Thursday, July 17, 2008



We did a poll, asking for the most common "myths" you hear from readers or from other authors about e-publishing. Some of these are completely false. Some may have been true once, but no longer. A few have a kernel of fact, but have been misconstrued or misinterpreted or blown way up beyond reality.

1. E-publishers only put out books that NY has rejected. / E-pubs will publish anything submitted to them.
Hah, tell that to the 95% of submissions we rejected. E-pubs are able to accept and take a chance on books with a smaller audience, a niche market, a less popular setting or time period or theme--so a great book could be rejected by NY because it wasn't considered marketable (wouldn't make enough sales) but may be something an e-publisher can do.

2. Anyone can start an e-publishing company, all it takes is a computer and website.
And anyone who does it like that will fail. Like any new, small business, you need a business plan, marketing plan, start-up money, talented people, and a strong understanding of the market and the business.

3. All e-publishers are shady businesses, hovering on the brink of failure.
See above. An e-pub is a small business like any other, and has the same needs and risks. As an author, research the e-pubs you are considering submitting to.

4. E-publishing is vanity or self-publishing.
Legitimate e-pubs work just like print publishers--all money flows from publisher to author. Vanity/subsidy publishers charge fees to the author for publishing their book, sometimes for services like editing or cover art.

5. Authors can't make any money in e-publishing.
Tell that to all the e-pubbed authors making enough to support themselves (and their families). A few make over six figures in royalty income annually.
The kernel of truth in this is that only authors in the hot genres in e-books make a lot of money. Or megaselling NY print authors whose books are also available in digital (but that's not true e-publishing, just a secondary market format for them). If the genre of book is readily available in great quantity and variety on bookstore shelves, then readers aren't driven to the e-book versions.

6. The only successful e-books are erotica or erotic romance.
See above. I've heard that some types of sci-fi also do very well in digital. But the digital book market is slowly growing, especially with the advent of new popular e-reading devices like the Kindle and Sony e-Reader.

7. E-books aren't "real" books. / Everybody prefers holding a "real" print book.
Err, what do you mean by "real"? A "book" is a story, no matter what format (including audio books). And more and more people are seeing the benefits of e-books and choosing them over print books in some cases.

8. E-pubs don't promote their authors or books. / E-pubs aren't "invested" in their authors.
Smack you upside the head, RWA National, for such a stupid and wrong attitude. E-pubs spend a lot of time (which means dollars) grooming newbie authors. E-pubs promote their books in total and promote the format overall, which benefits all their authors. And face it, nowadays only a tiny portion of NY print pubbed authors get advertised by their publishers. The marketing budgets no longer exist. Primary responsibility for promotion is in 99% of cases up to the author, regardless of publisher or book format.

9. E-books are not edited, the quality is poor.
May have been true ten years ago, but not now. New publishers, whether print or digital, are likely to start with less experience in and funds for editing. But the established e-pubs have quality to rival anyone. E-pubs do as much if not more substantive editing and copy editing as the big NY print houses. If you as an author feel you are not getting good editing at an e-pub, you need to discuss this with your editor or the publisher.

10. All e-books are short stories, the authors can't write full-length novels.
Huh? At ECPI and many other e-pubs, we do the full range of story lengths--short stories through books longer than a typical print novel. Kernel of truth: e-publishing does allow for shorter stories to be more easily and frequently published. One isn't contrained by needing a page count long enough to print, or having to batch novellas into anthologies to be big enough to throw on a printing press.

11. E-book covers are all poor quality, computer-generated "pod people".
Again, for a new publisher, that is the fastest and least expensive cover art to generate. But established, experienced e-publishers have moved away from that, now are using photos, illustrations, or CGI that is so good you can't tell it's not real.

12. If you publish an e-book, you'll never be able to get a NY publisher or agent to take you seriously.
This had some validity four or more years ago, but no longer! NY editors and agents regularly "raid" the e-pubs to acquire authors. NY publishers buy up the rights to previously e-pubbed books in order to issue the books themselves in print. Look at all the newer popular romance authors who started in e-publishing and used it as a springboard to NY - Lora Leigh, Cheyenne McCray, Angela Knight, Diane Whiteside to name but a few.

13. All e-book authors aspire to leave e-publishing and become NY print published.
Many e-book authors picked up by NY houses continue to also produce e-books. And some authors are not interested in making the change--the benefits of e-publishing better fit their lifestyle or priorities. Benefits: A monthly royalty check (regular income, rather than few-and-far-between advances); less stress due to fewer deadlines and being able to work at your own pace; submission process is easier, faster, less expensive, doesn't require an agent; can publish more frequent books; can write a broader type of story for smaller markets; more flexibility in story length; very loyal and active readership. Plus the wonderful income benefit of always having your whole e-book backlist available for sale, rather than having your print book disappear off the store shelves within a few months.


Anny Cook said...

#13 is a complete explanation of my reasons for staying with an e-publisher. Excellent.

lynneconnolly said...

I love the international nature of the e-publishing market. Here in the UK it's still difficult to get hold of US published romances, but you can buy an e-book anywhere.

J L said...

Uh, excuse me: #9: Yes, I've been edited and my books have been improved because of it. Believe me.

And #10? Sorry, I've TRIED writing a short story and just can't do it. I only write full-length novels (6 or 7 to date).

Kate Willoughby said...


Chris Redding said...

Here here.

Terry Odell said...

I hate people talking about #7. Until that perception is changed, however, it's a tough row to hoe. My e-books are 'real', but they don't get recongition until they come out in print, even though the words are exactly the same. All of a sudden, with a book in my hand to show, people will say, "Oh, you're an AUTHOR! How exciting."

Kimber Li said...

Ha! I didn't fall for any of them. Number 11 varies by ePublisher and after interacting and reading the blogs of several ePubbed authors I strongly suspected Number 13 was not true.

Mona Risk said...

Thank you for defending the quality of ebooks. Ebooks come in all length. My books are 75,000 words romantic suspense.

Virginia Lady said...

What an excellent post! Thank you for bringing to light the truth about e-publishing!