by Raelene Gorlinsky
The below is posted on the ESPAN-RWA (Electronic and Small Press Authors' Network), part of the recent raging debate about RWA National's stance against e-publishing. (According to them, you are not necessarily a published author and you are not "career-focused" if you publish through an e-publishing company.)
ESPAN asked for an upbeat and positive article about e-publishing, so let’s chat a bit about why you as an author may want—or not want—to consider submitting books to an e-publisher.
For me, the major issue with RWA’s stance on e-publishing is that they are saying there is only one “right” way—only one publishing model that is fair to authors. I think authors are intelligent business people who deserve information on the benefits and risks of all the options available, and can then make their own choices for their career.
Remember, this is not an either/or situation. A great story is a great story, regardless of format. And digital is not going to replace print; there will be readers for both. You can have books at both primarily print houses and at e-publishers. (And with either, your book is most likely to at some point be available in both digital and print formats.) You have the opportunity to individually evaluate which path is likely to be best for you and for each book you write—and the answer will not only be different author by author, but may vary for different books from the same author.
So let’s take a look at some of the reasons you as an author should consider to go the e-publishing route. You must evaluate if or how each of these fits into your career plan.
E-publishers are more able to take a chance on new authors or risky stories. That gives you more freedom to write the type of story you want, reach niche markets and subgenres.
It all comes down to the business reality of “Can we sell enough copies of this book to cover costs and make a profit?” The massive advantage of e-publishing is that we can take chances on books that the big print publishers won’t touch. If you’ve got to sell minimum 10,000 or so copies of a mass market paperback to make a profit, and have to commit money up front (an advance) to the author that the book may never earn, then of course a sensible publisher only wants books aimed at the middle-of-the-road majority, ones they feel are a “sure thing”.
E-pubs will look at the advantages of a great book aimed at a small niche market or by an unknown author with a quirky style or in a chancy sub-genre that is just reaching for popularity. An e-publisher can cover costs on a much smaller number of sales, and so is willing to take the risk of offering opportunities to authors that big publishers won’t give them. (Remember, NY rejected erotic romance until e-pubs had built up the reader market for it and turned it into a successful genre with big sales.)
More flexibility in story lengths.
Print publication requires some physical size and pricing considerations. Readers just don’t perceive a book with a quarter-inch width to be value for the money (unless it’s a free promo item). So short stories and novellas have to be batched into anthologies for print. And a publisher can sell only so many anthologies, meaning the available slots are very limited. They also recognize that many readers won’t pay for a full anthology book if they don’t love all the authors contained.
But a digital book can be any length, and can be priced accordingly. And readers seem to love buying individual short stories. So there is a huge market within e-publishing for that shorter story that NY has no space for.
A monthly paycheck.
No, most e-pubs do not routinely offer advances. But most pay royalties monthly (a few quarterly, I’ve heard), based on actual sales. Many authors feel they manage better with a steady income rather than a big chunk once or twice a year. Or they want a combination—most of the Ellora’s Cave authors who’ve now sold to traditional NY pubs are continuing to write for EC for that very reason. They’ve told me they want or need that monthly “paycheck” from their e-pub to carry them between advances from NY.
Less stress due to being able to work at your own pace, fewer deadlines.
Submission process is easier, cheaper, generally faster. Doesn’t require an agent.
Being able to get published more quickly, and have more books come out in a shorter period of time—thereby building your name recognition and fan base.
Backlist, backlist, backlist!
An e-book doesn’t go “out of print” until the contract expires (if ever), unlike print books that disappear from the store shelves within a few months and are not available anywhere once the print run is sold out. New fans of an author purchase backlist heavily, so the story generates continuing income. Many an e-pubbed author is making more from backlist than frontlist.
Many e-publishers also eventually issue some or all of their books in print.
So, again, it isn’t an “either/or” choice—just a choice of where your book starts.
So make your decisions based on what is right for your career and your life. There is no need for “us” versus “them” in the publishing industry. It’s all “we.”
Raelene Gorlinsky, PublisherEllora’s Cave Publishing Inc.