Why E-Publishing Calls My Name

Let’s be honest.  We all prefer traditional publishing.  You know, a real, hard copy of our books available in bookstores nationwide, worldwide even.  Just the idea of holding my book in my hands, tangible, validated by some credentialed person who does not know me, gives me that funny, excited feeling in my stomach, butterflies. However, I keep getting the same little message presented to me by the universe.

If I can’t get an agent, at least e-publish and put it out there.

A coworker friend is married to a writer who just finished a non-fiction book.  They live in a local university community and are friends with people that are both published and publishers.  Instead of querying agents, her husband plans to simply e-publish and hope he can build an audience before approaching or being approached by the necessary people.  His strategy is not unusual.  I read about authors almost daily that e-published, found readers, then published traditionally.

Then, of course, there are all the agent blogs that criticize e-publishing.  A few try to suggest it’s a viable option for some, but the undertone is always condescending, like it is still some kind of vanity press.  My friend pointed out that of course they feel this way, e-publishing diminishes the value of an agent.  Numbers speak to publishers for themselves.  This recent Forbes article sums up the indie publishing debate quite nicely.

Still, I would be thrilled to have an agent fighting for my book.  I’m planning to query the little list of agents I assembled in the spring, thirty some-odd people that represent successful works similar to mine.  But, when I reach the end of that list, rejection rite of passage likely complete, I will be left with the choice to e-publish and put it out there, so perhaps, some people who like it will find it in the sea of other novice, e-published authors.

If you have e-published, how did you decide to price your work?  What platform(s) did you choose?  With what success?  I’m inclined to charge just a dollar or give it away for free, because really, my goal is not so much to make money, but rather to begin the foundation for a lifelong career.  Other books will follow.  I know this is a debated topic, so I am curious to hear your thoughts.

Of course, the goal is this, but maybe in the beginning, it’s better to start somewhere than nowhere at all? (And, yes, this is a recycled pic from my leftover pile of summer reading I wish I had time for!)

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6 thoughts on “Why E-Publishing Calls My Name

  1. kingmidget says:

    When I wrote One Night in Bridgeport, I set about trying to get an agent or a publisher who accepted non-represented works. 20-25 letters later, with only a handful who bothered with a rejection, I set about re-writing the story because I realized its limitations. Once the re-write was done, I tried again. 20-25 letters later, with only a handful who bothered with a rejection, I gave up on the traditional route. I turned instead to writing short stories, working on other novels and biding my time. I also didn’t necessarily have a lot of confidence in Bridgeport. Fast forward to about a year and a half ago. I decided to try e-publishing with my short stories and Bridgeport because nothing was going to happen with them otherwise. That was basically the motivation — put them out there and see what happened.

    With the two short story collections and Bridgeport, I published in paperback via CreateSpace on Amazon (createspace.com) and also e-published for the Kindle (kdp.amazon.com). With Bridgeport, I also e-published it on SmashWords.com, a site that makes it available in every e-reader format.

    What have I learned — a professional looking paperback is virtually impossible unless you’re willing to pay extra. You can e-publish with absolutely no money out of pocket and publish in paperback at CreateSpace for next to nothing. One of the important things to do is read excruciatingly carefully the documentation each of the sites provides that describes how to format your documents for publication. Cover art is important. Proofreading is even more so.

    The first few e-published books I read were filled with typos, missing words, misplaced words, etc. I swore my books wouldn’t have the problem. I proofread them. Then, I began reading to my youngest from one of the collections and was aghast at the typos. Not a lot, but still. So, proofread, proofread, proofread. Bridgeport — which I edited one last time, and then proofread one last time — still has a handful of typos. Have somebody you know will read it word for word do so before you push the publish button.

    What else have I learned — it takes a long time to get any headway. Yeah, I just wanted to put my books out there and see what happens. No, actually not. I want to make some money at it. I’ve basically sold enough copies to cover what costs there are. Which means it’s time to turn to marketing them now. I haven’t really started those efforts yet, so I have no lessons to share yet.

    I think this scratches the surface, particularly because there are steps I’ve yet to take.

    Oh, and as for pricing — that’s a tough nut. I believe we e-publishers should get something more than .99 a copy. Yeah, maybe we can’t charge the full price established authors can, but … On the other hand, price something at .99 and you may get a lot of people who are willing to give it a try. With the paperbacks, CreateSpace sets a minimum price you can’t go under. With e-downloads, you get to set it wherever you want. My theory is that I start at a little more and gradually drop the price. I mean, come on, Bridgeport is a full-blown novel that took me years to write, re-write, edit, re-edit, and get out there. I think I should get something more than 35% of .99 for each set of eyes that reads it.

    • oliviaobryon says:

      Thank you for sharing all of this– it gives me some good perspective of what lies ahead. What an interesting publishing world we now live in… I still find myself conflicted but it is very helpful to hear the experiences of others! I get what you’re saying about pricing, too, I just figure I have a better chance of getting readers for less money. I think that’s my only initial goal is readers, money would be nice, but is less important at the moment. Still, I understand why you feel your efforts are worth more. Tricky choices!

  2. Seb says:

    I’ve been traditionally published. It’s over-rated. Especially the part about royalty checks.

    • Seb says:

      Sorry. Let me expand on that – in my line of work, everyone, I mean everyone has an idea for a book and has varying degrees of experience within the publishing food chain. Almost everyone I know who has the goal of traditional publishing and gone the e-publishing route as a stop gap has regretted it and feels it has been along term impediment to their ambitions. That said, in 6 years blogging on MySpace, I bought 8 books traditionally published by writers I knew there – so I would say they were pretty good odds. Stake out the boutique presses and be prepared to earn very, very little money in the short to medium term. Do it for the glory!

      • oliviaobryon says:

        Very interesting input! And, yes, definitely doing it for the glory. Would just be nice to be able to afford to spend more time doing it! Do you think things are shifting at all with the move to more people reading electronically? In what ways did they feel it was an impediment to their careers? Did e-publishing make later publication more difficult?

    • oliviaobryon says:

      Haha, I can imagine. The glory is worth it, right? 😉

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