Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Burning Questions About E-Publishing

With the emergence of the e-book market, I have a few burning questions, in no particular order:

1. Where do agents fit if an actual sale isn't involved?

2. If you're offered a contract from a publisher, what sort of provisions do you want in the e-book clause? When Amazon is offering 70% to the author , and allowing prices as low as $2.99 in order to achieve it, what are publishers offering? And does it make a difference to you?

3. How long do you intend to continue your pursuit of traditional publication? Is there a point where you will get tired of leaving your fate up to the whims of others?

4. Does knowing that much of the marketing is left to you whether you make pennies on a sale of a traditionally published book or dollars on an e-published book make a difference?

5. Is there an opportunity here for small presses that the large houses can't (or won't) take advantage of?

6. What about the unpublished author with no reader base? Is the Sales Hill the same climb the e-pub route as the traditional one?

7. Do you see the time coming when e-pubbed books will have the editors name on the front as well as the authors? Or some kind of Better Writing Seal of Approval because it's been professionally edited?

Here's a terrific tie-in blog post from Michael Hyatt, the CEO of Thomas Nelson:

What are your questions? Do you have any answers, or even guesses? What do you think about this as an author? A reader?

CR: Racing the Devil by E. Michael Terrell, and wondering why I let it sit in my TBR pile as long as I did.

It's all better with friends.


  1. Your questions are GREAT! I believe Amazon will take a Kindle book at a minimum of $1.99. Some authors are struggling because they don't have the readership base and want to initially GIVE their book away. Dorchester tried to get into the e-market and we all know the results of that. Agents are shifting gears, those trying to survive, to represent the DTP world. Libraries are trying to figure out a way they can participate in this shift. It's an interesting time and a great opportunity to seize control of YOUR work and YOUR future. MHO

  2. Ooh, I like that "better writing" seal of approval. Excellent idea.

  3. It's funny, an author friend of mine, whose publisher believes e readers are the future, just wrote me today. I wrote back that I was very interested in hearing his (and his publisher's) thoughts...but that I might be the last man standing/last woman reading at a bookstore :)

    I do think that e publishing will give rise to some books that were genuinely missed by traditional publishing houses, albeit being "ready" for them. Karen McQuestion is one such author. (Who knows? Maybe I'm another ;)

    But I also think there will be a proliferation of content that is *not* ready--you've written about this, Peg--the putting in of the hours, the hard slog toward craft, the ego crushing reactions of agents that slowly give way to ego boosting reactions as we revise, revise, revise--by people who have avoided what is admittedly a painful process.

    How all that content will be filtered is beyond my comprehension. Is a "seal of approval" any different than an offer from a publisher? Won't that then just mean that there are books that are worthy but miss getting a seal, same as the books that miss getting offers now?

    I also think that there will always or at least for a long time be people who want to read books in print, and an--arguably growing--place for bookstores. Will a chasm open up between the books sold thus and there, and those that are available digitally? Will there be overlap between the two?

    An interesting topic for sure!

  4. Also, Peg and all her readers :) you might enjoy this series of videos, posted by medical thriller author CJ Lyons today

  5. Lala, you are on the cusp of this emerging market, and I look forward to hearing more from you in the future.

    I mentioned the $2.99 price via Amazon because my understanding is that that price is the cut-off for an author to receive the 70% royalty from them. I learned (via an earlie post about find my 'buy' price, that $2.39 only nets the author 30%.

    Jenny, yes, in my estimation a "seal of approval" would go a step further than simply getting an offer from a publisher. (Sheesh, did I just say "simply"?) A seal of approval would help assure readers that the manuscript had been professionally edited. Not by your mom or sister-in-law who reads a lot. I avoid self-published books because they make me want to scream The one good thing with e-books, at least through Amazon, is that I can download a sample. I can tell, within one page, whether or not any work has gone into craft and edit.

    I definitely see an overlap. Backlists from authors who've had the joy of seeing their books in print, and print books from authors who achieve a certain level of success with e-books.

    And CJ's new blog, and her candid decisions to e-pub are valuable. Thanks for mentioning it.

  6. Apologies for the lack of edit in my previous comment. Ugh.

  7. Peg, interesting questions. I think the e-book revolution is having and will continue to have a tremendous impact on the publishing world.

    The idea of a "professionally edited" seal is interesting. Since anyone can put out his or her shingle as an editor, how would we know which professional editors were indicative of wonderful books and which were not? One person suggested that the editor's name would appear on the book alongside the author's. Again, interesting, especially since some books require more extensive editing than others. For books that require little editing, would that editor's name on the cover just signify that the book met that editor's presumably high standards?

    As more and more books are self-published, I imagine there will be a lot more emphasis on reviews and affirmations of quality from some respected quarters. Maybe people now acting as agents, maybe editors, maybe cabals of "expert readers" whose approval indicates that a given book is well crafted. For e-books, sample chapters are imperative, and Amazon's "Look inside" feature for print books, too.

    Thank you for the comment about RACING THE DEVIL. My hope is that soon--maybe even by the time you finish it--I'll be Jaden E. Terrell, and E. Michael will be a collector's item.