It's been quite a week, what with the storms sweeping through the south, and the administrative chaos at work caused by cancelled final exams, so here's a post I wrote a little while ago:
This is the second part of my thoughts on the world of e-publishing. I wrote below on the advantages of e-books for readers, especially voracious ones. Many years of online ‘fan fiction’ and growing e-publications of short fiction have prepared a tech-savvy audience for e-novels, but I’m more interested in how this medium is now being brought to people who weren’t necessarily in that category (OK, people like me), and why authors have chosen this route. Once again, when I began to write I realized I could only just scratch the surface of the subject, but I hope this gives you food for thought.
What are some of the advantages and disadvantages for authors? Well, for a start, it is a fairly new business, and obviously no one yet knows the long term pros and cons, nor which, if any, will prove to be the equivalent of the big publishing houses. Author Maggi Anderson points out that the industry has been "likened to the Wild West." However, traditional publishing houses are not without their risks, either: just like e-publishers, they may merge, cut budgets or even fold just when an author is in the middle of the publishing process – and believe me, I know several authors who have experienced these setbacks. Writers must treat e-publishers with the same caution they would treat agents or other presses, and do their background research on sites such as "editors and preditors" or "absolute write writer’s cooler."
Submission to publishing time is usually much quicker, meaning that not only will an author get to see his or her work in ‘print’ sooner, but that fans will get it, too. Some, like author Diane Scott Lewis, select a publisher that offers both hard and electronic copies, giving the reader the flexibility to choose her preferred format.
One charge often leveled is a snobbish one, that e-publishers are less ‘picky’ than traditional ones. However, I think that a brief survey of what gets into print today, and even onto the bestseller lists, will quickly prove that rubbish rolls off the press every day. To look at it another way, e-publishers can offer both writers and readers a more eclectic selection, as Maggi Anderson comments, books that would not otherwise fit in with the traditional print publishing lines. This goes for length as well as genre; e-publishing may well facilitate the rebirth of the neglected novella. E-publishers also don’t tend to require an agent as ‘middle man’, a boon to writers frustrated with the process of finding representation (although I’m extremely happy with my new agent, I can empathize with the agonies of the search!).
It would seem to me that e-publishing also has the potential not only to offer eclectic works, but to tap into an eclectic audience: not just the tech-savvy but other groups such as those who travel frequently, and who read voraciously, especially in genre fiction. It would seem obvious that serial romance readers, for example, would welcome the speed and convenience of downloading several novels that take their fancy from a single site. It may also widen the age range of an author’s readers – after all, we all use the same search engines. (I might point out here that some responsible e-publishers such as Eternal Press require signing in to access information on books with a more adult content.)
E-publishing also offers writers a chance to maintain a backlist of books that would otherwise be consigned to ‘out of print’ status. A case in hand would be author Kathy Lynn Emerson, who has joined forces with several other writers in an experiment to offer both old and new, exclusive digital content in their website www.awriterswork.com. I recently downloaded a collection of her Susanna, Lady Appleton short mysteries for literally a few dollars.
Postscript: I wrote this about a year ago, and the explosion of e-publishing since then has been phenomenal, aided and abetted by lower prices for e-readers, and the popularity of tablet computers such as the Ipad. Some major review publications now print a separate e-book bestseller list. I'd be interested to revisit this post in another year!