E-Books, good or bad for writers?

by , under personal, writing

Last week, I logged onto Twitter to find this tweet (retweeted by a cartoonist/writer I follow):

Lynn linked to this post, which discusses the payment model with big publishers. Namely the fact that when it comes to ebooks, the publishers make big bucks simply because they don’t have to pay for printing or distribution- but don’t pass over anything additional to the author.

While this is certainly sad for writers, to say that you’re going to stop buying all ebooks is a bit distressing.

Ryne Douglas Pearson (@rynedp) is one of the writers that I adore following on Twitter. He was the first published writer I followed on Twitter that followed me back, and well, the man loves bacon. Recently, he’s been promoting the fact that Amazon has one of his ebooks for free. And was giving away another of his ebooks. In his blog, he recently wrote about getting back publication rights for his out of print books, which are or soon will be released as ebooks. So obviously, ebooks work for him.

And for new authors, bucking the publishing houses seems to be the way to go. I follow a lot of writers who have gone the indie route, and all of them have raved about people finding them through ebooks- that they simply needed to invest some money in an editor and in the formatting of the ebook, and they’ve done quite well. An indie author I follow, Nancy Kelley (@nancy_kelley), said that to her it doesn’t matter how the book finds its way into someone’s hands, that it’s fine with her. That ebook or paper, the book has still found its way to someone.

Others have raved about using free ebooks as marketing tools. Where you give away your ebooks in the beginning to help build a fan base. For a lot of independent authors, the thought is that the ebook is the best marketing tool. If someone downloads a free ebook, they’ll be more likely to pay for one of your books if they enjoyed it. Others hope that if someone loves the ebook, that they’ll buy a hardcopy of the book.

I do understand Lynn being upset that publishers are cheating authors of profits. Unfortunately, publishers are aware that their role in the writing world is in jeopardy. While of course everyone wants to be published, there simply isn’t enough money in the market to justify taking on lots of new talent and marketing them. So they’re going to cling to whatever profits they possibly can.

But I don’t think the answer is an all out ebook ban. I know that I’ve tried out ebooks for new authors that I wasn’t sure about, and if I liked the book, it goes on my to buy list. For me, it’s the same as going to a used bookstore and picking up books from local and unfamiliar authors. If I liked the book, I usually start looking for more books from the author in regular bookstores or online. While I don’t actually have an ereader yet, I use the Kindle app and have found it to be a good way to “test drive” new talent. While I might not want to spent $5-$15 on a physical book I might not enjoy, I’ll certainly buy a ebook that’s anywhere from free to $5. If I didn’t like it, then I delete it and I don’t have to figure out what to do with the book I didn’t really enjoy.

Personally, I plan on self-publishing my novels. My goal is to write, be read, and hopefully make my life a bit more comfortable with the book sales. While I would love to get an agent and a publisher, I’m just not sure if that’s where the publishing world is headed these days. Unless they learn to adapt.

Thoughts? I’d love to know what you think.

  • http://www.eatflylove.com/ Liv

    I’m new to the whole e-book thing as well, but it appears to be the future of a lot of books. Hardbacks will always sell if you can promote them, or have a niche. E-books sell for the same reasons, but don’t have the negative down-side of expense. My first book, Nosh, was published originally only in paperback. When we tried to convert it to Kindle, the format, a non-narrative cookbook just didn’t work- so I pulled it from that  format. My second book, a mini-book called “Sheep Under The Sea”, was purposely written as an e-book. Though it may eventually have traditional publishing, I’ve not seen a huge difference in sales between the two methods. (Though it’s a bit early to tell as it’s fairly new.)

    I still can’t grasp the whole Amanda Hocking thing, She’s 26, and sold 300,000 dollars in sales of e-books. How? Who knows… Maybe the teen romance genre is where it’s at? For those of us who write non-fiction, I still think the best approach is the traditional one, with a literary agent, a publisher, and an appearance on Oprah.

  • Brian Felsen

    Whitney – Great article – I like how you mention the lower Kindle price point as a vehicle for discovery.  Cheers!
    - Brian Felsen @brianfelsen:twitter
    http://blog.bookbaby.com

  • http://www.whitneydrake.com Whitney Drake

    It’s all about finding an audience.  But considering teens are so used to being able to buy music and apps on their phones when they want it- it’d make sense that the on demand aspect of ebooks is appealing.  Frankly. I’m just glad that a lot of people are reading.

    Not sure that the Oprah bit will really help so much, since her network series is done- perhaps she’ll do a book club on her cable channel.  (For non-fiction, I do think that probably the best bet is still the traditional route.)

  • http://www.whitneydrake.com Whitney Drake

    Thanks!  Obviously, your article was very appreciated in getting this one going, so thanks for commenting.