Saturday, July 08, 2006

The Downside of ePublishing

In June I made a couple of posts which were enthusiastic endorsements of eBooks and vendors. Honesty makes me publish this post, but I really am, for the most part, an enthusiastic eBook customer and happy to be an ePublished writer. Someone out there has to be saying that Pam is just plugging eBooks b/c her novels are available in that format, so here are some points for the sake of balance.

First, some of the ePubs are either not able to produce a good product, or they don’t concern themselves with quality. That was more of a concern a few years ago than it is today. Several of the early ePubs went under due to poor sales, and their sales sucked b/c the books did too. Unfortunately, today’s ePublishers are somewhat handicapped by the bad reputation garnered by some of the those early efforts which were not quality works, and by the occasional bad apple which still exists.

Second, being ePublished may not get you any respect. Indeed, having an ePublisher is sometimes equated with being self-published. My first novel, listed by Booklocker as an eBook and as a trade paperback by many online vendors, is self-published. I’ve written about the whys and wherefores of that decision elsewhere in this blog and on my website, so I won’t bore readers with that again, but suffice it to say that many folks do not distinguish between The Gift Horse, which was self-published, and Trinity on Tylos, which is a Whiskey Creek Press publication, other than by genre. Since I paid my cover artist and the fees for getting The Gift Horse in print and I didn’t pay Whiskey Creek Press, my checkbook and I see a big difference. (Huge!) However, I’ve heard fellow eBook authors lament that they have problems getting reviews and/or recognition by writer’s organizations. Actually, I’ve gotten reviews from four different sites, good ones for the most part, so I am quite pleased. The only problem I have seen has been in getting reviews has been from science fiction only sites, which seem to be rabid in their disgust with self-publishers, so I consider this unfortunate but inevitable.

Third, there isn’t much money in ePublishing. The percentage earned per book (i.e. royalty) is usually better than for print, but for many writers the numbers just aren’t there. This lack of sales volume is sometimes due to ePublisher distribution problems, but there still just aren’t enough converts to the format. (Not yet, anyway.)

My first novel didn’t make any money at all the first year, but I managed to make some in the second year after publication. Trinity on Tylos is still a loser, from a financial standpoint, and that is due to my promotional efforts, which includes a number of give-away copies, to reviewers and potential vendors. On the plus side of this equation is that ePublishers know it takes more time to find an audience, and they generally give a book two or more years to build an audience, which larger publishers and bookstores almost never do. So while I’ll probably report a loss in ‘06, I should make a profit in ‘07 and even ‘08.

Actually, my total sales to date are less for my ePublished book than they were for my self-published book at the same number of weeks after publication. (That is for total sales, not just eBook sales.) My promotional plans are a bit different this time, because of the change in genre, and due to this being a sophomore novel, which seems to be the red headed step-child of the publishing world.

Lastly, it is really hard to autograph an eBook. I’ve heard of ePublished authors giving away autographed “cover flats” but that seems kinda weird to me.

Here’s the bottom line— if any readers of this post are thinking about seeking publication, getting a contract with an ePublisher, even an award winning one, might not be the best thing that ever happened. Patience and hard work, especially in marketing, are requirements for this new publishing frontier, so if you want someone else to do that work, don’t bother with ePublishing.

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