Vision: A Resource for Writers
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The Choices in Ebook Publication
opportunities in book publication have been arriving every few decades in the
form of new mediums. Paperback
books are not that old of an innovation (although the first appeared in Germany
in 1841), and audio books are even newer. Both
faced considerable opposition from people who didn't see any use for them in
filling their needs. But
both mediums have survived and grown beyond their first stumbling steps to draw
will ebook publishing survive and grow. All
the components to the ebook revolution are already in place.
First, of course, is the computer, and the later small offspring, like
the Palm™ and Visor™. These
smaller PDAs (Personal Data Assistants) provide hand-held portable reading
devices that can be taken anywhere, and store a dozen or more books at a time. They are already very popular in the world of business
travelers, where many have found that they no longer need to pack half a dozen
heavy books to make it through the nightly boredom of a weeklong seminar.
in the list of components is the Internet, which provides readily accessible
books at all hours and across international borders. Marketing is an extremely difficult part of ebook
publishing because there are only a few 'stores'
in which to place the books, but people are already getting used to the idea of
looking for what they want (often via search engines like Google), and the
readership is growing.
a last component is a market of readers who has grown up on computers and is not
put off by the novelty of reading a book in electronic, rather than paper,
format. To some of them, ebooks are already becoming as natural as paperbacks.
They will not be the medium that takes over -- they will just be another
type of book, just as paperbacks are a different format from hard bounds, and
audio books another choice.
why would an author turn to ebooks rather than the traditional -- and better
paying -- modes of publication?
unpublished manuscript not only faces the difficulty of overcoming the slush
pile, winning the first and second readers, wowing the editor -- but it also has
to win over the marketing department, which often has the final say.
Marketing departments are not known for taking chances.
And these days, with corporate takeovers of smaller houses, those
marketing departments are more used to 'best seller' numbers rather than genre
sales results. New, untested authors -- especially if they have written
something outside the norm -- are short shifted in this environment.
If a book does not fall into the parameters of what a marketing
department knows will sell, it's unlikely the publisher will pick it up.
are, of course, exceptions, but those are very rare these days.
Small press companies have stepped in and are starting to gain audiences
that the larger companies don't feel significant enough in size to bother with.
However, small press companies are faced with the same expenditures as a
large New York publisher, and therefore are limited in what they can offer.
this growing void stepped the Internet with a unique ability to offer unusual
material without the expense of print publishing. Ebook publishers can take
chances because their outlay is miniscule compared to the cost of print
companies. That doesn't mean that it costs them nothing, however.
The better ebook publishers have expenses that range not only from the
obvious website hosting and maintenance, but also to paying for marketing in
various areas both on the Internet and in print. They also pay copyeditors to
work on making certain the books are as error-free as possible, and cover
artists to present an eye-catching graphic that draws the reader to the book.
That last has turned out to be a surprise for many publishers, who hadn't
considered the people they are trying to reach.
Regular book buyers often 'judge a book by its cover' and those who are
used to the Internet consider it a graphical medium, and are drawn to nice
looking art. Cover art has turned out to be a very important part of ebook
is the pulp age of epublishing. Some
great names are going to come out of it, but a lot of the others will be
forgotten. Some people have
started publishing businesses on the Internet without having a clue what they
really need -- from good writers (not just their friends saying they wrote a
book) to copyeditors and cover artists. And
there is also that marketing problem, which is shared equally between publisher
are good sides to epublishing. Authors
get a far larger percentage of the sale of an ebook than they do from a print
publication. I have ebooks at
several different publishers, and my percentage varies from 35% to 60%.
Print authors general only get about 10% or less.
However, they do get advances of several thousand dollars, which ebook
publishers usually can't afford to offer. Print
authors only get that 10% royalty after their book has sold enough copies to
cover the advance.
may look like ebooks would be the wiser way to go for authors -- but ebooks are
not (yet) selling well enough to make them a viable alternative for someone who
wants to live by writing. Every
year the sales pick up a little more, however.
It's a growing market. And
here is one of the really good points for ebooks -- your book is not going to go
out of print and be pulled from the shelf after a few weeks, never to be seen
again. An epublished author has
time to build up a readership.
to ebook publishers is no different than submitting to print publishers.
Making certain that your work is ready for publication in any form is
always the first step. Remember that no matter what, you are going to have real
people reading your books.
looking at ebook publishers, apply the same standards and steps you would in the
study of print publishers. Look over their titles, read chapters, and make
certain this is a group you want to be associated with.
Check out their guidelines and their contract (many of them have a basic
contract available for viewing) as well.
are a couple things to look out for when choosing an ebook publisher.
The first is to watch out for a publisher that turns out books which are
full of errors or badly formatted, or one with a site where it is difficult
to order the books. In fact, having
a nice looking and quick loading website is a definite plus. The website is
their bookstore. If customers have
trouble navigating the 'aisles' and can't find the cash register, you're going
to lose sales.
be wary of a publisher who says he takes all kinds of genres, but seems to
focus heavily on only one or two. If
your book isn't one of those genres, not only will it get lost beneath the
others, but also the people who regularly buy books there are not likely to be
interested in your work.
ebook publishers are now offering POD (Print on Demand -- trade paperback)
versions of books as well, though usually some time after the ebook version
comes out. POD is more expensive,
but if an ebook is selling well, it may be a good investment.
Sometimes the author helps pay for the POD set up and sometimes not.
This flies in the face of traditional publishing, where all money flows to the
author -- but it is still a consideration and a choice that the author can make.
come out in a number of different formats to meet the needs of many different
types of readers, from PCs to Macs, PDAs to devices that are strictly for
reading electronic books. Some
formats allow the buyer to print out a copy, and others do not.
It's a changing, growing medium that will still have a few stumbles before it finds the right path. But in another decade I suspect that people aren't going to be as likely to be ask why an author tried an epublisher as why not.