FAQs and Info about E-Pubbing
To E-Publish, or not to E-Publish?
Despite its swings in popularity, electronic publishing is still an industry in its infancy, an industry that is undergoing rapid change. Technological advances are continually reshaping the industry, making it extremely difficult to predict what will happen within the e-publishing sector, or how the industry may change in the next few years.
Commercial e-publishers are growing and taking steps to influence these changes, and many are actively working to improve the quality, the reputation, and the acceptance of e-books as a common reading medium.. E-publishers and their authors consider the education of both the consumer, and the publishing industry as a whole, to be a major part of their mission. Most are certain that public awareness and acceptance of e-books will continue to grow. With the flourishing of the computer industry, we have an entire generation growing up with the acceptance of the computer, and the acclimation and inclination to indulge in reading on them as well.
Publishing through an e-publisher is a decision to be made with caution, and to be evaluated on an individual basis. Choices should be finalized only after careful and serious consideration of the potential advantages and disadvantages, as well as your own desires as a writer. Do not rush into the realm of e-publishing out of desperation or excessive haste to be published. Ask yourself truthfully what you consider your measures of success as an author. Predicated on that response, decide what form of publishing is most likely to achieve the desired goals.
E-publishing can be a path to success, but it also harbors some serious pitfalls to the unwary or desperate author. Opportunities for online publication should be assessed only on the basis of serious evaluation of the pros and cons.
Answers to the following questions would be most helpful in choosing to publish electronically:
How much effort will you have to expend, for what return?
Will your rewards be tangible (monetary gain) or intangible (self-satisfaction/confidence)?
Will the rewards be satisfactory, and meet the requirements of your goals?
Will you be happy with the ultimate results, regardless of any disadvantages?
Are you prepared to make the sacrifices to see your goals achieved?
Will you be able to accept the possibilities of failure? (trite, but important in any such decision)
Will the benefits you receive outweigh the costs to you personally?
The most important thing for you to be aware of is what you must invest in (time, money, energy, passion), and what you will receive for that investment. Having some advance ideas on this is the key to making wise e-publishing choices.
Disadvantages of E-publishing
Authors and publishers must admit to a number of disadvantages to e-books including:
Lower sales. Sales of five hundred copies of an e-book are considered good. Two e-publishers surveyed listed average sales of 30 to 50 copies per title. If a customer is given the choice between a print edition and an electronic edition, indications are customers still prefer a print edition
Little publisher promotion. While most commercial publishers make some effort to market their books, the primary task of marketing falls upon the author. Marketing and promotion of the e-book is a daily task. Much of your won success can hinge on the time you spend in the promotion of you r work.
Lack of availability in bookcatalogs. E-books are hard to find in traditional bookcatalogs. All e-books can be ordered by their ISBN, however, this is not the same as “on the shelf” availability. E-book downloads make up only a fraction of the books sold online, even though some are available in online bookcatalogs such as Barnes and Noble and Amazon.com.
No advance. The obvious financial drawback of e-publishing is not receiving an advance. Romance Writers of America (http://www.rwanational.org) used to require a writer to have “commercially published” a certain number of books to be eligible for professional membership. However, recently RWA has begun to recognize some e-publishers, making them and their authors eligible for some of the awards previously denied to e-books, authors, and publishers.
Fewer reviews. Some publications review e-books, but they are mostly online publications. Traditional book review sources have been slow to accept the e-book as they do not view them as “real books
Lack of security. Piracy concerns can be a deterrent to authors considering e-publishing. Truthfully. there is little to prevent someone from buying an e-book and making and distributing an unlimited number of copies. Most e-publishers don’t consider this a serious issue, however.
Reluctance to read “On Screen.” The biggest obstacle to e-book sales is the seeming reluctance of many consumers to read a book on their computer screen, or pay the cost of printer paper and ink to print it out.
Advantages of E-Publishing
Commercial e-publishers and authors can give you arguments for several advantages to this form of publishing:
Better chances of acceptance. E-publishing is opening the doors for a lot of new authors. It can also be a home for the great stories that fall between the cracks. The New York publishers may have turned them down for various reasons: don’t fit the length requirements; wrong type of hero/heroine; wrong career, era, or setting; etc.
More opportunities for first-time and unknown authors. Writers whose stories don’t fit the mold can find an audience and good reviews. There are many good writers whose stories don’t fit the mold prescribed to by print publishers today. E-publishing has opened the way for some of the otherwise obscure mid-range authors. E-books are a great way to get a foot in the publishing door, and get talented authors into a market that might otherwise never see them.
Less emphasis on standard novel lengths. E-publishing offers books that are longer, shorter, and the same length as traditional print novels. Novelettes have found themselves a welcome home, as they can be sold for a lower price than a paperback, and are more acceptable because the length makes them easier to read or print out.
More control over the process. While e-publishing editors make suggestions for revisions in a manuscript, there is considerably more room for discussion and negotiation. Authors have more freedom and input in the revisions, covers, and blurbs, and greater range in character and plot development.
Higher royalties. Because the costs of e-publishing are lower than those of print publishing, authors receive a higher percentage of revenues. Royalties can range from 20 to 40 percent (35-40 percent is fast becoming the industry standard). E-publishers generally pay royalties every quarter rather than once or twice a year like print publishers.
Author-friendly contracts. E-publishers generally ask only for electronic rights. This plus gives the author the freedom to market print rights and subsidiary rights elsewhere.
Renewability for convenience. The e-publishing contracts are renewable rather than indefinite. Thus, either party is usually given the option to renew or terminate the contract at the end of a specified time. Three years is becoming the norm for most contracts, Many of the reputable e-publishers post their complete contracts online, allowing the prospective authors the opportunity to review the contract terms before submitting.
Shorter response times. Good e-publishers attempt to respond to submissions within two to four months. Response times lengthen as the number of authors and submissions increases. Many try to keep manuscripts no longer than four months, and they work very heard at prompt responses.
Faster publication. E-publishers may bring out a title within months of acceptance. Larger and more popular e-publishers, are becoming backlogged with manuscripts. Although an e-book can technically be released within weeks, e-publishers have spaced out their releases over time. Schedules are running over a year in advance in some cases.
Multiple format, and multimedia capabilities and options. An electronic book can include a variety of multimedia elements that can enrich the reader’s experience. Music, graphics, animation, audio, or interactive features are available for some CD ROM offerings. Many e-book programs include changeable fonts, highlighters, and book-marking capabilities while others may also include post-it notes, and a clickable table of contents, and options for the visually and the hearing impaired.
International availability. Australians or any other nationality can buy the e-book the same day it’s released to a buyer in the U.S.. International customers don’t have to wait for export or foreign rights negotiations that can complicate the release of a printed book.
Longer “shelf life.” An e-book does not have to sell thousands of copies to remain “in print.” As long as sales remain good, by e-book standards, e-publishers are more willing to keep a title in their inventory.
What to Look for in a Commercial E-Publisher
Though many e-publishers have gone out of business in the past four years, more have arisen to take their place. There are still more than 100 commercial, independent e-publishers to choose from — so how can you determine what to choose? Here are some pointers offered by publishers and authors:
Does the publisher have a good Web site? Is it clearly laid out, so that you can tell what the publisher offers?
When you visit the Web site, does it present an appealing “catalog front” that entices visitors to buy the books? (If a site doesn’t make it easy or inviting to buy, chances are that visitors won’t buy your book.)
Did you learn about the publisher from outside publicity, or stumble across it by chance?
Has the publisher been recommended to you by a reliable source?
Is the publisher a member of a professional electronic publishing organization, such as EPIC?
Have the publisher’s books (or site) won any awards or achieved particularly favorable reviews or publicity?
Does the publisher provide its contract either on the site or on request?
Does the publisher ask for appropriate rights? (Most publishers ask for electronic publishing rights only.)
Are the royalties “industry standard” (from 20 to 40 percent or higher)?
Can you cancel the contract after a period of time (or at any time)?
Does the publisher offer the type of books you write?
Does the publisher offer the type of books you like to read?
Are the covers on the site appealing?
Review some of the excerpts or descriptions of other titles; do they appeal to you? Do they seem well written and edited?
Are the books priced reasonably?
Does the publisher offer a variety of formats (e.g., PDF, HTML, Palm, POD, etc.)?
Has the publisher been in business for long?
Will the publisher provide you with contact information for other authors, so that you can contact them for references?
What is the experience of the publishers’ editors?
Are books edited and proofread before publication? (Will you have a chance to review corrections and “galleys” before publication?)
If books are produced on disk or CD-ROM or in POD format, how many free copies will you receive? What is your author discount on subsequent copies?
Does the publisher advertise, and if so, where?
Does the publisher offer advance review copies to professional reviewers and review publications? Where are the publishers’ books reviewed?
What promotional assistance will the publisher offer you?
Are the publisher’s titles on Amazon.com and other online bookcatalogs?
Does the publisher provide an ISBN and copyright registration?
Can you communicate with the publisher? Do they answer your questions? Do you feel that the publisher is being honest with you about your book’s potential in this medium?
Will you feel proud of the finished product?
It’s also not a bad idea to purchase two or three sample books from the publisher (particularly in the genre in which you would be submitting) to read and review. Check the quality, both of the content and of the editing. Would you read another book by the same author? Or do the books contain grammatical and typographical errors? In short, would you consider your book to be “in good company?”
Things to Watch Out for in an E-Publisher
A poor Web site that makes it difficult to shop for books or purchase books; a site that is slow to download; or a site that seems more interested in soliciting authors than buyers.
Any request for money in advance, for any purpose.
Inability to review a contract in advance.
Inappropriate rights requests, such as requests for subsidiary rights (such as movie, audio, or translation rights) that the publisher is not likely to use. Watch out, as well, for a contract that asks the author to give the publisher a percentage of any subsidiary rights that the author sells.
A contract that claims print rights, or prohibits you from selling print rights elsewhere.
A contract that claims rights or revenues from the sale of your book after the contract itself has been terminated. (For example, one print-on-demand company claims the non-exclusive right to continue selling your book for a full year after you terminate the contract.)
A contract that does not have a termination clause.
A contract that claims the right to use your work in other publications offered by the publisher.
A contract that requires the author to submit his or her next book to the same publisher for consideration (“right of first refusal”).
Poor customer service.
Inability to communicate effectively with the publisher — e.g., e-mails not answered in a timely fashion, or questions not answered fully, honestly, or accurately.
Publishers who publish a majority of their own work (“vanity publishers”) – These publishers can close at a moments notice, and have a tendency to offer little or no promotion of other works but their own.
Anything that gives you an uneasy feeling!
While there are many excellent, professional e-publishers in the business, there are also plenty of individuals who have simply slapped together an “e-publishing business” in the hope that it will make money. Often, these companies are well-intentioned, but simply lack the skills to select high-quality titles, to edit those titles effectively, or to market them. When choosing an e-publisher, you want to find one that will be in business for awhile, and that will “invest” in your book.