Oh Brave New World that has such E-books in it!

- by Elaine Isaak

Last year, I asked for a Kindle for Christmas–mainly because Kindle is currently dominating the e-reader market, and I wanted to know what my readers are experiencing when they read a book this way.  It makes me feel slightly guilty, especially after my local independent bookstore, Toadstool Bookshop of Milford, Peterborough and Keene, NH, came out rather strongly against the Kindle in particular (mainly because most versions don’t support other e-book formats, tying you to Amazon as a vendor).

However, I still do a lot of my shopping at the Toadstool because there are a good many things my Kindle can’t do.  I buy many books as gifts, for instance.  Also, I prefer to have many of my research titles in print so I can mark passages in a more effective way, flip back and forth easily, and examine the visuals.  Lately, I have been known to sample a book on Kindle, then purchase it in print.

Which brings me to many questions about the e-book revolution.   Hugo-award winning SF author Robert J. Sawyer once said that e-books would become the dominant form when everyone already has in their pocket a screen with sufficiently high resolution to read on.  Can you say smartphones?  The e-revolution has turned the publishing world a bit upside down.  I think you could feel this happening at our Brainstorming on the Beach conference in 2010 where the publishers seemed. . . concerned.

However, light dawned for many authors at that conference about how the revolution can do great things for us.  And that sense of optimism was consummated at this year’s Ninc conference, with all sorts of data and workshops on how to take advantage of new media, especially for the author with a substantial backlist.  We now have much more power than we used to.  We have viable alternatives to the traditional world of publishing (submit, submit, submit–they use that word for a reason).

But is e-publishing now the best way to go?  On the whole, I’d have to say no.  E-publishing is working very well for certain genres.  It’s buoying the incomes of many mid-list novels who are able to put up several backlist works at once, especially in series, especially partnering with a distributor like Smashwords.

However, you still need to have a great, well-polished manuscript.  Those backlist titles have already been edited, revised, truly prepared for the reader’s pleasure.  It helps to have either a reputation (a platform) and/or multiple titles ready to go.  Should you  publish your first-ever fantasy novel online?  Don’t expect to see great sales.  Should you publish the five-volume series you’ve been working on for years?  You have a much better shot at success, in part because of the presence those volumes will bring on the virtual bookshelf.

And you still need a great cover.  Really?  For an e-book?  Really.  In the absence of name-recognition for authors, a great cover captures the reader’s attention long enough to pause and click.  Worse yet, this cover needs to look great as a thumbnail on a black-and-white reader screen.

You’ll shortly be hearing a lot from us about the Novelists, Inc conference binder which includes great information to help you make choices about how best to serve your publishing future, and how to enter the e-book fray with a minimum of stress.  Ninc as an organization is forward-thinking, hoping to help our members navigate this new terrain and work together for the future of writers.

The e-revolution is exciting and full of promise–it’s also daunting and full of turmoil.  I can hardly wait to see what happens next!

One comments

  1. I fought getting an ereader, but now that I have a Kindle, and earlier, a Kobo, I’m finding that I read more widely, and explore cheaply. As one of the authors, Elaine mentions, who is putting my backlist into epub, this whole new game has been wonderful. However, I ache for those authors who have not reclaimed their rights and are unable to make use of this new outlet.