uncovered books physical booksI’m always very intrigued when something new comes along in the world of publishing. Whether it be a change in terms that affects the whole landscape, or the launch of an intriguing new service offering another route for independent publishers to consider, it’s all very interesting to speculate how things might play out. Therefore, when I received an email about a new independent publishing platform, Uncovered Books, I thought it would be good to dig a little deeper.

Dig a little deeper I did, and what did I find? Something very, very promising.

What is Uncovered Books?

A little bit of background to start off — Uncovered Books describe themselves as ‘a book discovery experience for readers and an eBook self publishing platform for writers’. Essentially, a service akin to Kobo’s Writing Life or Amazon KDP when you break it all down.

However, Uncovered Books make some rather promising suggestions, both implicit and explicit, that force me to cast a curious watching eye over them.

Firstly, the website promises a ‘unique discovery app’ for readers, making it easier to discover the perfect read. Even more interesting is the claim that the company will ‘bring the audience directly to you without any marketing on your part’. Whereas other self-publishing platforms leave your book to float, Uncovered Books’ philosophy is to create a service whereby the writer can ‘just write’ and still succeed.

The secret to success is still under wraps right now, as Uncovered Books gears up for a Spring launch, but there are still plenty of other interesting aspects of the service worth focusing on, from royalties to returns.

Pricing

On Amazon KDP, you can price your book from 99c upwards. As far as I’m aware, this is a pretty universal tactic across the publishing platform world.

Uncovered Books, on the other hand, have a minimum price point of $2.99.

Why is this a good thing? It encourages authors to respect their work by pricing it to avoid the 99c slush pile that has formed over the previous three years. It also sets a respectable minimum price for readers to re-adjust themselves to, after many reported bad experiences with free and bargain books.

Although I am a huge fan of the $2.99 minimum pricing policy, I do think this is a little steep for short stories. I actually opted out of uploading my shorts to Uncovered Books mainly because they are 99c everywhere else; a price I think is representative of the value of a 6,000 word release. Therefore, more options would be welcome.

I also think it would be nice to be given the option to cut books to $1.99/99c for a set amount of promotional days. The cheaper prices will stand out to readers and increased downloads will boost sales all round.

Royalty rates are currently 50%, with the option to increase to 60% through referrals. This leaves something to be desired with Amazon’s 70% rate at present, but it’s a healthy rise from the 35% of old.

Moderated content

We are all well aware of just how easy it is to slap an unedited mess of a book on Amazon KDP. Smashwords and iBooks make it a little trickier with their formatting requirements, but the content itself is still ignored. Uncovered Books’ terms states that books without ‘obvious spelling, grammatical, and punctuation errors are more likely to be accepted’. The idea of moderation is positive because it allows readers a quality reading experience, and their store only attracts and includes professional writers, boosting the appeal to audiences in the long-run.

That said, some would argue that moderation is just another form of gatekeeping and therefore it should not be allowed. I don’t — I make sure my books are well-edited, so it’s not my problem if somebody else chooses not to. If you aren’t spelling things correctly then you aren’t passing a basic requirement of the privilege of being able to publish a book. Therefore, as long as Uncovered Books don’t abuse their moderation powers to single out specific genres or content, then I see this as a helpful move for independent publishers and readers rather than a hindrance.

Returns policy

Amazon return abuse has picked up quite a bit of attention lately. It seems that a minority group download books, read them very quickly, and return them to reclaim their two or three pounds, or whatever. And I don’t see the point in complaining about this — it’s a clever way to abuse a system that makes it so easy to bypass. Fair play, and all that.

Uncovered Books have a really appealing returns policy that Amazon and the rest could learn a few things from.

Firstly, all returns must be made within 24 hours of purchase. This is good because if a purchase is a genuine mistake, 24 hours is plenty of time to realise and correct one’s self. Last time I checked, Amazon still had the bewildering ‘one week return’ in place, which is far too generous for digital content. 24 hours should be the absolute maximum. Many digital carriers don’t even offer returns, so this is more than generous.

But it gets even better. Uncovered Books also requires that the reader has read ‘no more than 10%’ of a book for it to be eligible to be returned. This is fantastic — it simply kills the method of downloading/reading/returning. Other publishers should take note because its such a simple rule to implement what with the various tracking features of eReaders.

It gets slightly better still. Should a reader still go ahead with a return, they ‘receive a credit towards a book of equal or lesser value’. Again, such a simple but fantastic idea. With the last rule, it’d still be possible to bypass the DRM and read the whole thing, tricking the system into believing the 10% rule. With a one-use credit, however, the reader is forced into reinvesting in another book. This is really clever, innovative publishing, and a feature the company should place on their front page rather than hiding in the terms. It’d make other companies listen, that’s for sure.

But all good services need that one key ingredient…

Readers. The biggest challenge for any publishing service is attracting consumers away from the likes of Amazon and iBooks. How do you go about doing this? You come up with something really effing good.

As nice as Amazon and the rest are, I don’t think it would take much to beat them in the innovation department. Uncovered Books promise a ‘unique discovery UI’ for readers, as well as the mysterious concept behind their ‘uncovered’ name. Whatever it is, it needs to be really, really good.

If it is, then we might just have a new major eBook player in town. The guys behind it seem forward thinking and understanding of the current climate. That’d be nice to deal with, wouldn’t it?

I’ll be keeping a close eye on Uncovered Books. I’m debating launching my short stories on there, but the $2.99 is a stumbling block.Maybe I’ll try it anyway. I’ll keep you posted.

Uncovered Books launches this Spring. You can sign up and submit an eBook for launch lineup consideration here.

Image courtesy of Ian Wilson via Flickr

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