eBook Distribution — Why I Hate Using Pronoun

Written by on October 12, 2017 in blog, distributors, ebooks, self-publishing with 2 Comments

eBook Distribution

eBook distributionThere is a new player in the eBook distribution game or somewhat new. Pronoun is the name of the company who used to be Vook. Now Pronoun has been purchased by Macmillan, one of the big traditional publishers. I’ve covered this extensively in my new book eBook Distribution, but I felt a few details were warranted in this post. Remember, this is about eBook distribution, not print distribution.

Their service is simple, valuable, and free. You would find it difficult to find a better combination from any eBook distribution company.

This is a long post, but it’s worth it. I disucss eBook distribution, using pictures in books, why I hate using Pronoun, and even a minor reference to print distribution. So if you want to enhance your earnings, read on.

Pronoun distributes to the five biggest retailers for eBooks (Amazon, Apple, B&N, Kobo, and Google), and it does it at no charge to indie authors. Forget for a moment how they manage to do that; I’ll explore that in a future post. For now, take it as fact that they do. I know. I’ve got thirty-seven books with them, and because of them, I’ve started using pictures in books—even my mystery books.

So what’s the catch? What do they do wrong? Read on, because I’ve got the answers. They couldn’t hide their intentions for long.

Warning, Use of Sarcasm Ahead

I implied at the beginning of this post that I’d explain why I hate using Pronoun. Now I’ll tell you why.

Reason Number One—Easy eBook Distribution

Pronoun makes it too easy to distribute your books. Long gone are the days when you needed to individually upload data to each of the major retailers in order to get the biggest bang for you buck; now you can use Pronoun to access all five of the big retailers with one shot. And best of all, they’ve eliminated the nonsense of dealing with Amazon and Google (more on that later).

So damn them for saving me time. How dare they?

Reason Number Two–Consistency of Pricing

Google Play has long been accessible. If not directly, then through a variety of distributors, most recently PublishDrive and StreetLib.

Google Play began with a lot of promise, especially that of providing new competition at the global level, but Google Play also brought its own special baggage. Even when an author went direct, Google would arbitrarily discount books, usually up to twenty-five percent. This caused problems with Amazon, and their obsessive price-matching policies.

It wasn’t a huge problem. If you went direct you could simply price the book accordingly when you listed it on Google. But problems arose when using distributors. If a distributor did not allow for individual pricing, you would be put in a bad spot.

But now Pronoun has solved that dilemma. Once you set a price with them, it’s firm, not to be discounted by Google or any others.

Imagine the nerve—no more adjusting prices separately with Google. Now I have to figure out what to do with my extra time.

Reason Number Three–Ability to Price Books as Free

There was a time, long, long ago in a galaxy far, far away, when Amazon dictated the pricing of your books. Not completely, but enough so that they exerted undue influence. They told you that you couldn’t offer your book for a lower price anywhere else and, amazingly, that you could not offer it for free—unless, of course, you were exclusive to Amazon. If you were exclusive, you could offer it free, but only once every ninety days.

With Pronoun’s announcement in January, you can set your book’s price to free at any time and with any of the retailers, including Amazon.

Authors used to have to go through a convoluted process of feigning price matching and other nonsense to try to accomplish this, and even then, there was no guarantee.

What right does Pronoun have to make it easy? Imagine that! Amazon had a stranglehold on all those authors who wanted to go free. Now they don’t.

Reason Number Four–Fair Royalty Payments

Amazon has a confusing—and unfair—method of determining royalties for indie authors.

At first glance, it doesn’t seem confusing, but when you dig deeper, it is. The following is directly from Amazon’s website.

Royalty Calculations

If you select the 35% royalty option, your royalty will be 35% of your list price without VAT for each unit sold.

If you select the 70% royalty option, your royalty will be 70% of your list price without VAT, less delivery costs (average delivery costs are $0.06 per unit sold, and vary by file size), for each eligible book sold to customers in the 70% territories listed below, and 35% of the list price for each unit sold to customers residing outside the 70% territories.

If we sell your digital book at a price below your list price without VAT in order to match price with a third party selling any digital or physical edition of the book, or to match Amazon’s price for a physical edition of the book, you will receive 70% of our sale price for each eligible book sold to customers in the 70% territories, less delivery costs, and less any applicable VAT. For additional details, see the Pricing Page and Terms and Conditions.

The bottom line is this. If you want to receive 35% as a royalty, no problem. Amazon will pay it; however, if you want to receive a fair payment—70%—then you will face multiple restrictions, such as where you can sell it and for how much. This cuts your promotional earnings in half (presuming you lower the price to below $2.99), and it penalizes you if you want to provide your customers with a pleasant reading experience by providing a lot of pictures. (Who said Amazon wasn’t all about pleasing the customer?)

Now, using Pronoun, you get paid seventy percent (in the United States and Canada) not only with Amazon, but with all five of the big retailers. This is huge!

The Bottom Line Is—Shame on Pronoun.

Who wouldn’t rather earn half of what they should? I mean, why get paid 70% for books priced under $2.99 when you could go direct with Amazon and get 35%?


The royalties are only seventy percent for the United States and Canada. International customers do not fare as well. International sales still earn more if the books are priced below two dollars and ninety-nine cents, but less if the books are priced between 2.99 and 9.99. See a more complete comparison in my book.

Reason Number Five–No Download Fees

Amazon charges download fees for your ebooks—depending on the size of the book—or they set minimum list prices, or both.


book distribution

Now look at the charges if you are foolish enough to opt for the 70% option.

book distribution and amazon delivery costs

I’ll save you the trouble of doing the math. Based on this chart, if you have a ten megabyte book, the charge would be $1.50. A forty megabyte book would be $6.00.

Before you go thinking, that’s a hell of a big file, remember that images consume a lot of megabytes. I searched some cookbooks prior to this, and one of them was ninety megabytes. (Using pictures in books is mandatory in some genres like cookbooks and children’s books.) Based on that, Amazon would charge a delivery fee of $13.50 for each book sold. (Apple, by the way, would charge nothing.) So using pictures in books is no longer a concern with Pronoun.

But now Pronoun has gone and changed everything—once again. If you do eBook distribution through Pronoun, there are no download fees.

The nerve of them, interfering in my dilemmas. Now authors can actually write children’s books and cookbooks and other books that contain a lot of images and hope to make enough to buy a cup of coffee. I could even put images in my mystery books if I wanted. (I’m now doing that, and I’m going to do a more detailed post on this soon. It has many repercussions.)

Damn that Pronoun. There they go, making more work for me once again.

As a teaser for the other post, I’ve included two screenshots from iBooks. They show pages from one of my upcoming mysteries. I am using images in it because Pronoun has made it so I won’t have to pay Amazon for that privilege. The first image if of a specific location in the lake where the murderer ditched the gun, and the second screenshot is of a house that one of the characters lives in.

using pictures in books -- lake where gun is

using pictures in books -- house on lake

Bonus Listing—eBook Distribution Made Easy

As a bonus, I’m going to list one more reason why I hate using Pronoun for eBook distribution.


In the past, I had to struggle to determine which categories to use, as they do make a big difference. But it was difficult to know which ones were the best to list my books in.

Leave it to Pronoun to mess things up. Now, all I have to do is make a decision when I publish. Pronoun will then send updates via email, informing me of what categories would rank my book higher based on sales. Here is a screenshot below of a suggestion for No Mistakes Grammar, Volume III.

using Pronoun

And below this is an email from Pronoun with an easy to click link suggesting one of your two categories to replace.

Using Pronoun for category replacement

As you can see near the bottom of the first image, you can tell where the highest ranked book in the category is (#8,651) and how many books are in the category (195). Based on that, you should be able to make an informed decision.As noted, below the first image, is a link to click which whisks you to Pronoun’s site, where you are greeted by an image as shown above. You simply click on the circle next to the category where you rank 178, and then hit the okay button below (not shown here). It will then replace your category.And that’s it. It’s all done. Before I might have spent thirty minutes recategorizing. And that’s if I knew which category to put it in, or even if I needed to. Now, I can do it in three to four minutes. The nerve of them! Messing with my time again.

So there you have it, half a dozen reasons why I despise using Pronoun—and why I intend to keep using them.

One Last Note

One final thing before I go. Pronoun also provides an author page—again for free—and it is useful and easy to set up. I tried it out and it took all of ten minutes. Check it out here.

It’s not a masterpiece of web design, but remember that it took me all of ten minutes to set up. I’m impressed.

And if you want your book formatted, don’t forget to check out my formatting services. They’re guaranteed.

Update to eBook distribution. Shorty after I wrote this blog, Pronoun announced that they would be offering eBook distribution to Overdrive and Biblioteca also.

By the way, if you want to read about print distribution, check out my new book Print on Demand—Who to Use to Print Your Books. You’ll learn that if you only use CreateSpace, and not Ingram in conjunction, you’ll be leaving money on the table.

If you enjoyed this post, please share.

Giacomo Giammatteo is the author of gritty crime dramas about murder, mystery, and family. And he also writes nonfiction books including the No Mistakes Careers series as well as books about grammar and publishing. See the complete list here.
He lives in Texas where he and his wife have an animal sanctuary with 45 loving “friends.

PS: I now have thirty-seven books on Pronoun, and I intend to add several more soon. I’ll let you know how that goes soon.

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About the Author

About the Author: Giacomo Giammatteo is the author of gritty crime dramas about murder, mystery, and family. And he also writes non-fiction books including the No Mistakes Careers series as well as books about grammar and publishing. He lives in Texas where he and his wife have an animal sanctuary with 45 loving “friends. .

2 Reader Comments

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  1. Kevin Partner says:

    Interesting post, Giacomo. Pronoun is certainly mixing things up which is great. Personally, I don’t use them for two reasons: firstly I sell a lot of books in the UK and the royalty rates are rubbish for international markets. Secondly, I have to have control of my KDP Dashboard – I just can’t imagine doing that through a third party. I also have problems with them being owned by MacMillan, but I recognise that this might be unwarranted.
    I can certainly see how it would work well for US-selling authors with lots of books who want to have a single place to control everything.

    • Giacomo Giammatteo says:

      Kevin: I agree. If the majority of sales are outside of the US and Canada, it wouldn’t be wise to use them. They’re not perfect, but so far–at least for me–they’ve been good. It’s especially nice when I run promotions on Bookbub or other sites.

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