Monday, February 21, 2011

Question from a Writer - Moving from E-Books to Print

Hi, Scott,

I am a very frustrated writer looking for an agent and/or publisher.

The problem is this- I'm a male writer with a number of Romance novels posted on-line. My stories are doing very well. One of them has received almost 1000 hits already this month. I have thousands of fans, my novels are read in over 30 countries, my readers keep asking when my books are going to appear in print, but for whatever reason, I can't get to first base with an agent or publisher.

Getting an e-book publisher is easy! They've been coming out of the woodwork for some time now, trolling sites like FictionPress (where my novels are posted) and looking for a free ride. And the vanity press scam artists have found me too, as have other creeps who want to sell me their "services".

Those agents and publishers I've spoken to directly have said that my work "isn't what they're looking for". That phrase is beginning to make my blood boil, because I'm losing thousands of dollars in sales each and every month as people read my books, while they're dithering about some nonsense about market perception. Hits = revenue is pretty simple math. Or so you'd think.

Any thoughts on the matter?

You don't have to worry. You aren't the only person who has this as an issue and frustration.

I think one of the first things to stress is that e-publishers and print publishers have completely different standards. What works for one certainly doesn't work for the other. Much of this simply has to do with the marketing and distribution of the titles. Remember that "traditional" publishers only have so much space in their line-up for books. This is due not only to what their own printers can handle, but also the book shelf space they are given at the book stores.

E-publishers, on the other hand, have a much different situation. Sure they have editorial and art deparments working on the books, but the distribution provides a bit more freedom in terms of the number of books they release. Why? The titles sit digitally on a server, not taking up any book shelf space, and are only "printed" when someone wants a book. No, I am not talking about print on demand here. I am simply referring to the fact that the publisher doesn't have to worry about print runs.

When I look at your question, I see several issues here. Let me address each individually:

You comment on all of these numbers of "your fans." Print publishers have to look for a wider market. There is a pretty good bet that while your stories are, as you put it, romances, these are not stories that can make sales in the 100,000 + range. There may be a lot of factors leading agents not liking your work:
  • size of story
  • topics addressed in the story
  • mis-match with editor or agent
  • etc.

You comment that agents are telling you it isn't what they are looking for. Remember that this business is subjective. As agents, we are looking for projects that we want to represent. We have to love it to want to do something about it. I would first look at how you are selecting your agents. Are you doing your market research or simply sending it out to people who take "romance?" Sorry to say this, but every agent is different and we all have different tastes.

You comment that getting an e-book publisher is easy. As I pointed out earlier, I think you can see why. I have to say, however, that IMHO, there is a huge difference between e-publishing and e-printing. Traditional publishers are useing an e-publishing model as another alternative to sales. Most of these so-called e-publishers are simply just converting your print to a digital format. This is e-printing.

In the end, the best I can say is to really do your research. Read traditional print romances from the publishers you want to work with. Learn their styles. At the same time, really do your research with agents. Find that right match.


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