Monday, June 16, 2008


by Raelene Gorlinsky

Next month I'm doing a presentation at an RWA chapter about e-publishing, including some of the "myths" that abound amongst writers. Things like "you can't make any money with ebooks" and "a book accepted by an e-publisher wasn't good enough for NY publishers" -- both very untrue. But of course, I'm in the publisher world, I don't know what things authors and aspiring authors commonly hear about e-publishing. So help me out here - post some of the supposed wisdom or "facts" you hear about the e-book world. I'll incorporate them into my presentation, and respond to them on this blog.

Thanks for your help.


lynneconnolly said...

"E books never caught on like they were supposed to" - it didn't happen all at once but it's sure happening now.

"Only geeks read e-books"
"E-books will never replace print" - well they were never meant to.

The general assumption that the medium and the message are the same - that an ebook is what it contains, rather than a way of delivering books.

"They're not as good as print books" - with NY published authors like Deidre Knight and Linda Sole/Ann Herries regularly publishing in e-format, and NY best-selling authors having their origins in the e-publishing industry that's no longer true - if it ever was.

I've been around in the e-book world a long time, and the same ones pop up with wearying frequency. But I don't have to defend them like I used to because the e-book doesn't have to prove itself with each new release.

Terry Odell said...

Check the Dear Author blog -- this was a big topic over the last day or two.

My books have finaled in contests such as the Lories (behind Brenda Novak) and the Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence (Karen Rose won that one). I'm up for the Daphne as well, so I think quality isn't a fair putdown. BUT - it wasn't until I had print versions of those books that I started seeing success.

I don't think e-books will replace print. I think they're an alternative.

As for the money -- well, as a mainstream e-book writer, I'll be totally honest here and agree. The sales don't fill my gas tank (and that was before the recent astronomical price jumps). It would be a different story if I wrote erotica, but I don't.

Again -- check the Dear Author site, because there were a lot of NY print house authors whose books are also offered digitally (which is NOT the same as publishing with primarily e-book house) comparing sales.

I buy mainstream books electronically, but I'm hindered by formatting allowed on my reader.

Amy said...

Interesting question.
Quality-wise, there is just as much of a range from bad to oustanding as there is in the "traditional" publishing game. Many authors go to e-publishers for artistic freedom because traditional publishers will not accept the book because of the time period or other reason that had nothing to do with the writing. So it's not always a question of quality but perhaps the content is not "marketable".

That said, unfortunately, the economics are quite different. Erotica/romantica sell very, very well because it appeals to the desire for privacy that some customers still have. The reader may not want to walk up to the cash register with a particular book. I do believe this is changing, however, and as more NY publishers get into the erotica game, this may erode the market for e-books in this category.

For other types of fiction, unfortunately, e-publishing is not cost-effective or time-effective. If the book is not on the shelves at Wal-Mart, Target, or the local bookstore, then right there, you lose most of your reading audience. There are very few effective ways to attract readers to your book in particular, except extremely time-comsuming methods that take hours away from writing and may get you only 1 reader for every 5 hours of promotional effort.

As e-book readers proliferate and devices like the Kindle become more widespread, there will be more readers shifting to e-books, but there are so many e-books available now that again, the chance of capturing the attention of even 100 readers is slim. Readers are picking up e-books from their favorite paperback/hardback authors so it is very difficult to establish a base of readers if you've never "been out there" on the shelf at Wal-Mart.

I would love to see this change, but the reality at the moment is that e-publishing for new authors, or authors of books that have no erotic elements, face an uphill battle to get even 100 readers. Compare that to a small, first-run of 20,000 for a new author in a traditional publishing house and you can see why the economics make e-publishing a less viable option if you need to earn enough to live on as a writer.

It's not a question of quality. It's a question of economics.

Angela James said...

Melissa Schroeder, Shelley Bradley and I are doing a workshop on this at RWA Nationals next month. I have a long list I compiled thanks to the Romance Divas if you're interested in it, it might save you some work.

Terry Odell said...

Another e-pubbed author friend and I did a workshop on this at the Southern Lights conference. I'm happy to share survey results.

Cindy Spencer Pape said...

Heard this one the other day, "E-books are okay if you can't write a full-length manuscript." No IDEA where that came from. My first e-book was 100K, and these same people consider Harlequins full-length.

The "no money" one comes up A LOT!!!! I think they're really thinking "no advances."

"Not as good" comes up all the time too.

And my all-time favorite, makes me want my baseball bat, "they're not "REAL" books.

Unknown said...

I'm part of that RWA group and very much looking forward to hearing your talk!

From a writer's stance, perhaps you could address "where the money goes". I've heard writers grumble that since it "hardly costs anything" to put books online, that e-publishers are getting rich. (Because apparently cover art, editorial services, shopping cart technology, etc., are free.)

Laurie M. Rauch said...

That's my chapter. :) I'm looking forward to hearing your presentation.

One of the questions I keep getting is "How much does it cost?" A lot of people don't realize that in a good epublisher (or print publisher) money flows to the author, not the other way around.

The other thing I think can never be reinforced enough is how to find a reputable epublisher - where are the best resources to do your research, what to look for, what to ask.

ECPI Editors said...

Hoo boy, is this one a wild myth.
"I've heard writers grumble that since it "hardly costs anything" to put books online, that e-publishers are getting rich. (Because apparently cover art, editorial services, shopping cart technology, etc., are free.)"

You got it right, Storm. Creating a book in any format involves all the same costs up to the point of production. For ECPI ebooks, there are the fees to the editor and copyeditor, cover artist. And of course management and overhead - accountants to pay the royalties, production people to format the books, and don't forget Customer Service staff! The only difference between e and print is the production and shipping costs. And e-books aren't free of those costs - maintaining an effective ebook site and shopping cart is very costly.

The big print publishers now getting into making their books also available in digital format are discovering just how much money and time it takes to do it right.



The most common reason you will hear is that "I would much rather read/hold a REAL book." as if an E-book isn't real. It's on paper, its just not from a bookstore (yet) and doesn't cost $15.95.

I had some authors tell me NO tradional editor or publisher will take me because I am an E-book author. (NOT TRUE)

E-books are by "housewives" and "Lonely working women with nothing to do." I'm not lonely and I have a job.

I could go on, but you don't have the time

Samantha Kane said...

I'm going to give you a myth from the other side of the coin, "All e-book authors aspire to leave epublishing for NY print." The wanna-be myth.

Um, nope. I like epublishing because it fits my career needs right now. I set my own deadlines, I write what I want, I get a nice royalty check every month (instant gratification, yay!), and there's not as much pressure to increase output in order to maximize your publishers investment. I know a lot of epubbed authors who feel the same. So, we are not all dying to get into NY. Sorry. I've seen too many authors who hit the high pressure of NY and their work tanks.

As for the money, I would advise any new author who bases their writing decisions on earning potential to find a new career.

Anny Cook said...

I'm with Samantha. As a matter of fact, as a reader, I've been very disappointed with the NY books produced by former e-pubbed authors. I suspect that they're too busy trying to be something different.

Anonymous said...

Sadly for me, e-books haven't caught on in Canada. Big problem, e-readers are not available here. I ordered my from the States and had to pay $50.00 broker fee plus the cost of the reader. Few people will read a book on a computer although a friend of mine read two of my books on her laptop. However, more and more young people are gadget oriented and send text messages - next step, read e-books.

Save the trees - read e-books should be our mantra.

ECPI Editors said...

Terry and Angela, I'd love to have copies of your lists, thanks for offering. You can send to me at

The group I'm speaking to is the Toronto Romance Writers.


TJ Michaels said...

I'm sure folks have mentioned all of these already but a few I hear ALL the dang blasted time are:

"You can't make money with eBooks" So far I make FAR more money with my eBook sales than I do with my print books. Period.

"The quality of eBooks isn't as good as 'other' books"
- WRONG! I've been writing for only two years, but guess what - in both 2006 and 2007 my books were nominated for and even *gasp* won various awards such as the CAPA, the Erotic Dreams Reader's Choice awards. They've received 'recommended read' status, blue ribbon reviews and tons of 4 and 5 star ratings from all kinds of organizations. If the books sucked, I doubt they would get anything other than a toss in the can.

Besides, when you get folks like Lori Foster and Shayla Black signing with eBook pubs AFTER hitting it big with New York pubs, that ought to tell you something.


Anonymous said...

"You can't make money with eBooks" So far I make FAR more money with my eBook sales than I do with my print books. Period.

That's you. You're with a big house. I know of one ebook publisher that has been around a couple of years with a reputation for being nice and the sales are averaging out at less than 25 copies per month. In some cases a lot less. You cannot make any money with sales like that. You might as well self-publish - it is unlikely that you will be any worse off.

Yes if you publish with one of the larger ebook houses - Samhain, Elloras Cave, Loose Id etc you can make pretty good money especially if you are doing erotic romance/romantica. If you publish with one of the rest it is highly unlikely you will make anything more than a little pocket money in the first couple of months before sales dry up.

Amy Ruttan said...

I always hear that I wasn't good enough for NY by selling to an e-pub first.

I hate the way people (especially in Canada) when people don't know what Ellora's Cave is and don't believe I'm selling books. LOL!

Which is so untrue.

And I targeted EC because that was the publisher and the type of story I was marketing.

Amy Ruttan said...

BTW, you're coming to my RWA chapter!! I look forward to meeting you. :)