Friday, January 29, 2010

E-Publishing- The latest overnight sensation

One of the "Hot gifts" for Christmas this year was the Kindle, the electronic book reader from Amazon. From the buzz going around, one would think this was the first year anyone had tried to write or sell an e-book, or offer an e-reader for sale. Predictions and dire warnings of the print book's demise and the disappearance of the neighborhood books store abound.
For those of us who have been at the forefront of the e-book revolution and on the bleeding edge of the change, it's almost humorous. I've been a published e-book author for 14 years. Back in the day (Nov. 1995) I signed a contract with an e-book publisher and jumped off the cliff into the abyss of the unknown world of internet publishing.
For the record, I have always been published by royalty paying, non-subsidy publishers. I have not paid to have my books edited, or published. I have had cover art done by my publishers and/or chosen to have my own cover art done. It was my choice.
I do file and hold all my own copyrights and retain all rights to my books. My publishers don't require that I assign all rights in all media to them.
The basic difference between my publishers and the "big houses" is that my publishers were small, start-up businesses that could not pay advances against royalties as, say, Harlequin does.
However, my first book, published in April of 1996, has been represented by three different publishers over the years, has been available to book buyers all that time and is still earning royalties nearly every quarter.
I've written five romances in the past 14 years. All five of them are available in multiple formats, including the new Kindle format. My novels can be read no matter what your favorite device happens to be. You could even read it on your IPod Touch.
But I know, I shouldn't ignore the elephant in the living room. Why would I ever want to take such a step? Wasn't my stuff good enough for the "big time"? Surely others make far more money than I do?
I came to writing late in my working career. At a career reassessment center, during a downsizing debacle at the phone company, I decided that one thing I wanted to do before I died was write a book. It was just that simple. Over the next few years, a story idea germinated and I wrote the book of my heart.
Then I decided to get it published (totally wrong order in today's market, according to the "folks who know such things"). I did not target my market first, I just wrote the story I wanted to write. That caused me all sorts of grief.
I got wonderful rejection letters and even a phone call encouraging me to write something else, something that would fit their line, because they liked my style. But a story with a heroine older that the hero, the father of the bride perhaps also being the father of the groom, with a possibility of a little incest between brother and sister was just too much for them, back in the mid-nineties.
However, I have always been a free spirit and have always done things my own way. Since my book had now been labeled a "non-traditional" romance, I decided to find a non-traditional publisher.
Sometimes serendipity happens. I found a small clipping from a start-up e-publisher in a newsletter for freelance writers. This publisher was looking for new authors. I thought, why not? And away we went. That publisher has long since folded, but I've moved on and landed with Awe-Struck Publishing, an imprint of Mundania Press. I'm very happy with them.
I've never thought I would be able to support myself writing in this way, however I have total control over what I write and when. It works for me. My editor has waited patiently almost two years for a sequel to my last book. I've been very ill over these years. But there's a spot in the lineup for that sequel, whenever I get it finished. A big publisher rarely does that.
I make enough the IRS is interested in me, but not enough to worry about. Some e-authors do. Unfortunately, there is a dark side to e-publishing that has emerged in the last few years. The people making the most money seem to be the folks writing the darkest and most erotic material. Not my cup of tea, but they do seem to be successful for the time being.
I belong to a group of e-authors that has been organized since 1997. We have more than 600 authors, from all over the world; certainly not a group who have just "appeared" this year. We're more of an underground river, running just under the radar, gathering strength, pushing closer and closer to the surface. We're not going away and we're not this year's hot item. E-publishing isn't the reason for the imminent collapse of the big publishers; their antiquated business models are doing them in. However, we are helping them along.
You know, the Luddites had a point. They saw industrialization as the destruction of their way of life and their ability to make a living. They were right. But by fighting , obstructing and denying the need to change, they sealed their own doom.
That's what's happening now. The publishing industry has to change. The next ten years will be even harder that the last ten. But we will get through it. And e-publishing will be the future, not the past.


Ruth Logan Herne said...

Connie, a well-thought post with a lot of stuff to think on!

Thank you so much for being our guest in Seekerville today, exploring options for all of us to see. And I think in this world of "I-Everything" you're right, e-publishing is going to have a growing niche in all markets.

The times, they are a-changin'!

It's Friday. Time for End-of-the-week Food Decadence.

I brought coffee. Food is a free for all. There are Scotcheroos, the peanut butter Rice Krispie treats with chocolate/butterscotch topping, absolutely wonderful!

And breakfast courtesy of Walt's buds at Einstein Bros....

Awesome, WALT!!!!


Juice bar is stocked, there's diet soda for those in the need, teas are to your left and chai is hot and available with just the right amount of vanilla, cinnamon and sweet cream.

Happy Friday, Seekerville!!!


Tina Russo Radcliffe said...

Good morning, Connie.

E publishing has come a long way and things are about to explode and change even more.

Welcome to Seekerville!!

Audra Harders said...

Good morning, Connie. Welcome to Seekerville!

Very good information on the changing face of publishing. eBooks have been around for a long time, but not until the distributors developed a unique interest in them, did their true value arise.

I agree with you. There are publishers and there are publishers. It's the e-pubs that honestly care about the product they're producing that will emerge victorious.

Sounds like you found one of those!

Pass the coffee. It's Friday and it's been a loooooong week : )

Cara Lynn James said...

Good morning Connie and welcome to Seekerville! Wonderful post. I learned so much about e-publishing.

How do you know which are the best publishers? Word of mouth? Are their any e-pubs that mainly publish inspirational romance? Do the royalty rates differ very much from publisher to publisher?

Jessica said...

Connie, I confess that I had no clue there was e-publishing available in the nineties. Thank you for the post!
Congrats on your success with e-pubbing. :-)

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi Connie, Welcome to Seekerville with your cutting edge inspiration.

I've felt all along that e-pub will eventually become big. Teaching junior high language arts taught me that. The younger generations with their electronic brains love the venue and when electronic readers become more accessible and the quality continues to improve. Watch out. Have you seen the new I-Pad from Apple?

Cara there is an e-pub here in Phoenix that has an inspiration line. I'll look up the name as I'm guessing at it now and send it later. And they're looking for non-traditional inspiration.

Ruthy, a sugar high this early. tsk tsk.

I have some maple flavored smoked turkey, slices of vermont cheese and hard rolls if anyone needs some protein with those yummy rice krispie treats.

Julie Lessman said...

Connie -- Welcome to Seekerville and THANK YOU for the info on e-publishing. I have really been curious about it, and knew almost nothing, so your blog is a BIG help!

I do believe it is the wave of the future because the young, computer/i-pod/i-phone, i-pad generation will take us that way ... eventually, that is, when the rest of us page-turning dinosaurs move on.


Susan Anne Mason said...

Hi Connie,

Thank you so much for your honesty in telling us about e-publishing. It seems to be such a taboo subject among some in the published world.

As someone trying to find out if e-publishing would be a good fit for me, your post was extremely helpful. I'll be watching for answers to some of the great questions posted here!

Thanks again,


Mary Connealy said...

First of all, Connie, the premise of the book...that brother and sister could be marrying...very intriguing.

Very intriguing.

What do you all think of the new IPad, I've heard it will be a kindle-like product.

Anyone heard anything?

I've never gone the ebook route, with a very few exceptions of books I've downloaded to my computer. But it's fascinating. I've got a ridiculous library of scraggle old paperback romances I love. The idea of loading about 500 of them onto one small machine is soooo tempting. Think of the space I could clear out. I could finally find room to properly display my Happy Meal Toy collection.

So, it's of interest to me.
The price of readers like Kindle are enough that I've never made the leap.

I'm amazed that you've been involved in E-publishing so long. Overnight sensation indeed. :)

Diana said...

My fellow awe-struck author. I was there in 2000 and have kept my book there despite the recent sale of the company. It is very hard to remain but a flickering light in that cavern of darkness that is taking place in the e-book world.

I too jumped in without knowing what I was doing, but like you was lucky to land in a place that paid royalties, edited my book and provided the cover. For awhile I belonged to EPIC and still belong to Christian E-authors.

I have to restrain myself from attacking people when they exlaim have you seen this and hold out a kindle, then declare it the most amazing thing. I had a Franklin Ebook Reader and couldn't get many interested in even holding it.

Times change. E-books are more mainstream and I'm glad. There is an expanse of Christian writing that needs to be done, bought and published. There isn't enough money for all the print pubs to buy it. AND there are people who do love being able to change the font size, the light behind the page and find new and exciting authors that write about God's grace in an engaging manner. May His Light shine strong in the blackness of the e-book world.

I too have met writers who are not writing Christian fiction, but things I wouldn't allow in my home. They are doing quite well. That's okay. I'll take heaven, thank you.

ebookauthor said...

I'm pleased to shed a little light on a subject near and dear to my heart. I'm here just in time to comment on the latest equipment announcement- the iPad introduction from Apple. Hmm. I'm not impressed. They still don't have it right, IMHO. I would have a heart attack if that $500 shiny new object slipped off my lap and hit the floor. Nope. Not quite there. I think my best e-reader is still the first one I owned, the Rocket E-Book. I do like reading in bed with all the lights off. The backlit screen allowed me to do that. None of the reader since has had that capability. The powers that be have decided that readers really don't do that???? Oh well. Maybe one day.

ebookauthor said...

Mary, the brother-sister ? book is Little Secrets. It gets complicated, but it is a romance. It does have a happy ending. :-)

Royalties -- In general, e-book royalties per book are higher than the print published royalties, however not as many books are sold in a short time so it takes longer to make the same amount as a "New York" advance. But by the same token, you never have to worry about paying back an advance if your book doesn't meet its 30-day sell through target.

Pauline B Jones said...

Great summary of a wild and woolly time, Connie. You beat me to it by two years! Has it really been that long? It doesn't feel like it. LOL!

Melissa said...

Welcome, Connie! Thanks for all the info. I've downloaded e-books to my computer for years but would really prefer some sort of reader. I just haven't been willing to pay the steep price. Still, they're coming down now, and like Mary, I'm more and more tempted to have a way to save all my keepers without taking up shelf after shelf in my basement! Plus, how cool would it be to have one of those readers that gets online so you can buy and read right when you want! :)

Kim said...

Michael Hyatt over at Thomas Nelson has a lot to say about the coming change in the e-book market. His progressive thinking will certainly take his company successfully forward.

Connie is dead-on with her thinking in this category. The future is just before us, and it will include a LOT of e-books! Great post!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

I think we're all seeing varying options open up as book reading devices become more user friendly, but Connie made a great point about the I-Pad.

That kind of a price makes it less user friendly than the $39.99 variety we'll see in five years most likely. Same as the cell phones, the calculators, the computer (my first job at Kodak was outside the computer ROOM...

One computer took up an entire HUGE ROOM of buzzing, clicking, interactive machines that needed constant monitoring for heat/humidity control. I say this as I sit at my kitchen table with a radically cool laptop that holds probably 1,000 times the memory of that original ginormous machine that suffered from chronic breakdown.)

Now my zip drive holds more info than that behemoth ever dreamed of.

So it's more of HOW the industry will meld into the e-reader age, not when. As Connie pointed out, the When is Now in many cases.

But I still love hand-held books because I'm old and a fuddy duddy, so I've got to jack up my e-reader friendliness. Save a tree or two. And like Mary, it would be SWEET to clean off book shelf space, but what happens if you wreck it and lose that 500 books????

Is there a recovery system?

Grabbing coffee again, badly needed, sinus headache that refuses to let go in this bone-chilling cold. I'm a wimp.


Pauline B Jones said...

Most places you buy ebooks archive your purchases so you can re-download. Some, very few, put a limit on how many downloads. I use Carbonite to back up my whole hard drive, so I have them backed up already. BUT, some formats, such as mobi, require a PID (personal ID) that changes if redownload the software. I hate that, because I have to go in and download the books again.

DRM (digital rights management) is the curse we bear because of pirate sites. It is the industry's attempt to protect their income stream.

It's interesting. People who would never think of stealing a candy bar from a store, will pirate books from torrent sites. Just as we didn't need locks on our doors until thieves began to invade our homes, books didn't need locks until pirating ramped up. It's a pity.

I am a tech junkie. I have an ebookwise (best price for ereader right now), a Sony eReader and a Kindle. I also use my iPhone for eReading. I love them all for different reasons.

My favorite place to shop is and my favorite books are multiformat, which means the files are portable and can be moved to different devices.

Tina Pinson said...

I put out my first e-book in the early 90's (after sending out proposals to traditional publishers and getting rejected) the company took a tank and I moved my energies back to regular book publishing houses. Now I'm trying e-publishing again.
Ahhh The circle of (publishing) life

KC Frantzen said...

Hi Connie ~
Thank you for stopping by!

I'm so sorry you've been ill and hope you are well enough now to finish your WIP.

Very timely post loaded with info to chew on.

This is important since I'm fasting more or less today - how is it possible that it's the end of January and I've gained a pound?! Huh?! NOT the plan...

So another cup of tea and pass the e-reader and e-brownies from yesterday.

Glad to know there are those who've been successful at e-pub. The decisions to make are overwhelming right now.

ebookauthor said...

I'm truly not an equipment junkie, but I have a Rocket (from 1999), a REB1100, a color Palm Pilot, a first generation Sony, a first generation Kindle, and and iPOD Touch. I've always carried an e-reader to show audiences what I'm talking about. The Kindle is not my favorite except for buying books. Kindle makes it way too easy. I can rack up big bucks in minutes. Point, click, wait 30 seconds, read. That is really nice.

Cheryl St.John said...

Great post, Connie! You are my ehero.

Mary Connealy said...

Ruthy, I know you're right that these things will cost $39.99 in a few years but the Kindle's been out a while now...maybe three years? And they've had at least one major upgrade already and the price stays high.

Where or where is the 'impulse buy' price I'm looking for?

Susan Downs once said she was in an airport with her Kindle and she finished a book and was HELPLESS with a long wait.

So, she browsed for a new book, chose it, downloaded it and was reading again almost instantly. That is a HUGE lure. To never again be trapped somewhere waiting without a book.

Now, I know she probably planned to do this. I usually take a few books when I travel and she would have too if she didn't have the Kindle, but the idea of being so plugged in, very tempting.

My books are on Kindle now. And the Kindle does reading aloud. So it's almost 'books on tape.'


Pamela S Thibodeaux said...

What a wonderful post Connie!

My novels Tempered Hearts & Tempered Dreams were initially E Published by Writers Exchange, alas, I like many others bought into the "if it ain't print it ain't published" and left WEE in search of bigger & better - Huge Mistake!

Mistake that cost me neary 4 yrs out of my career!

However, the two WEE titles were re-released by a small press publisher - and are availalbe as Ebooks also.

I've also been blessed to find White Rose Publishing for my "Inspirational with an Edge!" type of you and many others write "outside the box" of traditional publishers but have found not only acceptance but loyalty in Epublishing and readers of ebooks.

Cara & Others who write Inspy - Check out White Rose Publishing!

Another Inspy Epublisher is Mountainview and Writers Exchange does inspirational also.

I know there are a lot more than this, but I don't have much experience with the others.

Good luck and God's Blessings!

Vince said...

Hi Connie:

I’ve written about eBooks for a number of years.

Eventually eBook readers will be almost free. You’ll be at the airport bookstore and the eBook reader will come with the romance you are buying. It will be like the box of film that became the camera.

Books will always be ‘in print’ with the old books looking as new as just released books. Authors will be competing with all the backlists of all the other authors. The number of books available for sale at any given time will increase a thousand fold. Just about any book will be able to find some kind of ePublisher.

The key to marketing in this brave new world will be getting ‘heard’ in the sense of music groups needing to be heard. Downloads are taking over the music business.

Authors will need some kind of ‘seal of approval’ from a trusted source. This could be a trusted publisher, an established book club, or a famous critic. Best seller lists of various kinds will also be important. Having an installed base of loyal readers will be invaluable as we enter the real eBook age. (The real eBook age begins when eBooks make up over 50% of sales.)

Nonprofit Educational foundations will offer textbooks for free to school systems saving billions of dollars a year. Textbooks will be updated anytime as needed. No warehouses and no corrupt selection committees.

The eBook has been around for a long time but we are only in the first days of the brave new eBook age.

My marketing advice to authors is to build an ever expanding loyal base of fans to take with you in this new publishing environment. With thousands of more titles available and not one more minute added to the day to read them, competition is going to be fierce.


ebookauthor said...

Ah memories. One of my early jobs at the phone company was inside the first corporate computer room. The temp stayed at 62 degrees to keep the computers happy. It was a clean room, footies and gloves, just like an operating room. I nearly froze to death in there. I punched edp cards, handled paper tape, read hexidecimal code and in general tried to stay out of the way of the folks who knew what they were doing, to get bills printed. I remember the day in 1984 (?) when my hubby brought home an Apple 2E to tempt me out of bed after major back surgery. He set this cute little machine up in the library across from our bedroom. He wouldn't bring it in to me. It was there for me when I could get out of bed and walk to it. It worked. I was up and walking to my new toy in less than a week. I stood in awe of that little machine, with its 65K of processor. That was as much RAM as we had in our whole computer room at the phone company. That's still the story of computers. Smaller and more powerful, every day. It was an exciting time to be working there.

Pauline B Jones said...

The kindle read aloud feature is very nice, but no, its not like an audio book. It's a computer voice, but a very nice one. It will mess up weird words, though. And it "sees" chapter headings as part of the main text. But it is a huge leap forward and a nice function if you are in a "can't stop" place and have to do something.

My personal opinion on prices not dropping is that publishers haven't "gotten it" yet with books. They are still resisting ebooks and trying to figure them out. Booksquare blog does a great job of discussing publisher problems, so I won't try to do that. But as an eReader, NY publishers regularly alienate/piss me off. A pity it rebounds on the author as lost sales. :-(

EC Spurlock said...

Welcome, Connie, and thanks for the informative post. I'm a bit of a dinosaur myself, not exactly a technophobe but I do not adapt easily to change. However I've been wondering whether to try an e-publisher myself, and I found your experience encouraging. I also tend to write "outside the box", and as I write mostly light fantasy, I wondered whether it might be more popular with a more techno-savvy audience. I have noticed that many e-book sites do lean more heavily toward FFP. Any thoughts?

Praying for you to feel better, and you too, Ruthy. We're expecting freezing rain here in Atlanta, so I'll probably have my own sinus headache before the day is out. Pass the chai, please..

ebookauthor said...

I agree, Vince. One day savvy publishers will give away the e-readers to get buyers to buy the e-books. I just hope one of those publishers listens to those of us who don't want our whole lives tied up in once piece of equipment. We'd just like a good, solid, indestructible, reasonably priced e-reader. Oh well, I can dream.

Mary Connealy said...

I will plod in with my dinosaur feet here.
When I was in college I was given the huge honor of using the colleges brand new whiz bang computer. Yes, they had the big wall computers with the spinning tapes and punch cards, but they also had a smaller computer...about the size of a sofa. I got to use it. I had to walk across CAMPUS to use it.
And I was the envy of all who knew me.

Then, my first computer was an Apple2e hand me down when the local school upgraded.

It did not have any memory.

Get that? Zero. When the lights blinked it went back to nothing. When you shut it down everything thing you'd worked on was gone.

I had to save everything to those five inch floppy disks and one disk would hold about one chapter. Total. A book length document could be a dozen or two floppy disks.

Mary Connealy said...

Here's one more techno fact I find fascinating.

The total computer capacity of the first space ship America sent to the moon, was less than today's average $6 digital watch.

Cyndy Salzmann said...

Excellent post, Connie! Great informaion for new writers as well as those who have around for awhile. Obviously, e-books are only going to become a much larger share of the market. And maybe save a forest or two... : )

ebookauthor said...

Cyndy, the statistics on the growth of e-books are startling. I'll see if I can find exact numbers , but I remember seeing sales figures 2009 over 2008 and it was more than double. It's in the millions of downloads sold now. That's why back lists from the New York Houses are appearing on their own websites. It's an easy way to make some money on all the books they've gone through over the years. Several of my print author friends are now e-authors too, because their books from a few years ago are being sold again as e-books. I do recommend they check their royalty statements to make sure they're getting royalties for those e-books. They should!

ebookauthor said...

Oh Mary, I had forgotten about the no memory. What a pain that was. We had two external hard drives with ours. One held the application disk and the other held the storage disk (5 1.2 inch floppy) heaven help you if you tried to store too much. You'd lose all of it. We had to spray our areas with a mixture of fabric softener and water to keep down any sneaky static lurking. I fried two drives at work before we figured out how to stop it. The 2e had a touch plate on the front to touch and drain away static before you turned on the computer. Took me a long time to get away from the habit of patting the computer before I turned it on. Pretty silly when the ant-static plate is no longer there.

Vince said...

Hi Connie:

Have you and other eBook authors come up with something that takes the place of book signings?

Do you have eBooks on CDs that you could sell at a signing that look like books with cover art on them?

It would seem an eBook author would be at a marketing disadvantage.

BTW: The ‘free’ and ‘disposable’ eBook readers will not be anything like the current ones, Look at the disposable camera compared to a real camera. Look at the musical greeting card compared to a phonograph and speakers, The greeting card’s ‘phonograph’ looks like a button.

Also, the eBook publishers I’ve seen on the web seem to have an endless selection of titles. It looks like a reader could find anything she wanted no matter how specialized that was. Since an eBook publisher can cater to a smaller and smaller target market and still be profitable the writing market might segment into tiny parts. This happened when network radio gave way to the introduction of TV. The same thing happened to national magazines like Post and Life. This is something else that will affect authors.

It’s an exciting time to be an author.


Kerri C at CK Farm said...

Hi Connie!
Interesting post!
Clueless that epublishing had been around that long. Even though things are changing I hope the good ole' book dosen't become extinct.

Debby Giusti said...

Thanks for being with us today in Seekerville and sharing all the great info about e-publishing!

Congrats on your success!

ebookauthor said...

Vince, you're absolutely right. You can find just about any topic or genre in a e-book -- whether you want to or not. Yes, e-book authors are at a disadvantage in traditional marketing methods. Yes, cds with cover art have been tried, some publishers do them, some don't. The problem is finding a friendly venue in which to sign. Most traditional bookstores don't want e-authors around. That may change very soon. But that kind of signing event isn't the way e-authors advertise. They try to reach their e-audience through the internet- with websites, reader loops, contests, anything that will drive traffic to their books. Penny Sanseveri did a book called Red Hot Internet Marketing that has a lot of tips and tricks to marketing on the internet. She spoke at the EPIC national convention last year. Lots of good ideas.

Ann Stephens said...

Finally got a chance to read Connie's post! Both her post and the discussion in the comment thread made interesting reading, especially to a dinosaur like me. I'll probably get an ereader eventually, but not till 1. they come down in cost and 2. I can use read them in the bathtub, lol.

Seriously, I do think epublishing is the wave of the future, whether I like it or not, so I'm trying to educate myself about it. Connie is a great help along that line!