To E-Pub or Not to Be?

I didn’t post yesterday because I was on short time. After the workout, I grabbed breakfast, cleaned-up and headed down to Brighton, Colorado for the monthly meeting of the Colorado Romance Writers (CRW). I met up with Liz Pelletier in Ft. Collins and we drove the rest of the way together. Meeting Liz in person was great fun, since we’d only ever talked online, via the FFP loop (the Futuristic, Fantasy & Paranormal interest group of RWA).

The CRW folks welcomed me graciously and with great enthusiasm. Renee Hagar, who writes as Renee Knowles, and both writes and is an editor for Wild Rose Press, gave a workshop. Wild Rose Press is interesting because it’s an e-publisher. I confirmed with Renee that they have no bricks and mortar offices. The editors work out of their homes, books are published either electronically or via a print-on-demand service, probably through Amazon.

Wild Rose Press is an up and coming publisher for romance, which continues to be the hottest selling genre. And they have my full manuscript right now. It makes a writer like me feel torn. If Wild Rose Press will have me, how could I turn them down? Yet, electronic publishing still carries a stigma. RWA will not allow ebooks for consideration in the industry’s most prestigous award, the Rita — the romance equivalent of the Hugo or the Nebula. RWA’s stance is that the writer is not valued enough in e-publishing. When few writers make more than $1,000 on an e-book, RWA has a point. Those are hardly professional wages. To provide a contrast, ten years ago Redbook magazine paid me $3,000 for one essay, which was right about the “industry standard rate” of $1 per word.

E-publishing is clearly the future. As the big publishing houses tighten their belts — Houghton Mifflin Harcourt editors were recently told not to acquire new books — as printing materials grow more expensive and less acceptable in the Green Era, shipping and distribution grow more problematic, e-publishing is the answer to so many problems. E-book readers are becoming popular and affordable. And a younger generation is coming up without the resistance so many of us feel to reading electrons on a screen. I think there’s no denying that e-books will eventually lose their stigma and will be the primary, if not exclusive medium, for reading in the future.

And yet, the advent of the internet has clearly devalued the written word. Blogs such as this one, where I write for free, abound. Anyone can pay to have a book published. E-publishers can take risks on new authors because it costs them little investment — a double-edge sword for the writing world as it’s easier for a new author to get published and yet, it implies that the standards have lowered.

And the writing itself? Is inarguably cheaper. Never mind a writer being paid $1/word. From an e-publisher, she may be getting less than 50 cents per book. Which, of course, is better than no book at all.

What a brave new world, and what shall we make of it?

3 Replies to “To E-Pub or Not to Be?”

  1. My vote: forget about awards and just think about what your reader want. If you please them, the rest might click into place.
    j

  2. I think Julianne has a good point. The whole point of blogging is to build an audience, readers who like what you write. E-pubs arguably are a stepping stone to bigger and better.

  3. The publishing world is strange and getting stranger. But isn’t it foolish for writers to trust their fate to indifferent corporate conglomerates?

    I admire you two for finding new and interesting ways to get your work in front of readers. Julianne’s first book was published with a small press and she worked hard to get the book in front of readers because she had to. She also markets through MySpace. Jeffe, you’ve been blogging for a long time and keep finding new and interesting markets for your work.

    We have to bring as much creativity to marketing as we do to our work. Drat!

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