Pronoun–it dead.

It’s official. Pronoun is shutting down. (cue the bugle playing Taps and wipe my tear from your monitor)

For those of you who haven’t used it, Pronoun was a one-stop shop for distributing eBooks to the top five online booksellers—including GooglePlay, KoboBooks, Kindle, Apple iBooks, and Nook—among others. Their interface was intuitive, they charged no fees for the use of their site nor did they take a royalty cut (the site functioned like more of a slush pile for Macmillan publishers), and they paid directly to my PayPal account. In addition to publishing, Pronoun also had an amazing style guide, a huge informational database, and they provided author pages, including those for pen names and/or client authors.

EMSA Publishing has used Pronoun exclusively for the past two years to publish and distribute eBooks. Now that they’re closing, what’s a poor publisher (or self-pubbed author) to do?

Why, find another publisher/distributor, of course. I’ve done the research, contrasting four popular online eBook distribution hubs, and here’s what I’ve found (saving the best—in my humble opinion—for last).

Smashwords

I used Smashwords as a distribution hub for my work when I was just starting out as a self-published author and ultimately abandoned it for Kindle distribution, primarily because it was so hard to get the file through their “meatgrinder” formatting app without incident.

Smashwords will publish your eBook to their own store just for uploading it, but if you want extended distribution, your book must find its way to the Premium Catalogue, which means passing the “meatgrinder” test. In addition to a number of lesser-known sites, Smashwords will distribute your

Premium book to Kobo, iBooks, and Nook, but NOT GooglePlay and Kindle. While Kindle isn’t an issue (all it takes is a click in Createspace and you can create a Kindle book), this means I’d have to go to a third site to upload each and every book, which just isn’t cost- or time-efficient.

Though I had to do some unpacking of the legal jargon in Smashword’s terms of service, it appears Smashwords charges 15% of your royalties to use the site (after the sellers have taken their cut), which it pays directly to your PayPal account within 40 days of their receipt of royalties.

Draft2Digital

Though I’ve never used D2D (as it’s affectionately called), it was recommended to me, so I thought I’d check it out, too.  D2D will publish your eBook to KoboBooks, iBooks, and B & N Nook, but NOT GooglePlay (they claim to be working on it)and Kindle.

They have “style suggestions” but no style guide. They charge 10% of the retail price, which they claim works out to 15% of the net royalties, making their business model more transparent than Smashwords’. They will also pay royalties direct to PayPal, with three other options available.

PublishDrive

On the surface, Publish Drive seemed great: they publish to all five major eBook retailers and charge 10% of the royalties, making them better than the other two sites at first glance. Like the other two, they let you use their interface to upload your books, but where they differ (and this is the deal-breaker for me) provided they are already in ePub, ePub2, or ePub3  format. If you need to convert your docx or pdf file to an ePub, you must contact them for a quote. In an article on The Book Designer site entitled Aggregation without Aggravation: Pronoun and PublishDrive, David Kudler states that he was quoted “around $170” for a 70,000-word book, making this option too expensive for my business model.   Once I discovered this, I didn’t bother searching out any of the other details. Though there are free ePub converters online, I’ve never liked the quality of the conversion and eliminated this as an option for me.

StreetLib

Also recommended to me by another writer was StreetLib, and this one seems like the best site by far. Though they charge 10% of the royalties (taking a cut of an already small royalty payout for the poor authors who’ve slaved over the manuscripts), they distribute to the top five distributors among others, and they allow you to upload doc, rtf, and (I believe) pdf and ePub files. They will pay directly to PayPal.

In addition to marketing tools—like Pronoun’s author page—they have an online editor that will let you create a spiffily-designed (since Word isn’t marking “spiffily” as an error, I’m assuming it’s a word) eBook.

Though I found it difficult to navigate their help files (I couldn’t find a definitive list of acceptable file types for downloads), I think StreetLib is probably the way I’m going to go. Though it’s unfortunate EMSA’s eBooks books may be offline for a week or more during the conversion, I’ll be switching my books over to StreetLib over the next month or so.

Pronoun, we had a good run, you and I, and after only two years, the breakup will be hard. To StreetLib’s credit, it’s been around since the mid-2000s, so the Italian company has an established track record. While nothing in this world is guaranteed except for Amazon and Google, fingers crossed StreetLib will be around at least as long as my business will.

5 comments on “Pronoun–it dead.”

  1. Zsofia Reply

    Thank you for the mention Elise! We work with a small conversion company to do epub conversions: but this is an option usually used by traditional publishers approaching us with complicated, fixed-layout books.
    We always encourage our self-publisher authors to convert their own epubs and provide guides and templates to help them: it is not only free but a great skill to have.

  2. Zsofia Macho Reply

    Thank you for mentioning PublishDrive! Yes, we indeed don’t have an automated conversion, but we work with qualified freelancers to convert ebooks, hence the cost. However, we do not reformat books and don’t have an extensive formatting guide like some competitors: we believe that everyone has different ebook formatting preferences, so we accept ebooks formatted anywhere. You can format your ebook on your own using Sigil, Reedsy Book Editor or Vellum (or anything you wish). As most authors, including Pronoun authors come to us with their ebook ready for distribution, developing a formatting tool is not our first priority.

    Regarding Pronoun, we are sorry to see such an innovative competitor go, so we have developed an importer to help authors import their books quickly and easily, for free, and without losing their rankings on any major services. You can read more here: https://the-digital-reader.com/2017/11/10/publishdrive-releases-pronoun-importer/

    We know how important it is to give authors peace of mind so they can get back to what matters – writing!

    • admin Reply

      Hi, Zsofia.

      Thanks for the info. My post wasn’t intended as a disparagement, just a report on how it stacks up to my needs.

      All the best.

  3. Laurie Gienapp Reply

    just wondered if you’d finished conversion to StreetLib, and if you were as happy after the process as you’d hoped.

    • admin Reply

      Hi, Laurie.

      I decided to go with Draft2Digital in the end. The only difference in my mind was the ability to post to GooglePlay, but then I read that if you didn’t have an author profile before, it was extremely hard to get one now. Draft2Digital’s interface seems much simpler than StreetLib. I’m very happy with the choice.

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