Wednesday, March 13, 2013

An e-book publisher made you an offer!! Now What?

I have a Sony Touch and it's my preferred choice when reading books. It's my second Sony e-reader. I used to have a Sony PRS 505 which had a hefty price tag when it first came out. 

I acquired my e-reader shortly after I'd published my first novel with a start-up e-book publisher in the U.S. I didn't carry any grand hopes and aspirations when I decided to sign with them, I was just bloody glad that someone out there thought my novel about a 40-something superhero was entertaining enough to publish. That was back in 2008 and now flash forward  five years to a slightly wiser and more successful author, the question arises: would I do it all again?

Now I'm not besmirching the good name of e-book publishers and their authors, I want to make a couple of things clear. First off, e-books still only represent about 5% of sales in publishing. That number is expected to grow in the coming years and over the past 24 months, we've seen an explosion in the number of print publishers starting their own e-book imprints. This is an anticipatory move, in my view, because ebook readers have dropped below the psychological $100 affordability barrier and they can be found for sale pretty much at all retail outlets.

But ...

What about e-book publishers?

There's a TON of e-book publishers out there - some are scams and some aren't. Some report their sales figures and most don't. Some have brand identification and consistently put out a good product while others, not so much. If you're an author, you have to put on your thinking cap and do a little bit of research into an e-book publisher because they're not all created equally and as a result, you might wind up with abysmal book sales.

 This might have to do with the quality of the books at a given publisher, but in actual fact, my gut tells me it's about marketing and brand.

You are an unknown author and if you choose to accept an offer of publication with a little known e-publisher, the chances of your book making any money are pretty damned slim. Even if you accept an offer from an established e-publisher, how do they market your book? Print publishers work very hard to ensure product placement at major book stores, but e-publishers are still pretty much unknown to the book-buying public who actually own an e-book reader.

Brand matters. Period.  If you sign with an unknown e-publisher, they'll probably get your book listed on Amazon, but will it sell? Well, chances are unless you have a viable social network then my answer to that question would be:

I was lucky - I ended my relationship with my e-book publisher because my book wasn't selling. No, the book didn't suck - it's just that I was an unknown author struggling to get his book noticed with a largely unknown e-book publisher in a market where e-books make up about 5% of books published in a world where e-book readers still aren't owned by the vast majority of consumers.

And that's really the critical factor I'd recommend any author to consider before they decide to submit to an e-book publisher: does my novel have a ghost of a chance of making any money at all?

Yes, there are some e-book authors who've developed a following and make a fine living writing e-books, but remember: they're the exception and not the rule. Kindle, the gold standard in ebook readers can be purchased for as little as sixty bucks now but does this mean that readers are going to buy an e-book from a largely unknown e-publisher? I doubt it: they're going to buy from an established retailer like Amazon and they're probably going to purchase something from a bestselling author whose book is published by a known print publisher who just so happens to digitize their books and who sells them on Amazon or Chapters or Barnes and Noble.

Oh ... and did I mention the glut of self-published ebooks you have to compete with? Oy! I get Twitter spam every day from authors who are following me and trying to flog their self-pubbed piece of crap which they are *giving* away on Amazon. It drives a person nuts!

I'm going to make a prediction and it might not be a popular one, but here goes:

I think that within five years, we're going to see a ton of small e-publishers disappear. I think we're going to see measured growth for e-publishers who are a known quantity, and I expect that large publishing houses are probably going to buy them out if they're profitable. By then we'll also see that major print publishers will have an e-book imprint and will be selling e-books direct from their own corporate websites as well as online venues like Amazon.

What this means for the struggling author is that the small independent e-publishers will probably be gone and that e-books having become mainstream will follow the same rules as print books from a major publisher - get an agent.

It ain't pretty, but in truth, there's a helluva lot of bad e-books out there. There's a lot of scam publishers and there's a market flooded with e-books from e-publishers nobody has ever heard of before. That's the reality of e-book publishing in 2013.

I'll close by stating an old rule of sales: people buy from those they like and trust. People trust major publishing houses and they know established brands. This is bad news for small e-publishers, but publishing has always been a risky venture. Authors still face incredible hurdles on their way to publication, but as the price of e-readers continues to drop, the more mainstream they will become. As more and more people invest in them, they're going to shop for books the same way they buy print books: from someone they know and trust (Hello Amazon) and based on the recommendations of those in their social circle (Hello Goodreads).


  1. One of my friends did much much better when she self published her erotica books verses when she published through an epublisher. Plus, then she got all the money instead of only portion of it.

  2. I agree, Stina. If you're not going to go with a traditional publisher, I think you have a much better chance of making "some" money going Indie versus going with an e-publisher. Like Sean says, the Indie (or e-published) authors who make it big are the exception and not the rule, but not every self-published novel out there is junk (IMHO) and Goodreads and Amazon reviews do bear this out and help push sales for e-published and Indie authors.

  3. I'd also say that in addition to scams, pay special attention to the types of covers being produced by the e-publisher. Your cover is your single biggest piece of marketing. If it is not good, your book will not sell. Period.


Breaths that matter...

Related Posts with Thumbnails