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Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Is print the only valid platform for your work?

Up until recently I was certain of my claim of being a published author. Last January I got the call, or rather email, offering to publish one of my stories, One Wicked Night, as an e-book. I was thrilled, amazed, and more than a little nervous once the shock wore off. Me? Published? Who’d have thought?

Then after edits with my publisher, Noble Romance, the novella was released. My erotic regency romance had a beautiful cover, ISBN number, and several homes on the web where it could be purchased including Amazon and the Book Depository. Would anyone find my One Wicked Night e-book? More people than I dreamed.

Now it is possible that I live in a vacuum. Romance authors are a little thin on the ground in my part of the world so until I joined up to the publisher’s author loop I had no idea e-published authors were treated differently by the writing community. Published is published, right?

Unfortunately, not everyone seems to agree. But here is a list of things I have in common with a recognized print published author:
  • I signed a contract
  • Gave my rights to the publisher for a set period of time
  • Received an advance on publication, and royalties are paid monthly
  • Readers can purchase my book at multiple locations
  • Receive fan mail
What I don’t have:
  • A physical bound book to sit on reader bookshelves
  • A work that meets the published author standards of the Romance Writers of America or Australia
In truth, that last one doesn’t bother me much. My story is short, significantly below the RWA’s 40,000 word minimum, and since I’m uncomfortable seeking wide-scale recognition through contests it’s no great loss.

But if you pay attention you notice the lack of recognition for successful, multi-published e-book authors by their writer association’s and peers; you notice the cold shoulder, the absence of discussion on e-book specific issues.

The oversight came as a total surprise. Over the past months, year, the news has been filled by comments about the rise of the e-book and readers and the distressing fall in retail print book sales. Several publishers have gone under; others are rumored to be struggling. So it makes sense to embrace change right?

That doesn’t seem to be the case. Associations, traditional publishers, and even some authors are slow to see that an e-book is simply another version of their book, yet they restrict a keen reader from acquiring the work.

I’m an avid reader, but since my house is bursting at the seams with print editions I decided to embrace change and purchased an iPad for all my future book reading. I was quite prepared to overload it, except – a lot of the books I want are not available to customers outside the US. Especially books from the major publishers.

That’s so frustrating because those authors lose the momentum of their online marketing strategy to capture my purchase. Will I be as keen to buy that book when it eventually comes out in e-book? I doubt it, and that list of unattainable e-books is growing. What’s sad is that I quite like to read debut authors and they are the ones who need word of mouth to reach new readers.

Do you think it’s essential to be print published in these changing times? I'm keen to hear your thoughts.




Recently released regency romance e-book editions on Amazon (available to Australian readers too):

Shana Galen – Making of a Gentleman
Amelia Grey – Never a Bride (originally released 2001)
Sabrina Jeffries – A Hellion in Her Bed
Amanda Quick – Surrender (originally released 1990)


  1. While I prefer my print books over an electronic reader I know several people who are getting away from purchasing paper books. I think the e-reader (as in a person) is growing daily and the publishing industry needs to take notice. And, I think that both electronic and paper need to be released at the same time because a person sold on their Kindle, i-Pad, or whatever version they have, is not going to run to the store and a person who has no desire to use an electronic reader is not going to buy the expensive gadget just to read one book. At least those are my thoughts.

  2. You are just as published as paper book authors! And just think of the trees and waste you are saving. So really in my mind you are not only a published author but an eco-friendly author at that!!!

  3. Interesting blog, Heather. I have been reading more than ever since I bought my kindle and most of the time, I have no idea if the book is available in print or not.

    The other night, I stayed up until 3 am finishing an e-book. If it had been a print copy, I would have gone to sleep when I finished it. Instead, I downloaded the author's backlist and started reading a new book. It is so easy to buy ebooks, I don't think it will be long before the market pays attention.

  4. I think I've long claimed there is a change on the horizon in the publishing industry and it's coming whether we like it or not. I read books on my laptop more now than I buy print books and I'm loving it. I'll be purchasing some form of ereader soon, I just haven't decided which one. And am hoping to sell my unsellable westerns to an epublisher because the large publishers don't publish westerns anymore. Or at least not many of them. With that said I will be happy to become an epubbed author and I believe you are an author no matter where you sold your book as long as there is a contract involved. I'm so glad your novella did so well Heather. You deserve it!

  5. I still like print books but I'm with Amy - my bookshelves are overloaded. So ebooks are the perfect alternative. I keep downloading (or is it uploading?? lol) ebooks from several sources and discover new, exciting writers who haven't been offered the chance to publish in print. That fact doesn't mean their writing is any worse than print books. In some cases it's even better than established authors who often don't seem to see much point in making an effort, yet they still get published.
    The more variety the better. :-)

  6. Amy, I think what I will probably do is buy in e-book format first, but if a book is absolutely wonderful, and a guaranteed re-read for me, then I'd buy it in print for my keeper shelf. Thanks to the Book Depository, and its free worldwide postage policy, its a win for the author (a second sale) and a win for me (I hate paying postage). :o)

  7. Abbie, now there was something I missed mentioning. I'm not contributing to land fill! LOL

  8. Clarissa, isn't it wonderful to have so many great author's backlists at your fingertips. So many great authors have embraced the kindle platform. Its so easy to use.

  9. Melissa, I used to read on the PC too, but it's great to be able to loll about reading anywhere in the house. But what ever you get make sure you get one that can read PDF format documents. I have downloaded some great reference material from the 1800's from Google Books. And some writing instructors provide their notes in PDF format for later reference. Invaluable.

  10. Cathie, the variety is huge once you get away from the mainstream publishers. Sometimes it's hard to choose. My hubby put me on a monthly ebook budget. LOL

  11. I think it's taking a while to convert people's minds about e-books -- possibly because some of the first offerings many years ago were of a different calibre than nowadays.

    I'm still waiting for the dust to settle before I decide on an e-reader, but I'd like one that reads .doc files (I think Sony is one of the few that does), because I would love to take my manuscripts with me to Starbie's to work on.

    I recently read a free e-book on my laptop and really enjoyed it. However, by the time I got to the "black moment", my laptop was feeling WAY too heavy and I was wishing I had an e-reader! It introduced me to an author, and today I went and got her latest mass market book.

  12. Great topic, Heather! I ADORE reading on my iPad, and I love that I'm not limited to just one format. It still feels a little weird to pay $10 for an electronic download - I'm used to getting a handful of paper for that price - but the experience for me is so much better than paper, especially since I tend to read in the middle of the night when I can't sleep :)

    And don't let anyone tell you your not really published! You're published and it's FABULOUS! You had me up at 3am reading your story! :)

  13. Donna, being able to edit a word doc was why I chose the ipad for my ereader. Once I added the Pages app I could read my own work, make changes and import back to my Pc. It doesnt like some formatting like track changes and highlights, so I lose any notes I might have made. But its the best investment I've made this year.

  14. Jerrica, the $10+ price tag on ebooks absolutely stumps me. Why charge more than the print book price when e-books cost less to produce. Greed seems to have part of that decision! There is lots of debate on the subject of ebook pricing. Too high might mean low sales, but low price with higher volume starts speculation on the books quality. I'm happy to pay around an $8 price tag for a electronic romance novel. After that, I'd debate on the purchase.

  15. I like holding a book. It doesn't run out of power like my iPod. However, I'm very open to the ebook revolution and wouldn't mind having an e-reader to switch things up. And I do like that ebooks are more environmentally friendly.

    I definitely consider an author published if it's an ebook.

  16. Oh, and Jerrica, yours was a fabulous bit of fan mail. Still makes me smile at what you almost did!

  17. Samantha - I have an older ipod, one from before they did anything other than play music or podcasts, but I imagine the small screen would mean endless page turning too. Very frustrating. :o)

  18. Hi Heather,
    That was a wonderful blog. Being an e-pubbed author, I write Australian historical romance, I agree with every word you said. I think attitudes are starting to change, but you only have to go to a writer's conference, to get that feeling, of e-pubbed authors, not being quite up to par with other published authors. Nothing is said, but the feeling is there just the same. In my humble opinion the majority of e-pubbed authors are as good if not better than those authors published with the large publishing houses.



  19. LOL, Heather. I don't read ebooks on my iPod. I'm just saying how frustrating it is to run out of power when I'm working out or some where I can't charge it. I would be very upset if I lost power in the middle of a great scene. :)