Vision: A Resource for Writers
Lazette Gifford, Editor
Vision@sff.net

This Is Not A Test...

Epublishing in the Real World

By
Lazette Gifford

2003, Lazette Gifford 

ar too many people do not take writing for electronic markets very seriously.  It's bad enough in readers, or even in writers who submit only to print markets, but I've seen rather troubling attitudes in people submitting to electronic markets as well.  I've even seen it described as a place 'to practice' getting published.

This isn't a game, a test, or a practice run.  Publishing electronically is every bit as serious as publishing in print.  After all, won't real people still read your work?  Do you really want to put out 'practice' material with your name on it?  Even if you use a pseudonym, wouldn't you like to be able to claim something as your own, not deny that you ever wrote it?  This isn't a practice run, but rather more akin to publishing in a small press, and for little money.  Too many people equate money with professionalism, and it doesn't always have to be that way.

The growth of the electronic market has been steadily increasing in the last couple years.  More readers are finding what they want online, not only because they are becoming more comfortable with computers and the Internet, but also because of the ease with which they can find material once they know how to look.  Add to this the proliferation of PDA's, and the realization that business travelers can carry a dozen books with them on one little device -- and still have plenty of room for work related material -- and you can see why the medium is starting to pick up.

Always remember that the 'shelf life' in epublishing far outstrips that of print.  That story you sell today could be available for a long, long time.  An ebook does not have to 'earn out ' in the first two weeks after release.  You can build up a readership.  You have time.

The audience for epublishing is, by the very nature of how they come to this material, predominantly tech-savvy -- and often professionals in their fields.  This means they are also less forgiving of grammar and punctuation mistakes, as well as bad site design and presentation.

But fixing those problems should be the work of the editor, right?  Authors can't always have perfect grammar and such, and some of us need more help than others.  And we have no say over how the ezine or ebook site is set up.  So that's not a problem the writer should consider -- or is it?

This is where choosing the right epublication is a very important step.

Anyone with some web space and a bit too much time on their hands can start an ezine, or even an ebook publishing company.  Far too many people do. They proliferate and die out at a rate that would astonish fruit flies, and both the good and the bad seem to have an equal chance of surviving, at least for a few months.  The presence of a publisher on the Internet is not an indication that they are good at the work.

As authors looking for publishers, we have to be vigilant about finding the proper place, and more so on the Internet than we would in print publications.  A print publication, because of the expense, will not survive long if it is not professionally handled.  The same cannot be said for epublication sites. They will linger, drawing a few new people to submit material now and then (and sometimes filling the slots with their own material, published under different names).  They have no reason to die out, since there is no 'survival of the fittest' in the Internet where there is still room for everyone.

So authors have to look carefully at epublication sites before they submit their material to them.  This is just the first step in the process of making certain that your material is professionally presented.  You do not want to have your story available at a site that would embarrass you.

Grammar and punctuation, proper sentences, spelling -- those are all things that writers should want to do for themselves, if for no other reason than it gives them a better chance at selling the piece, whether to an epublisher or a print publisher.  Another reason to

Some -- but not all -- epublications employ copy editors.  Look for the ones who do.  While it may look nice if they say 'make sure your story is free from all mistakes, we aren't going to touch it,' that means everyone else they accept has to be as good as you are.  And they aren't.  If you could guarantee that your story or book is the first piece someone is going to happen upon, you don't have to worry about what the perspective reader will find before they stumble upon your book.  Unfortunately, it doesn't work that way.  If the first book or story that she looks at is riddled with mistakes, that person is never going to look at your material.

Ebook publishers often say so right in their contracts. In ezines, the publisher is often the editor as well.  If the material in an ezine seems chaotic, with some material of a better edited quality than the rest, it usually means that the ezine takes stories just as they are presented to them, and the people running the publication don't put in the extra work to bring all the stories up to par. Generally, these kinds of sites are not ones you want to be associated with... however, there can be exceptions.  First, if it is a narrow niche market for material that you can't publish elsewhere, it might be the best choice. Second is something slightly more devious: if you place a very well edited and well-written story at a site like this, it will stand out from the others.  This only works well if it is a popular site, however. And popular sites are usually well edited.

If you find an ebook publisher that you think you like, make certain that they carry the type of books you write, and then read the sample chapters.  You might even email the authors of similar books to see if they have any reservations about the publisher.

The best advice I can give to an author who is considering epublication is to study the market and take it seriously. Look before you leap.

 

Lazette Gifford is the Managing Editor for Vision, and has sold more than fifty novels and short stories on the Internet, as well as maintaining Sff.Net's Estand for the promotion of on-line material.