AlphaSmart Neo: NinaP
Goodie Bag: Kristen S., whose comment began with Wow, all I can say wow as I copy it so I can print at hubby's comp.
Winners, when you have a chance, please send your full name and ship-to address to LynnViehl@aol.com, and I'll get your prizes out to you. Thanks to everyone for joining in.
I. Say Hello to the E-Future
The world has changed pretty dramatically since I got into the Publishing biz in 1998, and even more so than when I began seriously pursuing publication in 1989. Twenty years ago everyone carried pagers, not cell phones; the cordless phone was just getting big. A few years later people started playing on their new home computers with a service called Prodigy, where folks from all over the U.S. could get together and discuss their interests on community bulletin boards (if you ever stopped by Prodigy's poetry forum, you might have even caught me critiquing formal verse and discussing what a bitch it was to compose a villanelle that didn't sound like one was a schizophrenic off their meds.)
A couple of years after that I turned pro and graduated to the internet, which coincided with the first of the e-publishers opening their doors for business. It caused a lot of uproar, most of it bad. Print published authors began sniping at the e-published authors. E-published authors fought back for their right to be recognized as part of the Publishing community, both online and off. The insults flew back and forth, bylaws were re-written, friends and enemies were made, and somewhere in the middle of the second or third wave of hostility I unplugged and retired to my ivory tower for a year, where I wrote for print publication and gave away other stories in electronic format to my online readers. While I wasn't much of an e-activist in those days, I was one of the first generation of e-published writers (I just used mine as marketing.)
Today you'd be hard-pressed to find an author who isn't published in electronic format. Yes, while many print-published authors take great pleasure in broadcasting how little they think of e-publishing, with the growing popularity of e-readers like Kindle and Sony and the rising demand for electronic books, publishers are rushing to release print novels simultaneously in multiple e-formats. You can throw a rock at the Big Name table at any crowded writers' conference and always hit an author with e-books (not that I'm suggesting you do that.)
Likewise, many e-published authors are also having their novels and stories released in print. The last time I was at a chain book store, titles from e-publishers like Ellora's Cave and Samhain had their own book case. While I don't care to see authors segregated like that, there are now plenty being released in "traditional" print who got their start in the biz writing for e-publishers or who are still publishing e-books with them.
The lines have blurred, the walls are slowly being torn down, and today everyone has e-books on their mind. While some feel this is like letting barbarians through the gate, Rome isn't being sacked, ladies and gentleman. It's being saved and rejuvenated and brought (even when it's dragged, kicking and screaming) into the 21st century. What writers and publishers have to do is not decide if e-publishing is legit or not; that's already been decided by the readers. What we have to do is educate ourselves on electronic format, understand how fast this segment of the market is growing, and make a place for ourselves into this brave new digital World of Publishing's E-Future.
II. Major Publishers
Major publishing houses are beginning to jump on the e-book bandwagon, and while that's not surprising, how they're adapting to this new format (or not) often is. It seems that while traditional publishers are happy to rake in the growing heap of bucks generated by e-books sales, some don't seem to understand this segment of the market very well. From what I've observed, their attitudes range from "this is a temporary fad" to "this isn't worth my time" to "this will make us a quick buck" to "this is the end of the world."
I think the three gargantuan problems publishers have with electronic format are control, pricing and distribution. Keeping e-books from being pirated is a concern, just as is preventing print books from being shoplifted, but Publishing's answer to this -- DRM, or Digital Rights Management, which prevents the buyer from copying or printing out the e-books they buy -- is in my opinion unnecessarily harsh and restrictive. The one reason I still don't buy many e-books is because DRM prevents me from printing them out on paper. For anyone like me who wears heavy-duty corrective lenses and has a hard time reading for a long period from a computer or e-device screen, that simply kills the sale.
There seems to be no industry standard for pricing e-books, and even with the so-called safeguard of DRM, some traditional publishers are putting a hefty $ tag on books in electronic format. I think this is short-term profit greed in a market that is thriving and by its very nature in line to be one of the primary publishing platforms of the future. I'm not sure why the industry isn't seizing the opportunity to use reasonable pricing to generate more sales, but high prices don't result in making readers throw away their devices to run back to buying only print novels. I think it encourages pirating, because why would anyone pay $25.00 for an e-book you can download for free off a bootleg site?
I've already read a couple of online confessions from consumers who have admitted downloading pirated copies of books, so pretending it's not happening is naive. Also, remember that bootleggers aren't interested in making profits off the e-books; they get their money from advertisers who pay them in accordance with how much traffic they draw to their site (which they generate by setting up their rules to basically allow anyone to store pirated copies on their sites.) While the justice system does their best to prosecute a few people and make them into scary examples of why you shouldn't bootleg, no one can ever police all these sites, not even the authors of the works being pirated (pirated copies of my print novels show up about once a month on the internet -- and that's the ones I can find or that someone alerts me to. This past weekend some pinhead tried to sell them on eBay.)
Distribution, the third wrench in the works, is not a problem for the publishers, but is becoming a real headache for me and many other writers who have a substantial readership residing in countries other the U.S. Many major publishers continue to restrict sales of e-books to the U.S. and Canada only. This is sabotaging sales and profits, because one of the great benefits of having a book in electronic format is that it can be shipped in any quantity around the globe to any spot at zero cost. Zero! No matter if you send ten or ten million copies of The DaVinci Code to Tokyo, the cost of shipping them is nothing. Try doing that with print novels.
Rather than seeing the cost-efficient advantages of digital books, major publishers seem determined to try and force the market into adhering to strategies and standards of a business model that was never meant for electronic format. Treating an e-book like a print book is not only inappropriate, it's a little ridiculous. If major publishers are going to be competitive in the E-Future, they have to let go of the mentality of the past and start evolving and adapting to the demands of the present.
I don't think it's as bad as it was ten years ago, but there is still a major stigma involved in being an author who e-publishes as opposed to being published in print by a major publishing house. On behalf of all intelligent and informed professional writers, I apologize for this. They won't let me be in charge of that or things would be a lot different for the e-published authors.
I hope industry perceptions will change as the e-market continues to grow, and e-published authors will stop being automatically assigned to the lowest rung on the biz ladder. Some of the most promising and talented writers I've discovered got their start in e-publishing, like my blogpal Shiloh Walker and my groupblog ringleader Sasha White. To say all e-published authors are inferior writers is like saying all black people should sit in the back of the bus. It's beyond ignorant.
That said, I can't endorse every e-publisher on the market; there are some companies out there that writers should avoid entirely. If you're considering submitting to an e-publisher, the best advice I can give you is to do the legwork and educate yourself. A writer should never sign with an e-publisher before they check out the company thoroughly and nail down all the details. Some of my veteran e-published friends are holding workshops this week on e-publishing; you can start by picking their brains.
To find the right e-publisher, you also have to do the research. If there is an e-publisher whose books you like, check out their submission guidelines and what they offer as payment to their authors. eBook Crossroads has a Directory of ePublishers, as does FictionAddiction.net; Predators & Editors maintains a massive directoryof all publishers along with their recommendations for or against them.
E-published authors are beginning to form their own independent writer organizations, like EPIC, but there are still plenty who are trying to fit in with the old orgs, like Espan. Because so many writer organizations don't have offer decent information on e-publishers, writers have formed their own watchdog groups; some that offer valuable online resources like AbsoluteWrite.com's Bewares and Background Checks forum, Erec (Erotic Romance E-Publishers Comparison site) and Piers Anthony's Internet Publishing site which provide the latest information on the business operations of small e-publishers and presses. Be sure to visit these sites to check and see if the e-publisher you're considering is under scrutiny for any author scams or unfair business practices.
Before you read a word I have to say about them, do stop by Midnight Spencer's LB&LI e-book workshop from Monday, as she has a fabulous, comprehensive list of features and details on a bunch of current e-reader models.
For all that Oprah has done for Kindle, I think the e-reader market is still in a state of flux. At the moment it seems to bouncing between Kindle and Sony, but that could change as soon as someone makes a better/cheaper/more convenient e-reader. It'll probably be a lot like the mobile phone market, with lots of new models offering more and more cool apps and stuff duking it out until a clear leader rises to the top of the heap. My money is on Sony; they seem to be more in touch with the market than Amazon is (inserting ads in e-books? Ick.)
If you're a reader who is shopping for an e-reader, you need to read up on the pros and cons inherent to each model. Fictionwise has a slightly outdated FAQ-type list of Reading Software and Devices. CNET has just published a buying guide for e-readers while Consumer Reports has the lowdown on the new Kindle DX. FreshTech has updated their comparison between the Kindle 1 and Sony E-Reader. But neither Kindle nor Sony has a guaranteed chunk of the e-reader market, as Sarah Rotman Epps reports on some interesting e-reader developments over on the Forrester Blog.
I haven't invested in an e-reader yet because they're not really designed for handicapped users like me (too many buttons for my arthritic fingers, too heavy and/or awkward to hold.) I hope that changes sometime in the future, because of all the readers who can benefit from an e-reader, disabled folks should surely be at the top of the list.
V. E-book Power
I know some of you still aren't convinced as to why writers should even care about the E-Future. You're focused on print publication, and that's all that matters to you: the traditional publishing career.
But while you're planning to become the next front-of-the-bookstore darling, consider a few figures: it’s estimated that in 2008 electronic books netted $1.1 billion dollars, up 68.4% from $67.2 million netted in 2007; and that’s almost double the $54.4 million sold in 2006.* Reports are already being compiled about e-book sales in the first quarter of 2009, and they’re looking very good. While that’s not as dazzling as the $24.3 billion dollar bottom line for the entire industry, compare it to adult hardcover sales dropping 13% and adult mass market sales down 3% percent in 2008.**
I had those front-of-the-bookstore dreams (don't we all?) but from the start of my career I also kept an eye toward the the future. In addition to being a writer, I'm also an e-publisher. Didn't know that, did you? But I am and I have been since 2000, when I self-published my first e-book. The difference between me and all the other e-publishers is that I only publish my own original stories and novels (all of which are exclusive to the internet and have not been published anywhere else) and I distribute them for free, something I consider to date the most effective form of marketing I've ever done.
To say I don't profit from giving away my e-books for free would be like another author saying it doesn't pay to go to reader conferences or hold booksignings. Over the last eighteen months over two hundred thousand readers have viewed and/or downloaded e-books from my free virtual library on
Tomorrow we'll talk about how we writers can become more active participants in Publishing's new electronic age, different ways to use digital publishing to create new markets and expand existing ones, and where our choices might take us. Because the E-Future isn't coming tomorrow or next month or next year, guys. It's already here.
VI. Related Links
Bookworm is an "experimental platform for storing and reading ePub-format books online."
Keep your head above water with Nancy Nivling's article It Ain't Easy: Navigating the Rapids of E--Publishing.
If you're thinking about investing in a Kindle, I recommend reading Tim O'Reilly's rather brilliant take on Kindle's E-Future.
*Stats source: Simba Information BPR April 2009
**Stats source: American Association of Publishers via MediaBistro.com.
Today's LB&LI giveaways are:
1) A eBookWish -- any e-book or combination of e-books of your choice available to purchase from an online e-publisher or e-publisher's bookseller, up to a combined max cost of $30.00 U.S. (or if the e-bookseller has a gift certificate for $30.00 available that I can purchase and send via e-mail to you, that'll work as a substitute.)
2) a goodie bag which will include unsigned new copies of:
The Pajama Girls of Lambert Square by Rosina Lippi (hardcover)
Master of Shadows by Lynn Viehl (author-printed, signed and bound in a three-ring binder)
Animal Attraction by Charlene Teglia (trade pb)
The Missing by Shiloh Walker (trade pb)
Primal Male by Sasha White (trade pb)
Round the Clock by Dara Girard (paperback)
Red Fire and Red Kiss by Deidre Knight (paperbacks)
Pleasure Unbound, Desire Unleashed and Passion Unleashed by Larissa Ione (paperbacks)
Hawkspar by Holly Lisle (paperback)
The Iron Hunt and Darkness Calls by Marjorie M. Liu
plus signed paperback copies of my novels StarDoc and Evermore, as well as some other surprises.
If you'd like to win one of these two giveaways, name an e-published author you've enjoyed reading or comment on this workshop before midnight EST on Thursday, July 16, 2009. I will draw two names from everyone who participates and send one winner the goodie bag and grant the other the eBookWish.
Everyone who participates in the giveaways this week will also be automatically entered in my grand prize drawing on July 21st, 2009 for the winner's choice of either a ASUS Eee PC 1005HA-P 10.1" Seashell Netbook or a Sony PRS-700BC Digital Reader.
As always, all LB&LI giveaways are open to anyone on the planet, even if you've won something here at PBW in the past (and if anyone wants a peek at this year's LB&LI goodie room at Casa PBW, and see what's going in those goodie bags, stop by the photoblog today.)
Other LB&LI Workshop Links -- new links are being added every day, so keep checking the list for new workshops (due to different time zones, some of these will go live later in the day):
E-publishing: From Query to Final Edits and Beyond -- Authors Madison Blake, Paris Brandon, Cerise Deland, Fran Lee, Afton Locke and Nina Pierce provide helpful insights and tips on e-publishing. Today's author: Nina Pierce
Writing Transformative Sex - Part One by Joely Sue Burkhart -- Any writer who has studied much of the craft at all knows that if a scene doesn’t move the story forward, it should be cut. But have you really thought about what that means for a sex scene?
Birds and Flight by Suelder -- first in a series of workshops on birds that will focus on the science as well as how to adapt this information to writing.
How-To Books that Saved My Life by Alison Kent -- a look at the three how-to books the author can't write without, and why.
Break through your fears and write! by Tamlyn Leigh -- One of the biggest obstacles on a writer's path is their fear. It can be for anything: fear people won't like their stories, fear they aren't good enough. In my workshop I want to offer tools to break through that fear, and get everyone writing!
Writing Prompt Series - What? by Rosina Lippi -- On the basis of an image supplied by Rosina, write out the primary conflict between your two characters in dialog form.
Writing in the Labyrinth by Marjorie M. Liu -- first in a series of workshops about different aspects of writing and publishing.
From Pantser To Plotter: How I Joined The Dark Side by Kait Nolan -- Wednesday's topic: What I've Used In My Conversion (Part A)
What eBook publishers look for: Samhain Publishing by Midnight Spencer –- General Submission, Royalty and Contract, How to Submit, and Samhain Frequently Asked Questions.
Epubs-wondering where to start? by Shiloh Walker -- Info for those curious about epubs and where to start.
Killer Campaigns: Trading Cards by Maria Zannini -- How to create trading cards featuring your novel's characters