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Feb 16, 2009

Five Things I Love About Ebooks

Ok, I said what I don't like about ebooks.

But the advantages still outweigh the disadvantages.

1.

Ebooks open up new lengths, a new range of lengths.

At the short end, online publishing has created whole new genres of flash, defined by various degrees of short:

>100 words
>500 words
>1000 words

Short stories of the traditional lengths (1000-7000) remain popular.

But what do you do with those awkward 13,000 word stories which you can't cut down to fit in a magazine but clearly isn't a novel?

This is not a problem for an ebook.

Novel length guidelines on many epublishers look like this:

Quickie: up to 15,000 words
Novella: 15,000-29,999 words
Short Novel: 30,000-44,999 words
Novel: 45,001-69,999 words
Plus Novel: 70,001-99,999 words
Super Plus Novel: 100,000+ words

What about mega-books of 240,000 words? There's no reason these couldn't be published as ebooks either. I haven't seen it much yet, although perhaps long books could also be sold as serials.

2.

One word: $$$$

Gotta say, I like how ebooks pay money. Maybe this is just because the only good money I've ever earned from writing has been on ebooks. (And I've only had three published. The bigger your list, the better the mullah!)

Plus, epublishers get your manuscript from submission to royalty check in just a few months, as opposed to a few years. This is a HUGE difference in the life of an author.

I wrote my first ebook when I was pregnant with my oldest son. I was able to buy Baby's First Christmas presents with my royalty checks. If that had been a print book, it would have been coming out... oh, right about now, probably. He's two.

3.

Another word about $$$$.

Ebooks don't pay an advance. To me this is an advantage. As an author, I don't have to wrack my nerves praying my novel will earn out my advance. Although my books were reasonable sellers, they weren't bestsellers. Yet I don't have any fear my publisher will drop me if I try to sell them a new book. Ebooks pay a larger percent of cover price to the author, another good thing.

My books remain happily on the backlist. Ebooks share many of the costs of print books -- a reputable publisher will still need to pay editors, a marketing team, cover artists, etc.

The COVER ARTIST is very important. PEOPLE DO JUDGE EBOOKS BY THEIR COVER!!!

But the difference with print books is that backlist costs almost no additional money. Bandwidth is a lot cheaper than brick-and-mortar real estate. As an author, you want to keep your backlist. Those royalty checks, even if it's just a little here, a little there, can add up.

It isn't just the cost of paper which makes print books more expensive to produce. Think about it. Every time you buy a paperback, chances are you are also paying for the rent on an office in New York, some of the priciest real estate in the world. Ouch!

I would be quite happy if print publishers would adopt the epublishing business model. Drop the advances, increase royalty percentage. This alone would enable publishers to take bigger risks with new authors, because even if the author doesn't sell well, the publisher is not going to go into the red over that book.

4.

My fourth point is actually a wish, not a reality. Yet.

Right now it seems ebooks only work in certain genres.

There's only a few epubs for Sf/f for some reason, and every time I check their sites, they're closed for submissions. I guess readers just don't buy one a week, like readers do with steamy romances. (This reflects print sales, where romance accounts for half of all genre sales, I believe).

If there were more sf/f epublishers, I would definitely consider selling my mss to them.

And if I weren't too busy right now, I'd take a page from the book of Jaid Black and start my own epublishing house. That would be a tremendous amount of work, but it would be great fun.

5.

The final thing I love about epublishing is that it has completely turned the tables on Vanity Press. Vanities used to be scam artists who robbed vulnerable writers of their money. There still exist such entities online, sadly, such as Publish America.

But self-publishing is now so much more.

Authors who simply tire of waiting for a publisher to want their work, or who want more artistic control of their oeuvre, now have the option of putting together a decent product together themselves for a reasonable amount of money.

Better still, with the internet, authors have an actual chance at successfully marketing a self-published book.

Large publishers and some agents are beginning to see a self-published book, not as the kiss of death, but a legitimate way to prove selling power.

I wouldn't particularly want to self-publish my fiction. I have no real desire to do all the editing, marketing and selling myself. I'd rather write.

However, it's nice to know that there is an alternative to traditional publishing -- especially in a dismal market like this one, where so many publishers are buying less from new authors.

Maybe it's a self-fulfilling prophecy. Without a doubt, new tech and new media are part of the reason for the slump in the old-fashioned publishing industry. As the old-timers retract into a more conservative stance to protect themselves from loss, more new authors will be forced to turn to the new media as an alternative route to exposure. The old-timers will then pick only the proven sellers from the vanity-slush to bring to print.

Maybe this will even become the new model of printing for a while, with self-publishing becoming an almost necessary step for new authors, the way it used to be necessary for aspiring sf writers to publish short fiction in the pulps before they could sell a novel.

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