Pronoun is a strangely named company that formats and distributes ebooks. Its technology is very impressive and so is its price: ZERO.
The company is a few years old and now belongs to giant publisher Macmillan. It's based in Manhattan—home to many publishers.
Pronoun tells prospective customers: "Pronoun is a free publishing platform where authors can create, sell, and promote their books. Our mission: to build a new model for publishing that puts authors first. We are passionate about author success, which is why many of our tools are completely free to use by authors publishing with other services or traditionally published authors."
I previously had used eBookit for my important and/or complex ebooks, and Amazon's own KDP for less important/simpler ebooks. I like both businesses.
Love For & From My 4-Legged Son, I considered using KDP to save money and eBookit to save work and achieve broad distribution, beyond Amazon. Then I heard about Pronoun. I was curious to try it (for myself and also so I could report to you in a blog post), and liked the idea of broad distribution and zero cost.
It was very simple to get registered as a new customer and within a few minutes I uploaded my cover and interior files. The user-friendly process was much simpler than the KDP system.
I was very impressed with Pronoun's technology and looked forward to seeing my digital proof, making a few adjustments and watching the money roll in.
Alas, it was not to be.
The superb Pronoun software could not compensate for some substantial shortcomings.
[below] The first deal-breaker was ironically the first page—the title page. Instead of allowing me to use my own design, that properly identifies my own Silver Sands Books as the publisher, Pronoun insisted on providing an absolutely ugh-lee page that showed Pronoun as the publisher, even though the ISBN is tied to my company. I have not had this problem with other companies that produce and distribute my ebooks.
Pronoun's all-text title page is reflowable to be readable on multiple devices, but it's simply too disgusting for me to be associated with. "4-Legged" should not be allowed to appear on two lines. My graphic image of the title prevents this problem. Sometimes text should be a picture, not text.
[below] Pronoun is a strange censor. It insists on removing links to booksellers or mentions of booksellers because "We can't accept retailer links because Apple and other stores reject books that 'promote' their competitors. Your book can contain Amazon links if you only use Pronoun to publish on Amazon, otherwise, this issue (and the 'Amazon bestseller' reference on the cover) will prevent other stores from accepting your book," according to Author Happiness Advocate Kate Murtaugh.
She's wrong. Barnes & Noble has no objection to displaying my book covers that mention Amazon.
[below] Pronoun is inconsistent. Chapter beginnings vary in style (even when apparently formatted the same way), and they don't follow my desire. I had accepted one of Pronoun's style options for the book, but the automated system inserted unwanted horizontal rules and eliminated a space below a photo caption [Chapter 3, below]. The right-hand images below show three very different ways to start a chapter. That's ridiculous. (I saw no differences in my formatting for those pages.)
[below] Pronoun misplaces images and text.
[below] Not only does Pronoun want me to remove links to booksellers, its robo-formatter eliminated a link to my own publishing company—and inserted links without asking me. Strangely, most of the links that the robot inserted for the books shown below go to Amazon—in violation of Pronoun's policy!
[below] Pronoun sometimes makes inexplicable formatting changes.
Pronoun was slow to respond. When I was gobsmacked (one of my favorite Britishisms) by the appearance of the title page, I sent an email to Pronoun support. The company says, "Authors, we’re here to help! Please send us a message and we’ll get back to you shortly."
Despite several follow-up emails I heard nothing for three days until I resorted to public embarrassment on Pronoun's Facebook and Twitter pages. I ultimately received a nice email from Kate, apologizing for the delayed response, explaining what caused the inconsistent formatting and offering suggestions.
I might have spent a few days trying Pronoun's suggestions but the title page disaster ended our relationship before a second date.
Pronoun could be a good choice if you have a simple book, don't care about Pronoun being identified as your publisher, and are willing and able to do lots of tweaking.
Just as Domino's pizza delivery robots are currently accompanied by human escorts, book-formatting software needs a human touch. In five years, the situation could be very different.