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Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The Rise of the E-Book

Self-published.... Indie Publisher..... Small Press.......Big 6......

Do you ever feel like the argument here might be going the wrong way? Have you ever considered that maybe the question isn't WHO should publish your work but HOW the project should be published?

I ran into this while looking over an older manuscript that was bugging me. It's a good story. But three years ago? Three years ago there was no market for this book. Three years ago there was no way I could fit the mammoth undertaking into marketable fragments. Three years ago my options were limited.

So I shoved the novel into the depths of my hard-drive and moved on.

Looking at the market now? No, it's still not a novel that could go to the Big 6. The major New York publishers want something very specific. They have to because of how and what they sell. I suspect that will change, but right now Big 6 are very picky about what they put out. They don't venture far from market trends. They aren't interested in something wildly different. They want something a little different... and that works for a majority of novels.

Most novels really do fall into the boxes Big 6 publishing wants to fill. Most authors can publish with New York in the traditional manner that's been used for the past decades without problem. Most people can get their book to fall into the accepted word count that doesn't scare agents, editors, or buyers away.

And for everyone else there is the e-book.

Big 6 publishing is focused on print books, and print books have limitations. The e-books don't. New York is beginning to catch on to this, but they were slow on the uptake and the ground floor of the e-book kingdom is already filled with all the Indie/Small House publishers who realized there was gold in them thar' nanobytes.

An e-book costs the same to produce regardless of word count. There is infinite space in the land of the e-book so there is always room for another twist on a genre. There is always room for another book, a new niche, and a debut author.

What? You thought Amazon was making money selling Twilight novels and Stephen King? Those books are huge sellers, but there are millions of e-books and those nickles and dimes add up in a big way.

What does this mean for the novel I ditched? For one thing, it means that I can break it down into several 40,000 word novellas instead of parring back the story to fit a 100,000 word print mold, or breaking it into two smaller novels.

What does this mean for you?

Well... I won't lie. The e-book is not the perfect fix for anything unless your problem is having too much money and too little bookshelf space.

E-books are not easier to write. They are not easier to publish. They are not easier to market. One way or another, you will still need to work with an editor. You will need to either query and submit to a small publisher or e-publisher, or hire an editor and cover artist.

It does mean the market has grown from a few shops in the plaza to a mammoth Mall of America sized store where you can buy or sell just about anything. This is a good thing for anyone writing in a "fringe" genre. Steampunk? Biopunk? Paranormal sans romance? There's now a spot for you. E-publishers watch market trends, but they don't cling to them the way New York does.

Will the e-book kill printed books or publishing? No.

Formatting issues aside (like I can only read my Kindle books on a Kindle) most the world does not own an e-reader. I know this comes as a major shock to people who write for the Wall Street Journal and all bought iPads for their toddlers last year, but the majority of people worldwide do not own a smart phone, do not own an e-reader, and don't have the money for either.

Since authors often find their work published in other countries the rise of the e-book isn't a threat. Even the wave of self-publishing isn't as threatening to Big 6 publishing as people would like to think. Self-published e-books can sell internationally (think Canada, the UK, and Australia) but most self-published authors aren't getting their work translated, publicized, or sold in countries where a translation would be required.

I'll have to poke some friends for exact numbers, but I don't think most self-published authors are worrying about foreign rights and translations. Those doors are firmly shut. New York already has the contacts, agents, and abilities needed to publish out of the country. I imagine it's a lot like the film industry where a movie can tank state-side but be a major hit in Japan or Korea. You never know what the sales will look like until you push the piece out there.

I'd still like to see a universal format created so I don't have to buy new copies of a book if I want to switch devices. That may never happen because the brand creators don't want you switching from them to someone else, but it would be nice.

But while I'm not holding my breath waiting for that to happen...

I am going to work on the abandoned novel. I have plans for it. I'll probably try for the small presses and e-publishers first, but we'll see where the market is when I'm ready to query. Publishing isn't an industry where things stand still. Things are always changing around here, and what was good advice twelve months ago might be suspect now, so keep an open mind about all of this. Do what's best for you and what you write. And good luck!


  1. I like the way you put this together. Have heard most of it at some time or another. I do agree on the idea of a universal format and like a couple of blogs I read. It may take time but it will probably happen sooner or later. Sort of like the war of VHS and Beta Tapes. My problem is I hate the idea of investing in anything that may become obsolete. i.e. Vinyl, reel to reel, 8Track, cassete, DVD, Etc....I guess that is the price of progress though. How many words is your Monster at present?

  2. The monster is 70k, and only half done. That's a bare bones partial draft that needs another 20k added to the opening I edited Monday and a good 70k added to round out the story.

    It's a good story, lots of potential, it just doesn't fit into one novel. Splitting it into a trilogy felt too stretched, but a series of 40-50k novellas? I think that's doable.

  3. I was anticipating somewhere near the 300,000 word mark. Don't know why, but as prolific as you put stuff out I could see it. I finished twelve letters to the Congressional Super Committee. Venting with hopes of helping makes me feel like I am doing something about the sad state of the economy. I am a firm believer that the pen is mightier than the sword. The solutions to America's problems are out there, it is getting them recognized that is the hard part.

  4. The nice thing I love is that I can publish an eBook, but also have it available in print at little cost for myself. People love the option of both, I've noticed. I'm also happy that there is the middle option of small press - because that fits me like a glove. I'm currently getting a short story collection ready for self-publication, though.

  5. Oh, and I can't wait to see what your decisions are! I know you'll choose what's right for you and the book.