the impression that it accepts them all. I uploaded a .doc and it converted it to the Kindle format. After upload, it even helps point out potential misspellings. Then comes the fun part of previewing your story in all different Kindle devices to ensure it is formatted correctly. It loads up a virtual device on your screen within your web browser for Kindle Fire, Kindle Fire HD, Kindle Fire HD 8.9, Kindle Paperwhite, iPad, iPhone, and Kindle. I had to make corrections numerous times and re-upload my story to ensure that it was formatted perfectly across all devices.

Lastly, you choose whether to protect your work with Downloadable Rights Management (DRM) or not. It is completely your choice, but once you choose, you cannot change your mind. Then you get to set the price of your book. The minimum price is $0.99. The price of your ebook also determines what percent of the royalties that you earn. Anything that is priced at $2.99 or above can earn 70% of each sale. Anything priced between $0.99 and $2.99 earns 35%. Then you choose which countries you own rights to your book in (which is all of them) and then you click “I agree” and Publish!

The other major choice is whether to enroll in the KDP Select program. If you choose to enroll, you are agreeing that your ebook will be exclusive to Kindle for 90 days (which auto renews every 90 days). Note: Physical/printed books are not apart of this exclusivity clause. But, if your book is found on the Nook, for example, they will likely cancel your enrollment in the KDP Select program. The benefits of this program are that you earn a percentage of money allocated to books that were borrowed through the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library. In addition, you can market your book for Free for up to 5 days for each 90 day period that you are enrolled in the program.

Once you have completed the form, it takes 12 hours before your book becomes available on Amazon. So, separate from this process (but equally important) is the enrollment in Amazon Author Central. Once your book is posted, you can enroll in Author Central to get access to the Nielsen BookScan reports (which gives you book sales statistics from physical stores – not from Amazon.com) and it allows you to create your Author Page on Amazon. I created a profile and linked my Twitter and Blog to it as well.

I hope this was helpful. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask in the comments section below.