Monday, January 17, 2011

E-Publishing - Is it Right for You

Author and fellow Brigader Lindsay Buroker stops by to talk about the pros and cons of e-publishing.

Hello all! There are many paths and expectations to publishing success. One of the first things I will always stress is for every new author to research the industry and identify the best path for their writing. As such, today I have Lindsay Buroker to the blog to talk about e-publishing and particularly self-publishing in this route. I was pretty impressed with the thorough research she did in this journey.

Lindsay...take it away!


If you write in genres that aren’t on most agents’ wishlists, or--worse--you write those cross-genre stories that defy categorization, then you might have grown disgruntled by the agent hunt. I know I felt disheartened before I even started. My novel Encrypted is one that doesn’t fall into any neat categories, though I’m going with science fantasy romance (I’m probably the first to use that).

When I browsed QueryTracker, there was a dearth of agents requesting science fiction and high fantasy. And there wasn’t anybody saying, “please send us your science fantasy romances because we know they’ll be huge as soon as this vampire craze dies down...” In fact, most agents had notes that said, “We’d rather cough up hair balls than represent SF/F” (that’s not a direct quote, but it’s the vibe I got from many!). Urban fantasy and paranormal romances were an acceptation, but I grew up reading Eddings, Tolkien, and RA Salvatore, so I don’t even think of those genres as fantasy.

About the time I was debating whether to try querying those few agents who did want SF/F, I stumbled across blog posts about JA Konrath, Brian S. Pratt, and Karen McQuestion, indie authors making a good living publishing their work for the growing ebook-reader demographic.

Online booksellers such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble make it easy to upload your novels or short story collections as ebooks (you don’t even need an ISBN for those two outfits), and they pay nice royalties too (in the 70% range). This means you can list your ebook at an ultra affordable $2.99 and still take home $2 with each sale.

The more I read about e-publishing, the more excited I got. I even started a blog called Ebook Endeavors to talk about what I was learning and my own results. In December, I listed The Emperor’s Edge, a high fantasy adventure with steampunk elements (all my novels have Categorization Crisis Syndrome) for $2.99. As I write this, it’s been three weeks since the novel went live, and it’s sold about a hundred copies. That’s not exactly enough to live on (it’ll be a while before I recoup my cover art and editing expenses), but I think it’s a promising start for a no-name author. I’ve set aside the agent hunt for the time being.

E-publishing isn’t going to be everybody’s cup of tea, but in case it’s something you’re considering, I’ll break down some of the pros and cons here.

Advantages of E-publishing:

It’s a speedy process.

With traditional publishing, it’ll take months--maybe years--from the time you start looking for an agent until you see your book on a shelf (if it ever gets there at all). It took me about a month from first deciding to publish an ebook to having it go live. In that time, an editor proofread it, an artist created a cover, and an ebook formatter turned my Mac Pages file into something readable on the kindle, nook, ipad, etc. When I uploaded the files at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords (a distributor that gets your ebooks into the stores that require ISBNs), it took a maximum of two days for them to go live.

There’s a potential to make good money without being a blockbuster hit.

I’m sure very few people will get rich as indie ebook authors, but some who have great books and who have worked hard at promotion are doing quite well. Some are even in the six-figures-a-year range solely from their ebook earnings. That’s money in the bank account, not gross sales.

The 70% royalty makes it very attractive to be an indie--if you can make sales. Traditionally published authors get an advance, but their royalties are significantly lower--even for ebook sales. Go look them up. Ouch.

You have full control over all aspects of your book.

As I mentioned, I get to set the prices of my ebooks, and I can change them on a whim. This means I can experiment to figure out if I sell ten times as many books at $0.99 as I do at $2.99, or if I can raise my price to $3.99 and see if people will still buy. I’d never price my ebook at $8 or $9 (just look at all the angry reviewers on Amazon giving one star because traditionally published ebooks cost more than paperbacks), even if I was a big name author. That’s not a choice authors who publish with big houses or even small e-presses get to make.

I can also see novel sales as they’re happening, which gives me some insight into what marketing tactics are paying off and which are flopping.

As far as writing goes, there are no deadlines, and you can publish your books at your own pace. The only people you have to please are the readers. You do lose out on the editorial input of an agent/editor, so this could be a con, depending on how much you value that...

For the full article and more information on Lindsay Buroker, stop by The Adventures of a Sci-Fi Writer.


  1. Great article. I'm considering this option. Did you find your own cover artist or did your publisher provide an artist?

  2. Great info. Glad you shared. Epublishing is a good way to go.

  3. Thanks, A.R., for this informative article.

    This is a very important question to ask, especially now with all the turmoil and uncertainty within the industry. In these times, when breaking into print may be more difficult than it's ever been, and even established print authors are being dropped by their publishers, it's good to consider all your options.

  4. Do you see yourself remaining in e-publishing or wanting to make the transition into print publishing sometime in the future too?

  5. Thanks for commenting, everyone!

    Julia, I am my own publisher (eep!), so I had to find people to do cover art. It's been a learning curve, and of course there are economic considerations. I love the artwork I ended up with for the Goblin Brothers stories and for Encrypted. I hope to have the others redone someday. I found all my folks on Deviant Art, two as recommendations from other indie authors and one by posting a job on their work-for-hire board.

    Kylie, I'm sure I'll make my books available in print editions eventually, probably through CreateSpace. The ebook royalties are a like nicer (and you can compete with the big boys on price), but not everyone has an e-reader (alas!).



  6. Great article, Lindsay! It's a big step to decide to go it alone, but there's so much support out there for indie authors, we don't have to feel alone.

  7. I'm glad you all liked the article. I was fascinated with the research and thought Lindsay put into it. It was a pleasure hosting her.

    Thank you Lindsay! ((HUGS))

  8. Oops. I thanked A.R. for posting, but failed to thank Lindsay for guest blogging. Sorry for the oversight.

    Thank you, Lindsay! Great article.

  9. Wonderful post!

    I'm so torn right now with what to do with my writing. I'd love to see it on the shelf and backed by a big publishing house. At the same time, e-books are a growing concern and selling well.

    I really don't know which way I'll wind up publishing.

  10. No problem Laurie!

    @Liana. Maybe try both. My long term hope (5 to 10 years) is to build up enough people who like reading my work that I'll have leverage with the big publishing house (if they still exist).

    My biggest concern with the bigger houses is losing control of my piece and the end product too much. I've heard horror stories of forced edit/plot changes and oddball covers that don't connect to the story.

  11. Great article! Don't forget that small presses can help bridge the gap for those who can't interest a large publisher, but don't want the work load of being their own publisher. :-)

  12. Thanks for this interesting article. I've exploring traditional print, ebook publishing and the concept of self e-publishing. In the end if you have a lot of stuff out there, it all adds up.
    Cathleen Ross

  13. just a bit of a nitpick - this really should be titled "self-publishing" more than e-publishing.

    there are plenty of small epub houses out there accepting new authors that put out your works in ebook format.

    the title gives the impression that ALL epubbing is self-pubbing and that's really not true.

  14. I just had to jump back in to agree with Anon. Epubs are not self publishers. Some epubs also offer print copies of their bestselling books. So there you go. Still it was a good informative post, Lindsay. Thanks agian.


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