Browse around the Internet, and you will definitely see how many websites are taking advantage of the literary wave of the future: electronic books. Some websites serve as online repositories of public domain material, offering novels and documents for educational and recreational purposes. Online retailers like Fictionwise and Amazon.com offer downloadable, electronic versions of top selling books, and aspiring writers are taking advantage of the medium to establish readership.
One eBook publisher specializing in erotic romance titles claims to sell thirty thousand eBooks a month! Other small publishers of eBooks are proud to mention how they first published authors who now rank among the hottest sellers today.
For the author struggling to get his foot in the door of the publishing industry, publishing through electronic means may sound appealing. Compared to most traditional print publishers, eBook publishers tend to offer a higher percentage of royalties on net sales and allow for more author input on promotion and cover art. Turnaround time between submission and book release may be shorter, as production may not be as involved. However, as with any industry, there are caveats to consider.
For all the benefits of taking your book to an electronic publisher, there are also disadvantages one needs to realize. Any author preparing to take a manuscript to an editor or publisher should be aware.
First, let me qualify this section by stating that even if you are fortunate to have a book placed with a traditional print publisher, it is not an automatic guarantee that your book will be on the shelves of every bookstore in the country. True, if your publisher distributes inventory through a third-party vendor like Ingrams or Baker and Taylor, your book will most certainly be available for order by customers and booksellers.
But, given the number of books published each year and the amount of available shelf space in stores, there is sadly not enough room for everybody. When booksellers attend trade shows and study their own sales, they are going to make decisions based upon a book’s salability and the behaviors of their customers. A store that does a whopping business in mystery novels will likely not saturate shelves with computer manuals.
For the eBook author, opportunities for distribution are limited even further. Though some major chain bookstores are dipping toes into the eBook world by offering download versions of books through their websites, it will be years before one finds an eBook kiosk at the local shop. For now, eBook authors must rely upon the online resources available to them. They include direct sales from the publisher, third-party eBook retailers like Fictionwise and Diesel Books, and direct sales of books on CD-ROM at signings and other book events.
The last entry may prove daunting for some authors who must aversion to buying a book on disc, but depending on the event one might be surprised to know how well eBooks sell. The annual book fair connected to the Romantic Times convention, for example, attracts a number of readers willing to make such purchases.
Uphill battle with stigmas
“I would rather read a ‘real book’.”
“All eBooks are poorly edited.”
“eBook publishers will take anything. The books aren’t good.”
“That’s too much to pay for something I can’t touch.”
As somebody who has written and published eBooks, I’ve heard these and many other disparaging remarks about the industry. Suffice to say, it is true that there are a number of dubious eBook companies in existence that typify the above sentiments. Sadly, the shoddy workmanship of said companies threatens to define the industry as a whole, and it is a stigma every eBook author must face when promoting his work.
Let us consider the above statements one by one.
Buying a “real” book: the traditionalist can argue all he wants, but a good eBook is a real book. It is a tangible object in disk form, a visual object that can be read. Most eBook publishers assign ISBN numbers to works and register them with the US Copyright Office and Books in Print, especially if print formats are forthcoming. eBook novels have plots, dialogue, characters, a beginning, middle, and end.
Despite this, there will always exist people resistant to new technology and methods of providing information. It can be argued that curling up with a good book cannot be achieved with an eBook, but it is possible if a person has a handheld reader instead of a desktop computer. As the quality of eBooks rises, so may the number of converts. Until then, eBook authors must face the challenge of selling head-on.
Editing and eBooks: As mentioned before, there are eBook companies that exist mainly as mills, churning out books without thought to editing, formatting, and promotion. Obviously such companies should be avoided. However, as larger companies come to embrace the technology, so comes the careful attention to detail prevalent in the publishing industry. Authors who approach eBook publishers for a possible relationship should research their editing schedules and skills. Yes, most houses do have editors on staff, capable, learned people devoted to polishing a book to perfection. As the industry grows, so too will acknowledgement of this fact.
eBook publishers and acceptance: With some genres, quantity is as important as quality. For the romance industry, it is not uncommon for a publisher to produce twenty to fifty titles a month in order to feed the demand. As romance and erotica are two popular genres among eBook readers, it may stand to reason that publishers will accept everything under the sun in order to meet the demand. Any author published electronically, therefore, may be lumped into an undesirable caste.
This is not always the case. As the industry grows and the demand for books grows, so too will these smaller houses become more selective in choosing works. Already, there are a few eBook publishers that offer low percentage of acceptance. Authors should be aware of this fact, and consider eBook publishing as a “safety net.”
Ebooks and expense: To look at the eBook versions of top bestsellers, one might blanch at the prospect of paying hardcover price for the digital version of the same book. Why fork over twenty-five dollars for what amounts to a computer document when there is something tangible at the bookstore? It should be noted, though, that not all eBooks are this cost prohibitive. Depending upon length and genre, many eBook publishers offer books ranging from two to seven dollars, which is quite a bargain when you consider the rising cost of paperbacks.
Plus, the eBook industry allows for publication of shorter lengths at special prices, which is good for readers who favor novellas over epics.
Though there are many arguments for eBooks in this realm, it may still be difficult to convince new readers to give them a try. Any eBook author should continue to promote the positive aspects of the presentation of their work.
As with any publisher, it is important to carefully read any contract before signing. An author desperate to sell may only gloss over a contract, and therefore miss some very important items that can affect the future of the contracted work.
A reputable eBook publisher will offer a contract that is friendly to the author and the work. Authors uncertain of contract red flags are encouraged to visit the site of the Electronically Published Internet Connection for detailed information. For an author who is able to contract print rights to a traditional publisher, it should be imperative to research for how long the eBook house has those rights, if they claim them. Often, those rights are contracted in the event the eBook house decides to offer print titles, and some may not be so accommodating if you wish to get out of your contract.
Read every contract you are offered, or have a lawyer read them for you. Ask questions of the publisher if you are unsure of some things.
Regardless of whether or not you decide to take traditional routes in your search for a publisher, always be aware of the pros and cons of every industry. Armed with this knowledge, you will be able to make a smooth transition to publication in any format.