I published Return to Eden, book 3 in the Soulkeepers Series, via Smashwords on February 27th and on the other markets (KDP, PUBiT) soon after. I've always used Smashwords to reach the iBookstore and I've never had any problems. This time however, my file wasn't approved right away. In fact, some unusual technical problems at Smashwords delayed the processing for several weeks. (Smashwords was upfront and responsive to the problems.)
Meanwhile, desperate for an iBooks version, I spent several days jumping through all of the hoops to upload directly to Apple via iTunes producer. One of the easier steps to publication was completing the "metadata" portion of the electronic form.
Unfortunately, when I entered my author name, I entered G.P. Ching (my preferred spelling), not realizing that the first two books at Smashwords had my author name spelled with a space between the G. and the P., G. P. Ching.
It took four weeks for Apple to approve the file but Return to Eden hit iBookstore shelves on April 3rd.
Meanwhile, my file on Smashwords was approved for premium distribution after the longest wait I've ever encountered. On April 3rd, I opted out of iBookstore distribution since I already had a file there.
Here's where it gets interesting. Return to Eden was not linking up with my author name due to the lack of a space between my initials. I tried to fix the metadata and learned that authors/publishers can not update their own metadata in the iBookstore! (That includes the book description BTW). I sent in a ticket to have the space added for me. I received a response that it would be changed. It never was. I followed up with more emails that received no response.
A few weeks later, I was elated to see my Return to Eden file had been fixed and finally linked up to my other books. Only something was wrong. I now had two versions of Return to Eden on the charts. Upon closer inspection, the linked up file was the original Smashwords file I uploaded on February 27th! And yes - I checked- I was still opted out.
After several more emails to Apple that were ignored, I finally decided to pull the direct to apple version and keep the linked up Smashwords version. Having two versions of the book on the same chart was confusing for readers and I was afraid if I didn't opt in at Smashwords I might not get paid for the sales on that orphaned file, not to mention I made some changes to the front matter to add my new publishing company's name and wanted that on all versions. I simply had more control to take the direct file down in a timely manner.
What did I lose from this scenario? 78 ratings/reviews on iBookstore, about 40 hours of my time, the higher royalties direct publishing would have paid me, and the newest version of the file still hasn't reached iBookstore.
- If you upload directly to Apple make sure you will never have to change your metadata. It still amazes me that the brilliant minds at Apple couldn't have built a user friendly interface to do this or for authors to link books themselves to their author account as Amazon Author Central does.
- Allow at least four weeks or more for processing
- If you are changing methods of distribution in the middle of a series, compare the metadata as it appears in the Apple store to your new metadata (not as it appears at the distributor). Changes you made at the distributor won't be updated in iBookstore.
- Understand that if you have to make changes you will either have to use a new ISBN, or go through a distributor which means you will lose your reviews.
There you have it. My sad, sad, epic FAIL at the big Apple. Don't let it happen to you.