Thursday, 4 August 2011
GUEST BLOG - AUTHOR DEE WEAVER
It feels like a long time since I first heard comments that e-publishing would toll the death-knell of traditional paper books. For a long time we all poo-pooed the idea – electronic readers were clumsy and clonky and would never survive being dropped into the bathwater. And e-publishing was only a last resort of the worst bad writing. And it’s not really being published, is it – not properly published, with a contract and an editor and stuff.
Well… I still don’t believe ebooks will replace paper ones. At least I hope they don’t, although I do think they have a place alongside, in the same way paperbacks have a place alongside hardbacks. But it is publication; the book is out in the marketplace, being bought and read. And the e-readers are pretty damned cool now too.
My novel is called The Winter House. It’s a paranormal romance about a haunted house and karmic debt. I and my current agent have punted it round every mainstream publisher in this world and the next. Some – there had to be some – simply didn’t like it, but the majority said they loved it – well written, great characters, super dialogue – yada yada – but there’s no call for paranormal fiction, they said, so they couldn’t take it on. One mainstream publisher was very keen, and persuaded me to change the plot, change the characters and do a complete rewrite, but then they decided not to go ahead with it.
I found one small indie publisher who specialised in paranormal and we signed a contract. End of my problems, right? Well… not exactly. Six weeks before publication date they contacted me to say it wouldn’t fit into their binding machine so I would have to cut 20,000 words, which amounted to about a fifth. Needless to say, I refused to butcher my work for such a ridiculous reason, and we parted company, more or less amicably. The ms went under the bed and I took up knitting.
Last winter I heard about another indie publisher, this time in America, and decided to have one final bash. They wanted it but ultimately the deal fell through when we couldn’t agree on the contract. In the process I had discovered that I could publish the book myself on Kindle, so I started to investigate. At first glance the process looks daunting, but there is a comprehensive step-by-step guide as well as a forum where you can compare notes with others in the same situation. There is no upfront cost, although it’s worth paying for a proofread and a professionally designed cover – the most common criticism of self-publishing is the perceived (and sometimes, I'm afraid, actual) lack of professionalism. An ISBN isn’t essential for Kindle, although it is for other platforms such as Smashwords.
There are two major downsides.
1. Marketing – you have to learn how to promote yourself and your work. This is the thing I'm finding terribly difficult to do. Suddenly I'm reluctant to talk about the small fact that I have a novel for sale on Amazon. It’s a serious consideration for anyone not of a naturally gregarious nature. Having said that, for most writers with a traditional publishing contract the position is no different. Everyone has to go out and sell themselves, even the big guns, and marketing support is being reduced for the majority of writers; indeed, some get none at all.
2. The negative attitude from so many people – especially other writers – that self-publishing is a sign of failure. However, the mood is changing; traditional publishers, both large and small, are taking on fewer new writers and are cutting back on the support they offer the authors already on their lists. It’s a brutal fact that ‘success’ in their terms means getting your ms in front of the right person at the right time when s/he is in the right mood and the market is heading in the same direction. The chances are slim, so e-publishing is beginning to look like a viable alternative.
And the upsides?
You get to keep up to 70% of the selling price, depending on which option you take.
You have total control over your work. Ok, it’s not easy to get one ebook to rise to the surface of the hundreds available, but at least you don’t have to suffer seeing your printed books returned when they haven’t sold during their first few short weeks. An ebook doesn’t have to jostle for shelf space in a shop or justify its place in a book warehouse. It is easily accessible and available for as long as the author chooses.
More and more people are buying kindles, or are reading fiction on their laptop, netbook, smartphone. As I say, they won't totally replace paper books, but I believe there is a place for them alongside. Ebooks cost considerably less than printed ones, on the whole. Mine sells at £2.14 and is equivalent to a 450 – 500 page standard paperback. 70% of that is more than I would get through a traditional publisher selling it at an average cover price in the high street.
Indeed, only mainstream publishers hike up the price of their ebooks so as not to compete with the traditional paper edition - and I’d be interested to know how much of this money they pass on to the author, given that it doesn’t cost anything to put a book on Amazon Kindle.
I'm now formatting The Winter House so that it can go on Smashwords from where it will be distributed to Barnes & Noble’s online store, and also Sony, Nook, and various other ebook stores. I have a couple of other finished manuscripts that I’d like to upload too. They’re not paranormal, but that’s OK because I don’t have anyone shoving me into a paranormal pigeonhole. Before that, though, I want to learn how to create the covers myself. At the moment it’s the only thing I can’t do. And that’s another benefit of self-publishing – I'm learning so many new tricks!
The Winter House is available here:
More information on Kindle publishing:
Dee Weaver is Northumbrian, Aquarian, Pagan.Her current passions (apart from reading and writing, obviously) are ghosts, English history, rock music, cats, Formula 1, and Jacobean embroidery.She now lives in Yorkshire with her partner and one feisty cat. Until recently she shared a house with two of its original Victorian residents. It was an amicable arrangement, and she was sorry to leave them behind when she moved out.