Every budding author wants to see his masterpiece published, preferably by one of the traditional book publishers. After all, that’s where the fame and money is, right? After accumulating a stack of rejection letters, thoughts of ending it all bubbling in the background, reality starts to sink in. There are lots of writers out there competing for the same thing, with traditional publishers closing ranks and picking up fewer new authors all the time.
Still, having written that opus, our aspiring writer is determined to see his name in print.
Having overcome the initial round of depression and getting detoxed, our writer starts looking at other options. Hopefully, he will be wise enough not to fall into the clutches of a vanity publisher and look at e-book publishing. An e-book isn’t exactly what our writer initially wanted, but having reached bottom, it is better than nothing, and these publishers also make his book available in print. The thing is, he will have his book out there! Buoyant, our writer starts his search for a suitable e-book publisher. There are lots of them out there and getting accepted isn’t much of a chore.
When that book is finally published, our author is in for another dose of harsh reality, which will of course, lead to more depression and subsequent detoxing. So, why the depression? Let’s look at what exactly an e-book publisher delivers.
Getting accepted by an e-book publisher means a writer enters into a contract. That can be a minefield, and inevitably, in their eagerness to have a book out there, some writers will step on one or two of them. The two operative ones are contract duration and royalty payment. Some e-book publishers will want an author locked into a contract between one to three years – with no escape clause.
With royalties, our writer is looking at anything between 25% to 50%. What that percentage actually means, the publisher will pay on net proceeds of sales from their own website and external distributors like Amazon. Of course, what our writer really wants is a percentage of the book price, whether e-book or print on demand version, something most publishers will be reluctant to offer.
Another mine is the release timeframe, anything from three to eighteen months. With an e-book publisher, no one should wait more than three months. If an e-book publisher cannot meet that timeframe, perhaps our writer should look at somebody else.
When the day comes and that book is released, our writer thinks he has made it…or has he? The publisher’s contract states that his book will be released in e-book format, POD, Kindle, and a range of other electronic formats. In reality, the publisher will most likely make his book available in only two formats: print on demand (POD) and an Amazon Kindle e-book. Some will also release the book with Smashwords, the optimum electronic marketplace, but most will not. Most often, the print version is likely to look exactly the same as the e-nook. The publisher doesn’t want to spend time formatting the print version to look like a traditionally printed book.
The publisher’s contract also states that they will help the author market his book, which at first glance is welcome news. In reality, apart from listing the book on the publisher’s website and on Amazon, nothing further is done. A publisher might have a Facebook group page where writers can chat and exchange gossip, and some might even provide useful tips how to market a book. In all cases marketing will be up to the author. E-book publishers will not spend anything promoting their writers. Some might go to book fairs, but that is rare.
What exactly does an e-book publisher deliver to the author? Apart from releasing books in e-book format and POD, our writer will get nothing else! He needs to seriously rethink his publishing options. Why stick with an e-book publisher when he has:
– An onerous contract
– Long release timeframe
– Indifferent output formats
– Poor royalties
– Unsatisfactory editing
– No marketing
Going down the self-publishing road starts to look more and more attractive, no? With self-publishing, our writer gets his book out there the moment he uploads it onto CreateSpace, Kindle, and Smashwords. And most importantly, he gets to keep all the royalties! As for marketing, well, he needs to do that anyway.
Are e-book publishers a declining option? Perhaps. As long as there are new writers wanting to get their book out there, not knowing how e-book publishers really operate, these outlets will remain in business. However, for writers who have gone through the process, most are left with a sour taste in their mouths. Okay, what should a good e-book publisher strive to deliver?
– Release books in all formats stated in the contract
– Royalties based on book price percentage
– Have a short release queue
– Provide professional manuscript editing
– Properly format books
– Issue accurate lists of sales
– Have a genuine marketing arm – perhaps the most critical item
With so many e-book publishers out there, a successful one who will attract writers must provide a value-add service, rather than shortchanging its authors. In the meantime, many writers will continue having a bad experience with an e-book publisher.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Stefan Vucak is an award-winning author of the sci-fi Shadow Gods series of books. His contemporary political thriller Cry of Eagles has won the coveted 2011 Readers Favorite silver medal award, and his All the Evils was the 2013 prestigious Eric Hoffer contest finalist. Read more on publishing at: http://stefanvucak.com/choosing-a-publisher-or-self-publish/
13 thoughts on ““Decline of E-book Publishers” by Stefan Vucak”
Just wanted to add to the list of mines an author should be weary of…I have actually seen first hand the actual contract from a self publishing service that required the author to give up their copyright for all eternity and did not have an end date on the contract as a whole. They were literally locked into the contract forever and had no rights to anything more than the small royalty it allowed for, ever.
Slow down, look carefully, research, and be weary of the promises…your dream can be realized without jumping too quickly into these deals. Good luck and spread the word! Debra L Hartmann
Ah, the story of my life!
Going with an independent publisher seemed my best option for my first book. I received at least three if not four edits and a lot of one on one support.
I think I may try self-publishing a novel. I’m not sure if want it to the one I am working on now, but definitely some of my shorter stories. I have met several ladies through my writing groups who are enjoying the process of self-publishing, and are already building up a fan base.
Everything you said in this post is THE TRUTH!
Thanks for your feedback, Patricia.
Am glad I happened upon this timely post. Thanks for caring enough to share your insights. May as well be wise enough to sign up for your newsletter while I’m here.
More than happy to share my experiences with fellow authors, hoping it will help others with their publishing efforts, and possibly avoid some of the problems I encountered along the way.
So, Steven, you’re saying that Smashwords, Creatspace and Kindle are the best bets?
Also, even traditional publishers have been known to “take” all rights for books forever. I guess e-book publishers are no different. Thanks for this article.
Hi Sarina. Yes, the sites I mentioned work well and are easy to publish with. No author should give up any rights to a publisher, especially an e-book publisher. With a traditional publisher, it is a matter of negotiation for a given return. With the above sites, the author retains all rights and can terminate/withdraw a book at any time.
Reblogged this on Sadie Carrieri, romance is it! and commented:
A knowledgeable take on the e-book publishing world with distinctions made between publishing on demand, Smashwords, Createspace and other venues.
Thanks, Sadie. Much appreciated. Let us hope it gives existing and new authors a new outlook on publishing.
This is a timely piece. With so many people trying to publish and traditional publishing in decline, you are right to be sending out a warning. I took a long time to make up my mind, and I think that’s a good thing to do, but ended up with what I believe to be a good deal, so don’t despair fellow writers, because there are good companies out there through which you can self-publish.
I appreciate your supporting comments, Barbara. I agree it is regrettable that traditional publishers are looking inward instead of expanding their horizons.