Balls Deep in Self-Publishing: The Good, The Bad and The P.L.R.



There are two things in independent publishing that use the initials “P.L.R.” One is quite good to authors, and the other is something that has helped completely and totally mess up the reputation of the indie publishing community.

The good PLR is “Public Lending Rights”, or “Publisher Lending Rights”. You’ll normally hear this a lot in the United Kingdom and Australia. It’s the system by which authors get paid for having their books lent out in libraries. Once again, Brits get better treatment by their government for artistic endeavors, as well as medical adventures, unlike us in the U.S.A. Folks who have published a book apply online and they (and the contributors) get an annual payment on eligible books. It’s something to check, particularly for British and Irish authors, as according to the website, there are over £136,000 in unpaid earnings right now. 

KDP Select users at Amazon get a bit of this, after a fashion, with the Kindle Owners Lending Library (KOLL), which pays folks for their e-books being lent to Amazon Prime members.

Now the evil PLR is what is known as “Private Label Rights”. How best to described this piece-of-crap concept?  Think of it as the Pyramid Scheme of Independent Publishing.  These are the sorts of things that were offered in the early 2000’s, especially on e-commerce sites like eBay and Yahoo Auctions.

People would write a little self-help tract on something, say selling on eBay, and drop it on a CD-R as a text file or maybe even a Word doc if they had the brainpower to type the suffix out, and then sell it to other people. And by buying that disc, those people had the right to sell discs of the material themselves, and they could make it their own, as long as they kept the original copyright information of the content. Naturally, even if the document said they couldn’t rebrand it or resell it, they would anyway. It’s the nature of the beast, no honor among thieves and all that. People would (and still do) often slap a few e-books from Project Gutenberg on the disc to sweeten the deal. (Or, in the case of one seller I knew, the ENTIRE Gutenberg collection up to that time, complete with the original webpages for navigation.) Hell, a good number don’t even worry about the books being public domain (which all of Gutenburg’s offerings are). Imagine how much better your twice-bought diatribe on losing weight is going to go over with a bunch of Harry Potter books and a few Sookie Stackhouses along for the CD-R ride!

Now, of course, PLR is a bit more frowned upon. Amazon, Smashwords and most of the major e-book publishers and aggregators will not allow PLR books as self-published works. This perplexed and vexed those cheap, money-grubbing bastiches until, eureka! They discovered that with a little extra writing, they could make the PLRs their own and publish e-books with their misbegotten and very internet-friendly information. So instead of a 75-cent CD and $5.00 shipping, they have to settle for the royalties off a $2.99 e-book.

Few of these “books” ever expand on anything beyond what you can find on Wikipedia or on the first page of a Google search. There’s rarely ever anything useful – at most, a few I’ve read have grabbed the FAQ of a website together and laid it out so there isn’t a lot of clicking involved in finding the information. That’s about the ONLY benefit of these things, since I rarely see any of these fly-by-nighters updating the information. A book on KDP or even eBay that was written two years ago won’t be of much use today. And most of these books don’t expand on anything – they’re still written from the perspective of the reseller, which isn’t much of a viable business model right now, unless you go whole hog with a website and webinars and all that similar stuff.

If you are an independent publisher, or are trying to self-publish, your book’s content is the most IMPORTANT thing you have, and you’ve got to get it right. Creative content is what sells books, not stupid ass gimmickry and PLR tracts.  That sort of thing is part of the reason why indie publishers and self-publishers still have a stain on them: Cash over content – quantity over quality.

Now if you want the skinny on how to sell a real and proper book, then the book you should check out is How I Sold 30,000 eBooks on Amazon’s Kindle-An Easy-To-Follow Self-Publishing Guidebook. Martin Crosbie is an honest-to-bogey best-selling, self-published author. He KNOWS the ins-and-outs of this new publishing paradigm better than anyone I know, and his book is worth the extremely minimal investment (I think it’s like $4.99 right now) to help any author get things done right the first time.


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