Thursday, October 14, 2010

Some Thoughts On The Rise of E-Publishing

First of all, let me define what I am talking about here so as to not confuse anyone. I am not talking about the rise of e-technology and the opportunities to read things electronically. I am also not talking about the publishers out there that have chosen to provide another way to read their authors books, in other words, books in e-format as well as print. I am simply referring to straight up epublishing format. To be more specific, I am talking about those sites that claim to allow "anyone" to print books without having to fight to see their stories published or to struggle throught the establishment.

I was thinking about this a couple of days ago on the way to an early morning meeting and considering the things I would be talking about at an upcoming conference. It was then that it hit me. The rise of these e-publishing opportunities has not come from the new technology or the desire by readers to see books electronically. The rise has simply come from the writers.

I worked with an author once that had a story that was O.K. and we were working hard at finding a home for it. Since it was just O.K. we had to work a bit harder and sure enough, time and time again we received a "NO". I kept stressing that I wanted to see some other work of hers but it was always in a "work in progress" phase. In any case, she called me one day and said, "You know, why don't we just send it to [insert name of strictly e-pub]. At least this way I can be published."

Another writer I worked with had been doing fairly well with Harlequin. When she came to me, she really wanted to move to a single title career. She would keep up her work at Harlequin but her drive was for single title. Great! So what happened? She left when she wasn't getting any bites and she just hadn't worked on any more projects for Harlequin. I just saw her name come up on a loop so I went back to see how things were going. No more Harlequin and now, she is with some e-publisher that "just puts things out there." This was not what she wanted.

It was that comment that came rushing back to me as I thought about this whole concept of e-publishing. I honestly believe, in my own humble opinion, that writers are just throwing their stories at these publishers "just to be published." What I find interesting is that many of these people will justify this move with a host of reasons:
  • I honestly want to do this on my own.
  • I'm really an "indie" writer you know.
  • My work is in high demand but the established publishers don't see it.
  • This really is the style of writing I like best.

I find many of these comments interesting because if we go back to their early stages of their careers, many were madly contacting those dreaded established publishers and agents. Many wanted to be the next Oprah Bookclub pick. But something changed.

Simply put, I am not against all e-publishers. I think there is a place for some of it. My complaint is that authors need to really listen to what they are saying about their move to e-publishing. Does the move to "just be published" really fit with your career goal? Are you "really" keeping your name out there and being noticed, or are you on a path to career suicide?



  1. Well, the big question: are you on a path to career suicide? I keep my eyes and ears open and I love reading all about marketing and promotion. I honestly don't see how epublishing can work but for a select few--those who probably would have made it in traditional publishing. I've seen a few friends sell ebooks then 'graduate' to Love Inspired and Five Star. I've seen others leave traditional publshers and go with an epublisher. My head spins at the changes in the publishing world, and the so-called options. What's a girl to do?

    Thank the Lord I can satisfy my writing desire by the regional writing I do, and teaching and encouraging others. While your post is sort of depressing, I guess my take-away is that a good agent who can give wise advice is worth his (or her) weight ... :)

  2. I can honestly agree with you that for some people it is true. However, for a lot of us epublished writers it is not the case. I want a career that is filled with epublished books for a variety of reasons.

    One is something you didn't mention at all. I write a lot of short stuff like novellas and or works under 35K. There's not a lot of markets out there at all in traditional print. Period. Should I allow those items to languish and maybe never see the light of day? I really don't want to develope them further so I gave them the best chance possible and got them epubbed by some good house.

    The other part I serious considered was the fact I wanted my backlist out there for much longer than the average bear. I am still selling my over first book sell every month. How many traditional NYC authors do that? Not very many.

    For me, epublishing is a big part of my career path and it is the wave of the future.

    Lynn Crain

  3. Please, let's distinguish reputable epublishers with strict acceptance rates (typically hovering around 5%) versus those fly-by-night epublishers who will accept anything--and "publish" stories. Additionally, for romance authors, epublishing allows us to publish stories that NY has previously been too conservative to consider. As another commented pointed out, novellas rarely go to NY; epublishers love them.

    No matter what, all authors need to do their research.

  4. Another great Greyhaus blog, we have all agreed, there are many, many more people writing & hoping to be published, than there are available slots for them in the industry. What are they to do, and what harm is done by letting them begin with epublishing? Perhaps they will improve over time.
    If they do improve, they can simply pull the eplug and never mention those books that preceded the better one finally accepted ( I assume) by a "real" publiher.
    Knowing one can be published in a few days is a terrific incentive to keep writing for many of us.
    As people move in droves away from reading to more engaging multimedia forms of entertainment, there will less and less demand for paper books, among others. Many more people want to be published, than seem to have the time and desire to read the works of others. I went into our huge B & N on friday night and it was nearly empty. If they did not have a wonderful coffee house and pastries there would be no one there until Christmas. It felt overwhelmingly like a morgue. Too sad, but life is change.
    Traditional reading is simply over. When people had manual jobs, it was a treat. Now most of us read all day at work and have ZERO interest in reading for recreation. Way too slow, way too much work. I want to go to the movies and be completely taken out of myself with lights and music and great CG effects. I wish it was otherwise, but it is not.
    When I do pick up a book in our once-jammed B & N, I have zero patience also for traditional reading. I just stand there and read the best hot bits, and then I am completely done with the book, 5 -10 minutes max. I read books like I read Google-get to the point (are the sex scenes engaging, or more likely unintentionally hilarious?)and let me get out of here now.
    How did thus happen? I have no idea. But I still love, love books, even if I don't read them, and maybe in the next life when I actually have time and money...
    What is the answer? Perhaps very short books, consisting of nothing but hot scenes?
    It's a great question,Scott, but it seems to me there is no harm done in epublishing, and nothing but growing old and burned-out in an overwhelmingly jammed market. In the end, I can't believe it matters a damn which way one goes, but I love it that you had the cajones to ask the question. Sail on.

  5. @Anonymous ~ I disagree that readers are reading less. Yes, your B&N is empty. However, I think it's due to a different reason. A couple of years ago, frequented the brick & mortar bookstores. Now those trips are very, VERY infrequent.

    Last weekend, my youngest daughter asked if we could stop by the bookstore while out and about. I said, "sure, but we're not buying anything. Pick out the book you want, and I'll order it offline." While we were there, I compared the prices to three books I recently ordered offline to the ones in the bookstore. Here's the breakdown. 1) Bookstore: $7.99/Online $7.98 (okay 1 penny. Who cares?) 2) Bookstore: $17.99/Online $8.49 (cha ching!) 3) Bookstore: $25.95/Online $14.60 (Wowzers!)

    My online cost came to $31.02 and included free shipping. If I'd made my purchases at the bookstore, I'd have paid $51.93 +tax. I'm not going to count the gas prices, since we were in the area anyway. $20 is a huge savings for me. Then add it to the value of having it delivered to my doorsteps, and I'm hyped.

    I also don't think folks think brick & mortar when they think eBook. They either buy through their online device using 3G or wait until they have a connection and buy on the stop (home/places which offer wifi). I don't think book sells are going down, I think the way people are buying has changed.

  6. In terms of ePublishing, I do think some authors take the route out of desperation. It's easy to lose sight of goals when the rejections start piling in. It's discouraging and heartbreaking to think the manuscript you've poured your heart into is unwanted.

    The goal: I want to be a successful published writer. Turns into I just want to see my book published. Folks, if you want to just see your book published, why go through the hassle of querying agents and editors? There are a lot of less stressful ways to see your book in print. A lot of authors pick ePublishers with very little visibility, so their works get very little exposure.

    This is why it's good to write down definable goals. So that when you hit the lowest moments, you can pull up the goals and determine if your next action will push you toward that goal or lead you into settling for something less. I want to be a successful published author. Great! So what does success mean to me? What do I need to do to get there?

  7. Great comments, folks. When I read my answer the next day, I thought, "jeez, I sound like a jilted lover.!" And then I realized, I am,I am! I built my whole life around books & reading, and it has slipped through my fingers like spring snow. What the H--- happened?
    How can something with which I had the love affair of my life suddenly (it seems)be...too much work?
    This on top of... turning into my mother? It's ALL over now for me. On to the mindless and completely engaging movies, and thanks for giving me yet more to think about. Just "getting published" one way or another may have a calming effect on many. We shall see. Just one more long blog (ebook) in the book blogosphere.

  8. That, the most over used word in writing, lol. : )