The E-Publishing Experiment

Spring Fever, by Harma-Mae Smit. Cover by Paulina D. (all rights reserved)

So I decided to take a shot at e-publishing. If you listen to the hype, the world of e-publishing has exploded in the last couple years—it is the way of the future, it will revolutionize the industry, and so on and so forth. I’m not sure if all the evidence supporting that is in yet, but I still think e-publishing is a worthwhile experiment for authors. Which is why I e-published a short Christmas story yesterday. After all, what have I got to lose?

Only the chance of ever being taken seriously by traditional publishers, if you listen to the detractors of e-publishing. Self-published e-books look amateur, are unedited, and only sell if you’re lucky. Hmmm…

Oh well. I can’t get a feel for something until I try it, which is the reason for this experiment. I don’t expect to become a best-selling author by next Monday, that’s for sure. But how am I going to understand this new world if I don’t dip my feet in? It is just so different from the traditional route—already my head is whirling with different distribution platforms, methods of advertising, and formatting issues. And thus, Spring Fever (yes, that’s really the title, though it has to do with both Christmas and spring) has been published.

You may think this post is just a plug to let all my lovely readers know I have e-published something (I don’t know if the word ‘self-published’ makes sense because I’m not really doing the publishing myself). But truly, I want to hear your thoughts on e-publishing. Just a fad, or here to stay? Would you try it?

 

 (Spring Fever is available at Smashwords and Amazon)

Note: yes, I did forget to post on Wednesday. How could I forget??? I blame it on exam-and-paper stress.

(This post contains affiliate links)

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21 Comments

Filed under Ebooks, On Writing

21 responses to “The E-Publishing Experiment

  1. Alexia

    I’m not sure about how I feel about e-publishing. Mostly because, even if it doesn’t mean the end of “material” books, it will still change the way people read and some titles will be impossible to find in their paper version. Still, I’d admit that it can be a great way for young authors (or not so young – authors in the making, en devenir if you will) to get their work out there. However, I think there should be some sort of filter, otherwise the readers will be buried under thousands of books written by people dying to become authors and, as we say, trop de choix tue le choix (too many choices kills the choice). Especially if you encounter a few awful stories, then you might be giving up on e-published novels all together… So how do you sort out the good from the bad if there’s no publisher to do it for you ?

    That said, your story seems interesting and I definitely want to read it 🙂

    (Also, this article’s title looks like an episode title of The Big Bang Theory^^)

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    • I would be very sad to see material books go away too. There is nothing better than walking into a bookstore or a library and smelling that “old book” smell (I’m not sure how to describe it). It does give another option for new writers though, very true. I think in time someone will come up with some way to filter e-books, even if they haven’t already… arrange them by how readers rate them, or whether the books get good reviews, or something.

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      • Alexia

        I know what you mean about the smell 🙂

        Yeah, but… I’ll give you an example, there’s this really stupid book on Amazon.fr who was apparently self-published… It’s really horrible, not only is the story bad but no one bothered to spell check, so it looks like it’s been written by a five year-old. But it had something like 40 good reviews, with 5-stars each – it doesn’t anymore cause poeple started noticing it, it just seemed so unbelievable, honestly somebody lend it to me and this book is a joke… But I’m guessing the “writer” has a lot of friends who were willing to give her a hand – or a lot of email adresses and time to lose, not sure. So my point is, it’s still possible to cheat. And yes, it can happen with books that aren’t self-published too, but it’s kind of a given that the publishers aren’t going to publish just anything. Or at least we trust that they aren’t,

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  2. I have never tried e-publishing but many people do it with good success. I think anything is worth a try too. We have nothing to lose by giving something a go. Who knows where it may lead! I say…go for it! Blessings my friend!

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  3. E-Publishing has possess great potential. Many people can publish their thought and work easily. It’s miracle. If someone find your work and enjoy it, it’s a great success.

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  4. Alexia, that’s a very good example. There are certainly flaws in the system as it works right now… if an author wants, they can get their friends to write really good reviews and rate their book well. That’s the way a lot of things work online, and you have to wade through a lot of garbage to find something good (for example, on Youtube, on fanfiction.net, etc.) But people also come up with ways to share what they think is good. I think there’s sites for sharing and recommending music to each other., and so on. I guess I have confidence that the internet will come up with some way that works in the future, even if it takes awhile. There will still be bad writing, but it will be easier to ignore.

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  5. M. G. French

    Here is the thing about E-Publishing. There is a way to do it properly and successfully and there is a wrong way. Where this route runs into a roadblock is the shear numbers of “published” work that comes in unrefined. People are too excited to get their work out into the world and try to make all sorts of money only to find out that their work is well… not good. Traditional routes of publishing allow for editors to provide invaluable notes and revision to the work for the author, this is one thing those choosing to e-publish need to understand, you should really hire a professional editor to go over your work, maybe even two who are willing to put their name on the work as editors. This gives your work quite a bit more validation. Another thing many “authors” do not realize is that they should take time to create artwork for your novel. As I see at the top of the article you have done well in this aspect however many simply release text covers and wonder why their work isn’t more read. It is because from a purchasing aspect you are not getting anything that catches your eye. They do not know who the author is, they do not have an editor in print, they didn’t take the time and care to create a digital book jacket, it may very well be that a 4-year old published this work and it is awful. Who has the time to read through the sample pages to decide which book to purchase. I believe buyers follow this process:

    1. Look at genre I am interested in.
    2. Look at a wall of digital book covers, what catches my eye that I am willing to view the description of.
    3. Are there any authors here I recognize or have purchased the work of before?
    4. This looks like it might be okay, and look they took the time to edit the work it is probably worth giving a try (this step is occasionally skipped but I assure you it is never missed by those serious about literature.)
    5. Buy ALL THE BOOKS!

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    • That is a helpful five-step process from the reader’s point of view! And yes, if your editor is well-known it might inspire confidence if their name is on your book. Good points.

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  6. FC

    I won’t buy an e-book (or an e-reader for that matter) until e-books are held to first-sale doctrine. It’s the right to sell (or donate or lend) the product you paid for. Without this right, people don’t really own their e-books, and e-books lose 100% of their monetary value at the moment of “purchase.” (The only thing you’ve purchased is a limited usage agreement subject to changes out of your control.)

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  7. warmfuzzy

    I think if you replace the word “E-Publishing” with the phrase: “Indie Publishing” you’ll see more things to compare this idea to such as: indie bands and indie video games. These may not be things you’re familiar with, but I’ll try to explain them the best I can.

    (Side note: indie is short for “independent” which implies they do everything without a 3rd party being in control.)

    Indie bands can do fairly well for themselves, and this has a lot to do with the mediums they use to get discovered and distribute their music.

    Look at http://www.last.fm. It’s an amazing website to use to get discovered as a band. Seriously, search for your favorite band and click the “Similar Artists” tab on their page. It’ll be on the left side. You’re going to see bands you’ve never heard of fairly quickly. Not only that, but you get tons of information about each band on their pages.

    Another website you’ll want to look at is http://www.bandcamp.com. It’s a website devoted to digitally distributing music for indie bands. I won’t go into too much detail for the sake of saving words, but the short version is: it’s a fairly successful website that’s growing very quickly. Just to give you an idea: almost 1 million dollars has passed through it in the last 30 days. Check out the “Pricing” and “Features” pages, which you can find at the top of the homepage, to get a better idea of how they function.

    Then you have indie video games. Indie game developers use websites such as: steampowered.com, GOG.com, Direct2Drive.com, Impulsedriven.com, and some others. The funny thing about indie video games though, is that advertising isn’t what makes their games successful; it’s the word of mouth that does it. They will make a demo for people to play, or they’ll put some videos on youtube showing the game play to get an initial following and then the followers generally do the rest of the work to make the game popular. It’s crazy seeing it happen.

    Now there’s something that I haven’t mentioned yet, and that is what makes being independent for these bands and game developers a viable option to begin with. Your first thought would probably be: “that’s the internet, duh” but it’s actually more than that.

    MP3 players, ipods, and smart phones made listening to music very convenient for people, which got people to listen to music more, then they buy more music… you see where I’m going with this, right?

    Affordable computers (that are fairly decent) is what really helped indie game developers. For example, you can go buy a 300-400$ desktop now that can probably play ~80% or more of the games out there really well, and most laptops don’t do too bad either.

    By now you’re probably wondering how all of this is relevant to selling books online independently, so I’ll tie it all together now.

    The point of gushing over those websites was to give you examples of other indie creators are using and how being independent is a viable option for them.

    Just to reiterate: last.fm gets everything right and has everything that a music website should have to help indie bands get discovered, and indie video game developers are successful by being able to generate a fan base very quickly.

    It’s entirely likely that selling your books/short stories online independently will become a very viable option soon. However, personally, I feel like if you wanted to be an indie publisher, then you’re going to need both of those elements above to be successful. It’s going to take a really good medium (as in a website) that get everything right for something like this to work. The medium your stories are going to pass through is going to make or break this train you’re considering to ride on.

    Having said that, I don’t think the website you have your short story on is going to be the website that gets this started. I mean, I can quickly think of ~3 things off the top of my head the website could do better and I have a couple if ideas already that I wish the website had.

    Fortunately, though, this is more of a matter of time thing. We already have the technology for this to work in the form of the Kindles, E-Readers, and computers. It’s a solid middle man that’s missing currently.

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    • I agree with you. The electronic publishing industry is going through a lot of changes, and it’s hard to predict exactly where it’s going to go yet. But especially since the Kindle came out, the technology for electronic books has been in place (though there isn’t one format that has beat out all the others yet, like the iPod did in music). Technology and the medium are important.
      Yes, “indie publishing” is a description for the industry that I’ve heard quite often too, and it’s probably one of the better descriptions.

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  8. I think you are talking about two separate things here – electronic-publishing and self-publishing. Both are experiencing increased output and both are signs of the way the way books are published is changing.
    Personally I am a big fan of electronic publishing. I own a Kindle and would have been lost without it when I went abroad for two months. It allowed me to carry at least some of my books abroad without worrying about luggage weight! I like the apps on the Ipad for children and think that they will encourage more children to enjoy the process of “reading” even more. I do still buy material books, but I think harder about whether I will want to regularly re-read the book.
    As for self-publishing, it is, as you say, a bit of a double-edged sword. Of course it is useful to easily get your work out into the public view, but does it damage your reputation with publishers? I suspect if you had tens of thousands of downloads, the publishers could hardly argue with that and it may lead to a book deal! But I think if the whole traditional publishing model were to be replaced with a self-publishing one, important experience from the publishing industry would be lost, perhaps in the areas of editing, packaging the whole book up and, yes, that dreaded area – marketing.
    That was a bit of a longer comment that I planned, but these are issues I am really interested in!

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    • You’re right, there is a distinction between self-publishing and electronic publishing. A self-published book might be published electronically, but not necessarily. Personally, I think the traditional publishing industry will survive in one form or another, but who knows what that will look like yet? I’m certainly interested in these issues too!

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  9. Pingback: Top Ten of 2011: Ugly People, E-Publishing, and Limericks | Stories and Stuff

  10. Rue

    E-Publishing is the only way to go. These days, even if you get a major publishing deal (in both mass-market and scholarly-market), they expect you to market yourself and your works on your own. Meaning, traveling to conventions and conferences, peddling your works on the side, etc. So, is it worth it to get a publishers fancy seal on it? Not really.

    From tough, self-driven authors I have heard nothing but positive results in regards to their e-publishing adventures. They’ve all claimed to sell more than they had expected to.

    In any case, keep on writing 🙂

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