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Wednesday, May 23, 2007

E-pub Authors--Do you need print?

There's an extremely interesting discussion being held on another blog. It started as an interview of Patty Marks, CEO of Ellora's Cave, centering on the challenges of small presses to produce and market print books (treebooks, as I like to call them). The conversation shifted when Patty made a comment about authors getting upset about print books being delayed. The blog owner then asked epublished authors to respond to her question about whether they care about having books in print or not.

I have my own thoughts on this topic. But I have to say, Nora scored some major points in my book for saying that ebooks are real books.

My slant, for those who care to listen...

First, understand that I write to provide for my family. That's not to say I don't love writing. I do. But what I'm trying to say is that the focus of my efforts is on producing income to meet the basic needs of my children. The money doesn't go into a vacation account, or pay for nonessentials. It buys food. Pays the car payment. Buys clothing. And I'm not working toward meeting some intangible lifelong dream, like having a friend see my book at Walmarts or becoming a local celebrity. Writing is my career, my business.

Now that you understand my situation, I'll share my opinion.

Having my ebooks put into print is a nice bonus, but it plays no part in deciding where I'll submit my books for publication. I make the vast majority of my monthly income from ebook royalties. I've submitted books to epublishers, never expecting to see them in print. And I'm okay with that. I'm perfectly content taking my ebook royalty checks to the bank every month.

Granted, I am writing for a NY house, and I receive advances on those contracts. And I am able to schedule book signings, libarary appearances, conferences, etc. because I have those print books to market. However, those events do little for my bottom line, at least at this point.

So, the answer to the question, "Do you care if your ebooks are put into print?" is no.

Do all epublished authors share my opinion? No. Actually, I suspect most epublished authors have heard over and over from readers, "I don't read ebooks. I don't want to read ebooks. I like to hold a real book in my hands." They are frustrated when they go to conferences and don't have books to sign. They are treated like second class citizens by some of their peers and feel a need to be legitimized. They want books in print. They value paperback programs at epubs because that is their only means to getting books in print. I can certainly understand that. I can also understand the frustration of spending money to advertise a print book that ends up being cancelled or delayed.

But me--I look to my epublishers to publish ebooks. I look forward to the day when ebook readers are affordable. Ebook sales reach the hundred thousands per title, like some treebook sales do. And when all authors, ebook and treebook, are considered equal by most professional organizations and influential individuals.

Anyone else care to share their opinion or concerns?

posted by Tawny Taylor at 6:46 PM |


Commented by Anonymous Marty:

My two cents...I think people are involved in e-publishing for some very different reasons. Whether they think it's the wave of the future (and they're at the crest), whehter they believe it's a stepping stone to a larger publishing house (read: treebooks), or whehter it's a career choice (they make good money). I'm with an e-publisher, who also sends novels to print. I like that, but quickly learned that print and e- are two very different markets and have to be approached that way. While I like to see my work in literal print on a page, I have also contracted pieces that I know will not be sold in that format, which means that's ok with me, too.

11:01 AM 
Commented by Blogger Amanda Brice:

I won't pretend that my dream isn't to be in print, because it is. That being said, I don't expect an e-publisher to print me. I just don't. I went into this game knowing that if I was to be in print, it would probably have to be with a traditional publisher. i understand that and accept it.

I also understand and accept that the majority of my market will ONLY read print books. That's because I don't write erotic...I write straight-up chick lit and YA, and most of those readers prefer print books to the point that they've never so much as even considered buying an ebook or don't even know that they exist.

But will I stop submitting to e-pubs? No. However, I will continue to strive to reach print pubs with the work that I feel would do better with a traditional publisher.

I'm not ashamed to say I want NY. Of course, I can't say that writing is my career, or even that it will ever be my main career, even if I do sell to NY. It's my hobby...a hobby that I spend way more time on than the average hobby, but it's a hobby nonetheless (for me, at least).

11:21 AM 
Commented by Blogger Nell Dixon:

All of my e books have gone to print but that wasn't a factor that influenced where I submitted my work. I write for a number of publishers and this is my job. E publishing enables me to reach a different market. Like Amanda, I don't write erotica. I write sweet romance and chick lit. Lots of people told me there wasn't an e book market for those genres. They were wrong - the market may be smaller and not as visible but it's growing. Yes, I love to see my books in print but I'm just as thrilled with my e books.

11:37 AM 
Commented by Blogger Portia Da Costa:

Hi Tawny

First of all, what a refreshing relief to read of someone like myself, whose writing income is the one they live on and pay basic bills with. I love writing, just like you do, but the income is important. It pays for utility bills, taxes, food, veterinary bills, you name it...

I've only had a couple of things epubbed so far, but I went into those deals because I was interested in being epubbed not because they would/might be printed eventually. Yes, it'd be great to see the longer book in print, but that's just a nice extra. I'm mainly print pubbed, but I do see that epubbing is growing and growing and before not too long, I suspect it'll be on a par. And that's great! I don't have an ebook reader myself yet, but I love gadgets and soon I'll probably get one. And from what I hear on lots of big blogs, thousands of other romance readers are using ebook readers now. It's just another way to read.

I love epubs because they're a great way to get shorter works published... and... yes... earn some money from them!

Thanks for a great post, Tawny, and well said...



11:44 AM 
Commented by Blogger Diana Castilleja:

I would love for what I earn through e-publishing to actually pay for something. Right now, I'm lucky to buy McDonald's with it. I have a loooong time before I'm going to make enough being e-published to make even a credit card payment with my royalties. (I write novel length stories (60K+) non-erotic. I couldn't write short and hot with a gun pointed at me. *BG* )

When I started writing, I looked at traditional houses first. I had no idea e-books even existed. Unfortunately, that's the majority rule. I'm not claiming this is a factor against me, my writing, or my sales. It just is. People didn't like the automobile when it was introduced. It took two generations to mobilize this country. I expect the same will happen with e-books and readers.

Am I glad they do exist? Yes
Do I feel legitimate? No (Thanks Nora. Really adore that sentiment, but people want the real thing, and digital is not paper as of right now.) And you can't sign digital. (Just my PHO, but it's like the car. When people recognize the CD as a form of media, rather than the paper page, it'll be a huge improvement for the e-publisher and their writers. Even Audio books get more love than e-books. It'll come. Hopefully while I'm still writing.)

Which is my biggest problem. I want to do signings, get a broader fan base... Signing a business card/cover flat/bookmark while four other authors have actual print books to sell and sign will not help me.

Do I feel it's feasible for everyone to do print? Of course not. Most e-publishers don't have the bank to handle print, and all its facets, nor the PR to get shelf space.

When I started e-publishing, it was a stepping stone to reach NY, the learning ground. Shelf life in e-publishing is only until the next release, when the next ones take the picture location of the spot my book glorified.

I will say, I came into e-publishing knowing the majority of this. I did research, read, asked questions. I'm not stopping. I would like to be with a NY house, but I also recognize the odds of that happening. On the other side of that, I would like for e-book publishers to do print, but know it's likely not going to happen.

Overall, I've accepted this. So I do what I can to get attention to my e-books. It's what I have to work with, so that's what I'm doing.

12:02 PM 
Commented by Blogger Emma:

As an epub author I don't want to be in print. My current publisher doesnt release print copies of their ebooks but if they started to I'd really have some considering to do. It wouldn't have to do wanting to be released in print via an epub but more with the length. Weird, I know but length is more of a concern than anything.

12:22 PM 
Commented by Blogger Ciar Cullen:

Hi Tawny. Love your honesty here. I'm in a different situation. I have the day job as my primary financial support, and as Amanda said, writing is a bit of an avocation. I would like it to be more, but for now, it simply isn't my career.

I am interested in New York partly for ego reasons, and partly because my books, while they contain graphic sex, are not super erotic. That is, I can write a super-duper book and without the heat level, I'll never make a ton of money. Am I wrong about that, folks? The hot stuff sells in the e-marketplace. Does anything else? Could you support yourself on epublishing if it weren't erotic?

My interest in writing somewhat-hot paras and fantasies makes NY very appealing frankly. Harder to break into, of course.

As for epub to print, there are some financial benefits, depending upon the company, no doubt. More outlets, more sales.

12:40 PM 
Commented by Blogger December Quinn:

Print is important to me, because I prefer having a print book--mine or others'. (Having said that, though, I suspect once I finally get an ebook reader that opinion will change considerably.)

I deally I'd like to do both. I love being at EC and want to stay there no matter how much other stuff sells elsewhere (fingers crossed.) But I admit part of me just won't be satisfied until I can curl up in bed with one of my own books.

12:58 PM 
Commented by Blogger Shelli Stevens:

What a great post, Tawny! Print would be nice to have in my hand, but honestly I'm not sure it matters. Mainly because the people who won't read my book in epub, probably won't read it anyway because it's erotic romance. So having it in print makes no difference.

1:37 PM 
Commented by Blogger Jennah:

I would love to be able to pay some bills with my writing and I'm working on that. Aside from that motivation, I don't care whether my books are epubbed or print. I love to write and want that to be my career. Whichever one helps speed me in that direction, is the right route for me.

2:20 PM 
Commented by Blogger Bernadette Gardner and Jennifer Colgan:

When I first sold an e-book I never expected it to see print and that was fine. When one of my ebooks was released in print, I have to admit I felt more like a 'real author' though I hate to use the term. After going through the honeymoon period of publishing [I can hold my baby in my hands!] I realized that I can't afford to be a purist in any sense of the word. I write stories, some of which I'm well aware will never get to print. Others I would never send to an epub unless I'd exhausted all the possible print markets first. Like you, Tawny, this is my career. I want to balance the need to create with the need to make money and having relationships with epubs and print pubs will allow me to do both. I hope, anyway. ;)

2:32 PM 
Commented by Anonymous Anonymous:

As an eBook publisher, I just want to say that nothing would please me more than to make all of my authors happy. Some would like to see their works in print, others are good either way. Indeed, we have many titles that should be in print in order to broaden our readership, but the bottom line with a small press like ours is that monetary investment is involved.

There is the risk of a high return rate, to say nothing of the POD stigma that haunts good, legitimate publishers (P.O.D. = C.R.A.P).

Nonetheless, I will keep working on it for my authors. I've been on the other side, too, so I know what it is like to sit at a signing with discs while the readers buy the paperbacks. On the other hand, one of my authors did well selling discs at RT. Plus, our authors make more with eBooks than they would with paper, and they do realize. I do think print lends validity to a certain extent. So those of you with an ePub seeking to be in print, be patient. Keep promoting and selling and it just may in the cards.

Hopefully one day I'll find a POD machine at a yard sale and make everybody happy.

2:53 PM 
Commented by Blogger Tawny Taylor:

Thanks for all the thought-provoking comments! I'm very grateful to everyone for their willingness to share, be honest and real, and not resort to sniping.

Anonymous, I don't know which epub you are, but I hear you! Thanks for giving the other side's perspective.

3:22 PM 
Commented by Anonymous Sage Burnett:

I'm just happy to be published. Two of my ebooks have gone into print. Many epubs consider print if the book is long enough and has good sales. I've also written shorter books that will never go to print. For myself, I don't see epublishing as a stepping stone to NY. Right now I'm content with epublising my books and the extra money it brings in. I take my epubbing career very seriously and that includes writing, editing, and promoting.

4:37 PM 
Commented by Blogger Jenna Bayley-Burke:

It depends on the my career I have both sides, th ebooks and the treebooks. I think it is imortant to find the place where the book will get the best sales/distribution.

Besides...print doesn't mean more dollars. Trust me.

12:54 AM 
Commented by Blogger Dusk Peterson:

One of the communities I market my writings to is the original slash fiction community. Original slash is 99.99% digital. There's lots of stuff that's like it that's published professionally, but the actual writers who use that genre label are almost entirely online writers.

Gay erotica - similar situation, though not quite as unbalanced. An editor of gay porn magazine told me that he attributed the failure of one of his magazines to the rise of online gay porn. There are a goodly number of print anthologies for gay erotica, but the bulk of these writings appear online.

So most of my readers are used to reading on the computer. When they run across these genres in print, they're usually quite delighted, but they don't have the strong need for print that, say, a mystery reader might have.

On a personal level, I'm partially sighted. I love print books, and I hope they continue to be published for a long time . . . but I can't read them for most of the year. Most of the time, if I want to read a print book, I have to scan it into my computer. Buying an e-book saves me that trouble.

3:19 AM 
Commented by Anonymous Anonymous:

Hi, Tawny!

Like so many have said, there are many reasons people publish with ebook pubs. For me, no NY house would touch the subject of BDSM. Ellora's Cave had no such hang-ups, however, and so I became an ebook author.

While there is something to be said about the feeling of legitimacy one gets from seeing your name on a print book, I suspect it's really a generational thing. I'm old enough to have witnessed the development of computers from massive machines that were run with punch cards to the tiny tablet laptop I'm using right now to make this post.

But the younger readers are more and more tech-saavy. I don't think it'll be even a decade before someone comes along and does for books what the ipod has done for the music industry. Ebooks ARE the future.

Another argument can be found in your term "treebook". With the increased awareness of our fragile ecological status, more people will look for ways to save those trees. In fact, this past Earth Day, that was my catchphrase: Save a tree, buy and ebook! Just like people are switching from incandescent light bulbs to the more efficient will they, in time, make the switch to ebooks.

(Caveat: I really don't like the new lightbulbs and will hold onto my old incandecents in some rooms for as long as I can. Again, a generational thing. By the time my grandkids are adults, they won't hardly know what an incadescent bulb is and so won't miss it. Yes, you can make the same argument with print books.)

Thanks for a good topic, Tawny!

Diana Hunter (have included my full name 'cause the firewall here at work won't let me log in. Grrrr)

9:40 AM 

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