Thursday, June 9, 2011

Book Talk - The Benefits of eBook Publishing

by Kathryn Lively

I wrote this article in 2006, but I believe it remains relevant in this recent self-publishing boom.

It was quite a sight seven years ago, at the first and only Writer's Festival held at Franciscan University of Steubenville. As the moderator of an online writer's forum and a fledgling publisher of electronic books, I had been asked to speak on the future of eBook publication and distribution. While the concept of eBooks was still quite new at the time, my speech was blessedly short. Yet, I felt I offered an optimistic view of the industry, one that inspired the authors who came to hear me talk. Many had been writing for years, discouraged by constant rejection from the top publishers.

The most interesting part of the conference for me happened shortly afterward, when a young girl happened upon my booth. I had several eBook discs on display, along with a PDA reader and a laptop. She took one look and snorted, "I'd rather read a real book." My explanation that these were real books fell on deaf ears, and I am ashamed to admit my growing anger during the exchange. It got so bad that I had to excuse myself and leave the building.

Since then, I have been published in print format, though I continue to work in the eBook publishing industry. I am also to say I am very mellow these days when people turn their noses up at eBooks. Perhaps it is because I have seen the industry grow exponentially since that writer's conference, and have come into contact with authors who were able to quit their jobs and sustain themselves with eBook royalties. I know a few print-only authors who can't claim that!

Is eBook publishing an option for all authors? That I cannot answer with certainty, as different authors have different needs. Some authors do very well by self-publishing because they also possess the marketing savvy to sell their books. A less inclined author, by comparison, may be suited more toward traditional publishing if he can get "The Call," as it is commonly known. For others, taking the alternative route of electronic publishing may be beneficial in the long run, yet I believe the final decision should be up to the author.

To this end, I am happy to provide a list of the pros and cons related to publishing a book, be it fiction, non-fiction, or poetry, in electronic format. This article will focus on the PROS.

1) An eBook can be your springboard.

At the 2006 Romantic Times conference in Daytona Beach, Florida, I met a few editors with the top romance publishers, all of whom were seeking out romance eBook authors. As eBook sales and productions rises in the romance and erotic romance genres, these editors are aware of the great sales potential involved in bringing eBook authors with high readership into their catalogs. Go to your favorite bookstore and look up authors Sherrilyn Kenyon, Angela Knight, and Sylvia Day. What do they have in common aside from being bestselling authors? Their earliest titles were originally published in eBook format!

Depending upon the genre you write and the following you develop, your eBook success can be a springboard to commercial publishing accomplishments. Make the sales and the big players will notice, regardless of whether or not your book is on paper.

2) Faster Turnaround

Do you know how long it takes for a book to see print, from submission to release? Various factors play into a final answer. A small university press may not take as long as a well-known New York house. A book could take anywhere from several months to several years before it is made available for sale.

With eBooks, that time frame might not be as long. This is not, mind you, because eBooks go through a sloppy editing process. While some eBooks may appear to have been rushed (more on that below), there are many eBook publishers that have professional editors on staff to ensure a quality end product. eBook production may be quicker than traditional print publication due to a number of factors. Formatting does not take long to do, for one, and cover art needs are drastically reduced. You can produce a great cover that sells and not have to worry about sizing or color bleeds for print. A good number of eBook romance publishers offer a turnaround from acceptance as quick as three months! While some authors wait for their books, an eBook author can have two or three out in the same amount of time.

3) Higher Percentage of Royalties

I once read an article by the late Southern humorist Lewis Grizzard, who wrote for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and authored more than twenty books. He wrote that despite all the books and columns under his belt, he was not a rich man. Knowing how some publishers deal with author royalties, this statement no longer surprises me!

Depending upon your status as author, and the budget of the publishing house, you could make as much as ten to twenty percent of the net sales of your book. Some houses will raise the percentage once you reach a certain benchmark, like a thousand or more copies. However, since the average book in the United States sells five hundred, it is safe to say thousands of authors may never get that raise. Unless you are the rare J.K Rowling or Stephen King (both of whom, to be fair, do profit on subsidiary sales), you may not be rolling immediately in the millions.

eBook publication, however, offers the opportunity to make some decent money, more so if you gain a strong readership. Because of the low resources involved in eBook production, there is more opportunity to pay royalties on sales. Most eBook publishers offer as much as thirty to fifty percent of net sales. An author with a strong following can make several hundred dollars a month!

4) Same good book, less waste

Next time you are at the bookstore, take a look at the bargain bin. Many hardcover books, some probably touted as bestsellers, are marked down significantly to clear away inventory. What is not sold is eventually recycled. I know of one author whose book was heavily "remaindered," as it is called. What was not sold, he said wistfully, was turned into toilet paper!

In this respect, eBook production is very environmentally sound. Because the books are produced digitally, no trees are harmed. An eBook may be read on a computer or handheld personal digital assistant, both of which can store several books for your enjoyment. With a PDA full of eBooks, there is less to carry when you go on vacation!

5) More control

Do you have an idea for typesetting over cover art for your book? Chances are if you sign with a major publisher, you may not have much creative input. With my first novel, I was allowed some input, but my ideas were ultimately not used for the cover art. The same might be said with the marketing of your book. Publishers have budgets to meet, and may not be able to satisfy every author's desires.

eBook publishers in recent years, however, may be very author friendly. Closer contact with staff may allow an author to have more input in production and design. Some eBook publishers may allow authors to design their own covers. Whether or not this is a good thing remains to be seen, but the fact remains that the lines of communication between authors and staff are open wide. The author is permitted to be very active throughout editing and production, and it turn it may inspire the author to be more productive.

More opportunity for money, more input, and more support are among the benefits of producing your manuscript through electronic means. As we further delve into a new age of publishing, eBooks lead the charge into a new dimension of entertainment for readers and productivity for writers.

No comments: