Monday, May 11, 2009

I'm Not Your Stepping Stone...or Am I?

Ever since I saw this one Twitter post from an author looking to opine on the progression from eBook author to print, I've heard this song in my head. Not that I mind, I like the Monkees fine, but as far as eBook publishing is concerned they are totally irrelevant, unless Nez sends Mundania a submission. Hey, the decade is still young.

Anyway, I caught snatches (heh) of the Twitter conversation Saturday while multi-tasking at the Sex 2.0 conference in the DC area. Having had the foresight to bring my laptop, I updated the Phaze Books site during downtime in the vendor's room, all the while twittering about the gig (#sex20 actually trended for a while in Twitter Search - oh, the places you'll go!). There came on my reader a few posts questioning whether or not an author should seek out publication with an ePub as a means of using the experience as a "stepping stone" toward NYC.

Now, we've heard many stories about authors who were able to make the transition. We all know that Sherrilyn Kenyon's first works were digital, and at RT Orlando two authors receiving awards acknowledged their "start" in eBooks. When I hear eBooks referred to in that context, however, it gives me the impression that ePublishing is not something one should return to once you receive "the call." In a way it's reminiscent of the Hollywood age where you had "Movie Stars" and "Television Stars" and never the twain would meet. These days, though, you find many actors switch easily, so I don't see why it shouldn't be like that in the publishing world.

On many a pro-ePub blog, you'll find lists of advantages to electronic publishing: smaller pubs offer a larger percentage of royalties, and while many don't offer advances they do pay out monthly or quarterly (you won't always find that in NY). The relationship between the author and publisher may be closer, and often an author will have greater input on marketing and cover art. I don't know how many NYC pubs will let an author design his/her own cover; many NY authors I know are given one and expected to live with it. If you ask me, those who publish e- are so more involved in the process. You won't become a millionaire within the year, and many NY authors aren't, but the freedom e- allows you could be argued as a good trade-off.

Of course, NY publishing has its attractions. In my memory, I recall a comment by a well-known author who got her start with one of the top romance ePubs. She noted with her e- work her sales averaged around 5,000 or so units per title. Her NY titles, by comparison, enjoyed a first print run of 50,000, and the distribution was wider spread. What author wouldn't want a large first run? Granted, there's no guarantee all 50,000 will sell, but that a publisher is willing to take that chance on you is flattering. Tack on other possibilities like foreign rights, audio, etc., and you can make a comfortable living.

Is an agent or NY editor going to care if you have prior ePublishing credit? I can't answer that, but I can't imagine that every new author picked for publication in the last decade had an eBook for sale.

Should you persue an ePublisher with a book just to create a backlist for NY courtship? Well...I have said this once before on my blog: if your ultimate goal is New York, persue New York. Write the book for New York, and query New York. It will appear that a fair number of authors whose first publishing credits were eBooks are making the jump, and there's a good explanation for that. Several years ago, Harlequin and Kensington didn't have erotic romance imprints, so the authors writing these explicit titles - unwilling or unable to tone down the sex - took the books to erotic ePublishers. Now that we have Spice and Aphrodosia, etc., you'll find some familiar names mixed in with newer authors - so if you are now writing your first work the field has expanded. These lines, too, are available in digital format, so depending on where you end up you could become an eBook author in one sense, anyway. You have more choices now, and you do have ePublishing to thank for that.

Those who fear having an eBook credit could harm their chances of finding an agent will take care to note that Deidre Knight, a long respected literary agent and romance author, recently put out a book with Samhain Publishing, and other bestsellers like L.A. Banks have published with smaller e- houses as well. Just as movie stars are finding their way to starring roles on the smaller screen, there can be a succesful blurring of borders in publication.

In the end, pursue the house that is the best fit for your book, even if it means stepping off the path.

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