Mark Terry

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Future of E-Publishing

August 19, 2010
I shall reiterate my bona fides:

I have been published in trade paperback and in hardcover. I have been published by a "medium press" (Midnight Ink, an imprint of a very large non-NY publisher, Llewellyn) and by two small presses (Oceanview Publishing and High Country Publishers) and a nonfiction book coming out from another (Greenbranch Publishing). I had a short story appear in an anthology that was published by one of the Big 6 in both Hardcover and in mass market paperback. I published a book via iUniverse.

I have had e-books published by my publisher (The Fallen) and I have self-published e-books for the Kindle (Monster Seeker, Edge, and The Battle for Atlantis), as well as released traditionally published novels as e-book reprints (The Devil's Pitchfork and The Serpent's Kiss).

Here is what I have concluded about the future of e-publishing based on my experiences with it:

It's growing.

I can't make any other predictions than that. There's not enough evidence and my experiments with it are somewhat inconclusive, although my e-book sales also can be defined as "growing" although not to the degree that I'm jumping up and down and willing to turn down traditional publishing contracts (far from it). I am, however, willing to invest some time and money and energy into e-publishing some projects that either haven't found a home or are unlikely to find a home. It's still experimental, but the investment in money tends to be low, so it's likely that at the very least I'll make my money (if not necessarily my time) back.

So there ya go. The Sage of E-Publishing Hath Spoken. Thus Spake Mark.

10 Comments:

Anonymous Eric Mayer said...

Always interesting to hear news from the frontier. I hope epubbing becomes a viable alternative. Right now, from what I know about sales, if I personally had a novel I really wanted people to read, but I had decided I couldn't sell it I'd probably be inclined to turn it into a pdf and put it on my website for free.

9:28 AM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

Eric,
There's no reason you couldn't do both. Logic would suggest the free PDFs would undercut the Kindle sales, but from what I'm hearing from the rest of the world, that doesn't seem to be the case.

9:49 AM  
Blogger Erica Orloff said...

Mark:
Jon Van Zile has a good post about this today. He and I (over the phone) were talking about these "predictions" that--from a pure debate perspective--lack anything to back them up. Like today, Konrath noted that had the book he mentioned been cheaper, he would "bet it would have sold four times as much." Now, economic theory dictates that yeah, price point is an issue, but there's all kinds of pronouncements without anything for SURE. I could say, "Bet it sells 20 times as much." Or x or y. No one KNOWS.

People also are saying, "If you self-pub, you'll keep 70%." Which is true, and if you have a NAME or are willing to lay off writing in order to promote like hell, there's a business model that makes sense. But then I think--okay, that's the book as it is (traditionally published)--but if Author X did it themselves, it won't be professionally edited (perhaps) or influenced by a rock-solid NY editor (most likely). And Author X gains exposure by being published and in bookstores. Again, not that it MIGHT not be lucrative . . . but the variables are too many to make any sort of pronouncements more concrete than yours.

I think it's a wild ride right now. I think some cool things can happen. I love my Kindle. I like not killing trees. We'll just have to see . . . :-)

E

12:08 PM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

The whole thing reminds me of in the 1990s when iUniverse came out and it was going to end publishing as we know it. A lot of writers, including me, experimented with it. Didn't destroy publishing as we know it (didn't sell many books, either). The primary difference between that and e-books is the control of the price point and the distribution model.

With iUniverse books, occasionally they got into a bookstore, but mostly they were available through Amazon or the iUniverse website, or hand-sold. And the pricing for the trade paperbacks tended to be a little high--Catfish Guru was, I believe, $17.95 for a trade paperback when it should probably have been $12.95 or so.

It's not to discount the importance of price point and distribution--those are HUGE differences--it's just that the writer/industry buzz seems totally identical.

NOW all the would-be writers are saying, "We have a level playing field and I don't need some snotty editor that can't see my genius to hold me back."

Yeah, that's what they're saying, and we all know it.

"Oh God, it's going to destroy publishing," is what the publishing industry is saying. (Or they're saying, "WTF am I suppose to do?")

Well, maybe. Certainly the major publishers seem a little slow to get on the band wagon, but they can't just shut down their paper system now, it's still more than 90% of their business. I don't think paper will go away, but I suspect it'll be harder to come by and maybe more expensive.

As for the killing trees, I'm not sure most of us want to delve too deeply into how "green" e-books and other devices are. They use a lot of cadmium and other metals mined by children and slave labor in miserable third-world hellholes, and electricity is usually generated by coal or petroleum products. I'm not sure that recyclable trees for paper is as bad a thing as people sometimes think.

12:22 PM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

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12:22 PM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

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12:22 PM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

http://tiny.cc/ukt59

12:26 PM  
Blogger Erica Orloff said...

MArk:
I have yet to meet a book (mine included) that doesn't need an editor.

So the idea that a bunch of snot-nosed editors are sitting there NOT seeing genius is kind of funny. They WANT to find the next gem. I don't know, I've never had an adversarial relationship with one (well . . . maybe one).

And I have a half dozen proposals that never sold . . . and in each case, I can NOW see why. And it's fixable, and maybe I will finish them and put some on Kindle. As a writer we're ALWAYS evolving. But the rush to slap anything and everything up there? I don't see that either.

E

1:32 PM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

Erica,
And I would add to that--the ones I've self-published, I rewrote and/or edited yet again before putting them out there. And I'm seeing their strengths and weaknesses better, too. And, just FYI and for anyone else who gives a rip, the reason I haven't e-published The Fortress of Diamonds yet--if ever--is because when I was rewriting it I became rather ambivalent about the character and the story, particularly at the end. Part of that is due to changes I made when my agent stuck her oar in about the ending. I don't like the alternate ending, but I see at least some of her issues with my first ending, at least in terms of the readership's age. The whole story might have been better geared for YA instead of MG and if I had done so, I think it would be a vastly different story. I also think I would have been better off working with a male main character instead of female...

Anyway, let's just say, I'm being fairly selective about what I e-publish. The entire issue of putting up the follow-up to Dirty Deeds has come up repeatedly, and besides problems with the computer files, when I read what remained of the manuscript, I just wasn't happy with much of how I wrote it. I'd probably feel that way about Dirty Deeds now, as well.

I'm a better writer now with somewhat different sensibilities.

1:45 PM  
Blogger sex scenes at starbucks, said...

Yeah, I'd tend to put it on my website and then also make it available for kindle, just cuz I'm loving my kindle app on my iPad right now and so people who read that way want their books that way! But it would be done not to make money, but to get my name out, to make the book available, and to be read by some people.

But having only eBooks out right now, they're so far a pain to promote. People like STUFF in their hot little hands. I'm trying to decide on a promotional item for the fall...

4:04 PM  

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