I was going to continue Emerald City workshop recaps today, but decided to piggyback onto Pamela Loewy's post from yesterday, especially after a conversation with a couple we met while out to breakfast. The coffee shop is small, as is the community. We'd seen this couple in the shop many times, and finally made those introductions. During the getting acquainted phase, I mentioned I was a writer. Things followed the usual path from there, and I offered them my bookmarks. Normally, I get, "Can I get these at the bookstore?" This time, I got, "Are they on the Kindle?"
First, and I've said this before, I'm all for choices. Abolishing either print or digital formats is NOT a good thing. There's room for both, and definitely places where each works "better" for an individual reader.
Right now, we're watching e-publishing move from infancy to crawling. Publishing itself is changing, and digital options are nudging the changes at a speed traditional publishing isn't used to.
E-book sales rose over 170% last year. More and more readers are showing up on the market, prices are coming down, and there are more and more ways to deal with format issues (which is still, I think, the biggest obstacle). As a matter of fact, one of my publishers is now expanding their format offerings to include e-Pub, which is the preferred format for most of the current e-reader devices, including the Barnes&Noble nook, Sony Reader, iPad, and Kobo.
Publishers are abandoning mid list authors. That's diminishing the choices for readers, and making it harder for an author to generate enough income to justify the time spent writing a book. As bookstores close, mass market sales will be in the major discount chains. Walmart looks at bottom line, not gambling on new authors. If they can make more money selling underwear, that's going to get the shelf space. Big name authors will sell, therefore that's what they'll stock.
Also, the time factor in traditional publishing makes e-publishing look good to authors. Right now, editors are acquiring for 2012 and 2013. If you're trying to break it, it's likely you've spent a good year writing, polishing, querying your manuscript. If you land an agent, there's more time waiting for editors to decide if they're going to buy it. Anything timely in your book will be out of date before the book can hit the shelf. Likewise, writing to today's trend isn't a wise move, because who knows what will be 'hot' in 2013?
E-publishing with an e-publisher is much faster. Self-publishing to digital sites such as the Kindle, Barnes & Noble, or Smashwords is virtually immediate. There are those authors, including many such as J.A. Konrath and Bob Mayer, who swear by getting their works up, who say they're making more money in digital sales than they did with print.
But those are big names. Bob Mayer and JA Konrath have a track record for quality. They've got back lists. They've got a following. Mid-list or newbie authors who go the self-publishing route aren't going to find their books selling simply because they're there. The ease of putting a book up on these sites often lures those who are tired of rejections, but haven't come to grips with the possibility that their rejections might be due to sub-par work. This adds to the "stigma" of being self-published, as Pamela mentioned.
The marketing angle Pamela discussed yesterday is going to hang over their heads. If you can't drive traffic to your e-book's 'store', it's unlikely people are going to find it. There are a kazillion books and stories out there. And if you're an unknown, readers are looking for cheap. Real cheap. I can cite the number of Smashwords downloads for my 2 free short stories versus the two that cost 99 cents: Freebies: 1375 downloads. Free samples of the 99 cent books? 133. Actual purchases? Well, that's too depressing to mention, since it tells me that readers who read the samples weren't enticed enough to fork over the change for the full read. I'll even admit I haven't made enough money off those two stories to hit the minimum required to actually get paid.
I've put WHEN DANGER CALLS (a backlist, formerly published in print novel) up at the Kindle Store and will soon be on Smashwords as well. I've priced it at $2.99, which, compared to the original hard cover price of $25.95 is definitely cheap. I'm NOT comfortable doing a lot of in-your-face promotion. I've mentioned it here, on my website, on Facebook, Twitter, and a dozen or so group loops. Am I raking in the royalties? Ha! My goal is to make enough money to "earn out" what I paid to get the rights to the original cover. And I got a very good deal on that. I'm not even close.
But that doesn't mean I don't think e-books are a waste of my time, or that they're any better or worse than print books. No. That choice should be the reader's.