The Times They Are A-Changing

- by Nancy Gideon

Just when you think you know where it’s at, somebody moves it! That’s how I felt about the e-book revolution.

I had no problem with e-readers and e-books . . . as long as I had print to fall back on. The feel of a book in hand, the sight of it on the stands, the thrill of opening that box of author copies – to me, in my 25th year as an author, that’s what being published was all about.

Publishing has changed massively since I was first on the shelves in 1987. I’ve seen book distributors and wholesalers shrink for over 500 to 5 or less, bookstores and book chains closing their doors, shelf space devoured by the bestseller list and reprints, and now the Big Six condensing into the Big 5 (and perhaps shrinking as I type). More and more of the contacts and avenues I was familiar with and had used successfully were gone.

Like the vinyl platter LPs of music and bulky VHSs of movies, was the paperback becoming the next dinosaur in this digital age?

When my publisher approached me with the idea of writing two e-exclusives for my next contract, I confess, I was cautious (and alarmed!). I’m not one to leap on new technology in any shape or form . . . but the advance was a tempting carrot. I like to be gainfully employed.

But I didn’t know anything about selling e-books as a product, and the Pocket Star e-exclusive line was a new venture for my publisher as well. I’d never sold anywhere near as many e as print titles for them. Because I’m admittedly OCD it was time to weigh the pros and cons . . . and make a list.


PRO:

• Money. A nice advance to pad my 9-to-5 income. Mama needs a new knee.
• Faster turnaround. I’d get another book out in 2012 and one in mid 2013.
• My “By Moonlight” dark paranormal series would continue and I was willing to do some serious compromising to make that happen.
• Money. Over half of new book sales are now e-editions . . . but how would that translate with print totally out of the picture?
• Space. There’s no more room under my bed for boxes of author copies. 54 titles is a lot of hoarding.
• No pressure to do book signings. I do them but, other than the chance to meet readers and booksellers, they’re not my favorite way to spend an afternoon . . . directing shoppers to the cookbooks or the famous author section.
• Money. A bigger royalty percentage. Bigger is better (unless it’s a pant size!)
• Easier to do giveaways. The hassle and cost of mailing paperbacks, especially to International winners, would be as simple as my Amazon One Click.
• An aggressive publisher marketing plan. A new venture for them – more exposure for me. It sounded like they were really on board. But I’ve been down this road of promises before. In the back of my mind I’m hearing whispers . . . “Yes, these ARE magic beans!”
• Money. Competitive price points to lure new readers and reward regular fans. Pushing a $7.99 paperback in a $0.99 download world is a tough sell.

CON:

• Not everyone has an e-reader.
• All my PR connections were through print avenues. How was I going to let readers know I had a new book available? If they don’t know about it, how will they find me?
• Loss of dependable review routes like Romantic Times and Publishers Weekly, and no exposure in venues like Romance Writers of America’s Romance $ells.
• No early covers to make use of advertising opportunities in venues that did accept e-books. Without flats in sales packets, covers were almost a last minute detail.
• Going from a print paperback pond into an e-ocean of available books was hugely daunting (I have a fear of deep water!).
• Disgruntled fans. The minute faithful readers of the series found out Books 7 and 8 weren’t coming out in paperback, I started hearing from them. They had all the other books in print and wanted the entire series that way.
• It’s an untried frontier for Big Six publishers who are notorious for being the last ones to get on the boat. Was I going to be left without a life jacket?

No big surprise from the prevalent entries on the PRO side, cold cash won out . . . the bird in the hand syndrome. It was time for me to suck it up and learn new tricks again, and hope readers would follow.

Day after Release Day. I’m still like an e-virgin. I’m upping my social media game to coax readers to use that one click (I know they’re out there – I can see them adding my title to their Must Read list on Goodreads). I’m tiptoeing my way around the digital ropes, which is a good thing since I’ve gotten a big chunk of my old titles reverted back to me and can look toward e-books as a means to recirculate them. But the jury’s still out.

Talk to me in May when the second book of the contract comes out. By then I’ll either be smiling all the way to the bank or banging my head on my keyboard at the thought of being forced to learn how to do my own formatting,

Speaking of money (my shameless motivator), there’s one HUGE perk of having a new e-exclusive: Special pricing! For the first four weeks after my 12-17-12 release, BETRAYED BY SHADOWS, the 7th book in my shape-shifter series (“Publishers Weekly LOVED earlier books!” I keep shouting), is available for sale at the jaw-dropping price of $1.99! No waiting. No lines at the checkout counter. No shipping & handling fee. $1.99 and Shazzam, you’re reading it!

Just click. Go ahead. You know you want to. It’s sooooo easy . . . and I don’t really want to have to learn formatting.

7 comments

  1. Nancy, thank you for sharing your experience. I will definitely be checking back in May to find out how it all turned out. And I wish you the very best of sales in the meantime.

  2. I’m glad you took the plunge, Nancy. You’re right about so many things– “Easier to do giveaways. The hassle and cost of mailing paperbacks, especially to International winners, would be as simple as my Amazon One Click.”

    And if you have readers who don’t own Kindles, you can “gift” (I hate when nouns become verbs without prior notice) on Sony and Nook–that last unless you’re Canadian–and likely many other e-book seller sites. I’ll be interested in your next report.

  3. Pay someone to do your formatting! It’s usually $40-$50. Way worth the frustration, time, and energy!

    Best of luck!

  4. Good luck on your new venture and do let us know how it works out. I’ve been fortunate to have help producing original e-books and controlling the whole process without a publisher intervening, and it’s been an adventure and a huge learning curve. But well worth the effort!

  5. Great list of pros and cons, Nancy. As writers, we’re doing what we can to get our stories to our readers. Good luck with the new book!

  6. Ditto what Fran said.

    Fingers crossed.

  7. I don’t own a Kindle, but have the free Kindle app on my Mac, and it’s easy to download ebooks. Tell your fans they can read your new ebooks on their computers.