Thursday, February 16, 2006

De-Teching: E-Pub and POD


A topic I know almost nothing about.
Except that there seems to be a legitimate publishing venue out there that sharply differs from its purported parent, the Vanity Press.
The subject of e-publishing and POD surfaces continually on various writers' sites- much like a particularly plump trout.
In my dim way I've concluded the e-pub means material available only on line at a restricted and/or pay site and/or downloadable by means of a special "reader."
I can see magazines particularly embracing this method.

POD is, I take it, simply "print-on-demand."
The MS. is stored on disk and metamorphs into a real live book according to orders for the same.
Both production methods seem, at present, to draw their material from and find their buyers in, primarily writers and readers of genre and niche fiction.
That doesn't mean the readership base is small by any means - though it is restricted, not by the genre, but by those who are technically capable of operating something more than a hand-held can-opener .
This market will - by logical progression - increase, as long as the source of electric power holds out.
So, what are some of the pros and cons of Tech publishing for the writer?
You may not need an agent. (Not that agents don't earn their keep but time and frustration spent hunting the wily agent can be spent on writing.)
The time from sub to finished product is MUCH shorter. Possibly months, not years.
No advance (?), but a much larger percentage of the sale price per unit. 40% of 6 bucks is better than 8% of $16. No returns to screw up the accounting. No agents fees. Money remitted sooner, apparently.
Contracts are reputedly simple, straightforward and uncomplicated.
You may build a reputation, a following, credits. This might be particularly attractive to an unknown whose goal is an eventual contract by a traditional publisher.
Cons:
You must choose an e-pubber who exercises editorial standards and doesn't accept everything that wafts their way out of the abyss - or your hope of legitimate writing credits will be met with a lewd sneer.
Claims have been made that the average e-books sales average about 100.
I have no idea how accurate this is, but it's scary.
Promotion is almost entirely in the hands of and the responsibility of the writer. However, there are claims that this is already the case with traditional publishers as well.
Many or some of the traditional bookstores may be adverse to carrying e-titles. So the distribution network of the e-pubbers is something to make careful note of when considering this route.
Have seen a claim that many e-pubbers disappear after a few months, but if they've been in business for a year or more they are likely viable.
If you know of other pros and cons - and there are surely many of both -please educate me.

Aunt: A procuress, a concubine, a prostitute; 17th c. to about 1830.
Aunt Maria: the female pudend; low. prior 1900.
Autem: (used with suffixes am, om, um, also) a church, mid 16th-18thc. It is the parent of many other cant terms: autem bawler- a parson; autem cackler - a Dissenter or married woman; autem-cackle( or quaver) tub - a Dissenters' meeting house or pulpit; autem dipper or diver - a Baptist, or a pick-pocket specializing in churches; autem gogler - a pretend prophet or a conjuror; autem jet - a parson; autem cove - a married man; autem mort - a married woman. Possibly from altar, derived from French autel with em substituted for el.

31 comments:

Sandra Ruttan said...

There's a link on my blog to "Trace" - she has an ebook coming out this month. I'm really intrigued to hear how it all goes.

POD is the new reality across the board. More and more publishers are using it to reduce inventory and potential losses. Sure, some books are still launched with a big run, but this is also part of the reason for advanced orders - the publisher can determine how much they should print initially.

There are handheld readers that you can use to read ebooks, so that you don't have to read at your computer. They still haven't caught on in a mainstream capacity. Personally, I think that part of the problem here is that readers like to touch and feel the book.

We had a bookstore owner speak last week at my writer's group and some of what he said about the future of book-selling was astonishing. Simply put, it's getting harder and harder to get your book on store shelves.

Maybe I should do a blog about his talk?

Bernita said...

Wish you would, Sandra.
It's a subject we all need to know more about.
POD appears to becoming a clear option, directly or indirectly.

Ric said...

e publishing and POD are really two different critters.

POD - is a cheap way to get your book out there. There are a wide range of these - some legit, some not legit, some clearly vanity, some clearly worthwhile.

I have two friends - one, a regular columnist at a local daily, puts together his columns into book form and sells them via his column or bookstores. Works well for him.
Other guy went through PublishAmerica (Google that and you'll lose the whole day). PA is the outfit that averages less than 100 copies. Libraries won't carry the books, they are too expensive, and NO ONE edits them.

The whole point to writers is "What are you trying to accomplish?"
If you want to see your book in print, at any cost, go this route.
If you want to make a living at writing, actually get paid (with the chance of getting paid well), and get your work into the REAL world - ie reviewed, stocked at Borders, in the local library, you still have to go the traditional route.

Yes, I could print my own book and sell it door to door. But it makes more sense to have a publisher behind me, with sales reps, distribution, and all those resources. Leaves me more time to write.

Bernita said...

But Ric, what about these e-publishers like Elora's Cave, Samhain, etc., that I am beginning to hear about?
They apparently pay and operate exactly like a traditional publisher, though I believe they stick to genre fiction - often erotica ( which leaves me out).
They certainly don't appear to be vanity publishers or printers or of that ilk.

Savannah Jordan said...

These are muddied waters, to be sure, and I am foundering in them myself, as the sale of my first fantasy novel is to Samhain Publishing, an e-pub who is looking into POD.

e-Pubs have a questionable rep, but are growing in number. They are certainly limited in access to the populous en masse, but they are fantastic as a niche market, especially for erotica/romantica. Yes, the royalties are better, and I did receive a small advance. POD has garnered a bad reputation, but it is not just for vanity prints, there a many smaller houses using the option too keep overhead low. It allows for smaller print runs, and less back stock.

Muddy waaters indeed...

Erik Ivan James said...

Very meaningful topic which is important to our future as writers.

Sela Carsen said...

Personally, I don't think technology is doing a good job of capturing the reading experience. I don't know if it ever will. I like books. I've read a few e-books, but I can't imagine relaxing with my PDA for 380 pages. A novella, certainly, but not much more than that.

E-pubs like Ellora's Cave serve a niche market and they're doing very well with it because they are legit. They have a high rejection rate, so they don't take just anything that comes over the transom; they edit like a traditional house; they use standard contracts wherein the money flows to the author -- just like a traditional house. That's how e-publishing will succeed.

But even with all those pros, I don't know if it will ever become as popular as just holding a book in your hand.

But look at the popularity of Mary Janice Davidson and Angela Knight -- they both started in e-publishing when it was still wobbly and they've parlayed their cyber-success into success with traditional NY houses.

Sela Carsen said...

And Sandra, I'd love to read more about that bookseller talk.

Sandra Ruttan said...

Okay, I'll blog about the bookseller talk - I'll aim for tomorrow. Along with the Friday funnies.

And some of the ebook places are quite credible. People are making money that way, and I have an interview with Tracy Sharp coming up in the next Spinetingler (will be out end of the month - there will be a link on my blog) and she talks about tracking authors who got snapped up in big deals with publishing houses after publishing one or two ebooks.

So worth considering.

Kirsten said...

There's excerpts of an article here

http://www.blogfic.com/

about a blogger/novelist who self-pubbed a novel for which he couldn't find a traditional publisher. Gives good info on the economics of it. Having a fairly large blog readership made the difference in this case.

(Link to the original unfortunately broken but it may be accessible on wayback. I haven't tried to find it.)

Bernita said...

I thought I saw where one of the big trad publishers was opening a POD line, Savannah, for the etroica market.

I don't think it should be dismissed out of hand, Erik, without some examination. It might not work for some or most writers, but it 's an option to be considered.

And I an NOT talking about self-publishing, as Ric seems to think.

I think that's true, Sela, regarding the promotion of itself as an alternative.
Myself, I would never even contemplate an e-book as such. I need to hold it as a physical thing. But the POD people seem to have found a way around that.

That would be very helpful, Sandra.

Thank you, Kirsten. Grumpy Old Bookman goes into the topic occassionally as well.

Rick said...

E-pub and POD are complexifying (is that a word?) the boundaries of the writing profession.

For most of us, if we want to be read, and make some money from it, trad. publishing is still the way to go. Ellora's Cave is only different because the stuff is naughty, and people want to read it in private without having to buy it in public.

But popular bloggers now can pimp for their own self-published novels, and sell as many copies as most published novels do. That's not vanity any more, that's marketing.

In SF, for years they've had a separate award category for semi-pro magazines, and "semi-pro" may spread as a concept, for fiction that doesn't have enough market for full commercial publishing, but passes through some editorial or critical scrutiny.

Bernita said...

Good word, Rick! Thank you.
I've seen some indications that the POD people ( there's a word for Ivan) are branching out into more genres than pure erotica.
I wonder though, if you realize just how "naughty" publicly found books have become.

Bonnie Calhoun said...

One more difference that I see between Ebooks and POD vs taditional publishing is the return of your rights seems to get a little muddy.

With traditional publishers when your book goes out of print, the publishing rights to it revert to you (I'm not sure of the timeframe). But with POD and Ebooks, the work is techncally never out of print...so they can retain the rights longer.

Bernita said...

Read somewhere - and I'm not certain now it was POD - that there's a time limit in the contracts,Bonnie, something like 2 or 3 years. Certainly something to watch for and consider.
Certainly, all publishers, whether normal print or POD want to grab all the rights they can for as long as they can.

Gabriele C. said...

There's an essay about E-publishers by Lazette Gifford who's editor for Double Dragon (the link goes to her website, click on Publisher DTF) and runs the Forward Motion writer's forums.

There is a number of legit E-pubs that have a proper submission and editing process and pay royalties. It's more a problem that since the e-pod technology is not yet widespread, it's not a competition for traditional publishers. And of course, there are some fishy ones, just like among traditional pubishers (PA anyone? *evil grin*).

POD services like Lulu can be a good choice if you want a limited edition of something, like personal memoirs of interest for family and friends. You keep the rights to your work. The Stories of Strength anthology for the benefit of Katrine victims has been printed with Lulu, but it has undergone a proper submission and edtion process before (some editors volunteered) and using Lulu was a lot faster than looking for a publisher to invest in it. The book is avaliable online wherever there's an Amazon. :-)

Bernita said...

Thank you, Gabriele, for those links.
While I haven't begun to explore - let alone exhaust - the traditional publishers, I'm interested in this thing.
I shall go and read.
Do not both you and Mark have stories in "Stories of Strength" anthology?

Gabriele C. said...

I have. The Sacrifice, a story about Columba and King Brude.

Hehe, should I manage to sneak that naughty paranormal story I'm working on into some Erotic anthology, I'll have stories from the opposite ends of the spectrum published.

R.J. Baker said...

I think these technologies are they way of the future. But it's still the wild wild west. Traditional publishers haven't even grasped the implications of this new reality.

Sony is coming out with a reasonably priced e-reader. They are working on tactile enhancements to give the reader a "feel" of turning the pages.
But I doubt good old paper and ink books will fade out in my life time.

Digital delivery will for sure rise, but the piracy issues still loom large.

The big question remains distribution. Reviewers don't review, authors won't have distribution channels, etc. etc.

The question is do you want to a writer or are you interested in marketing your books. Quality editing and poor quality is givng PODs a really bad name.

Self-publishing has all the inherant risks and marketing hurdles but you reatin all the rights, costs, and up side benefits.

MissWrite said...

This is a HUGE topic. Lots of good points both pro and con have been made above. I can tell you that I now work as an editor for a reputable Epub, and we ARE picky about what is accepted, and much is rejected. (Roughly 90% of all submissions are rejected for one reason, or another.)

I have been POD published... both good, and bad. (Although luckily, NEVER fell into the PA trap. LOL)

I have been small press published and I can tell you the horror story of a publisher that went out of business to leave its books, not just orphaned (as some even very big name writers can tell you about when their editor leaves the house they're with, leaving the book hanging without representation in the company... and often the writer's future with the house as well), but stranded in oblivion.

I have been e-published with everything from short stories, to novellas. (I have a new one just accepted, coming out later in the year. I don't have a firm date as yet.) Plus several articles e-published in various reputable places.

I've been print published with articles as well.

No... I haven't broken the gates of New York yet. Perhaps someday. I certainly am still trying.

What's important to look for if you decide to consider e-pubs/small press POD's? As stated above... reputation of the company, for starters. A great many of them are listed on the Preditors and Editors site. Be sure they're on the up and up. P&E even ran a poll that ranked epubs, their authors, etc... it was an extensive thing that I'm sure most of you are aware of since many bloggers were also vying for their placement in that catagory.

Length of time in business. I'd say that's a fairly good indication, especially if their reputation is intact after any length of time. The internet world is a small one. It has brought a lot of people closer together, and made mass communication simple with the click of a mouse. It has also made it nearly impossible to get away with much in the way that was so easy in years past. The veil of secrecy has lifted considerably from the publishing world, and continues to lift more every day.

(By the way, I wish I had given more consideration to 'length of time' when I accepted the contract for the small pub that I did. LOL)

Live and learn.

I suppose that is the ultimate motto, but as writers we have a lot more in our corner, thanks to the Internet, than we ever did before.

Even wonderful blogs like this one, and so many others, help us to learn, and stretch the boundaries with each passing nano-second.

As an aside, I too will forever cherish the feel and smell of a 'real' book. Perhaps e-pubbing will grow in ways that were predicted even 5 years ago, to become 'the' path of publishing... maybe not. I do hope that paper books do not die off. It would be a great loss.

A great many e-pubs are also using the technology that POD offers to add that to their lists, for the many who still want the feel of paper between their fingers as they read... besides, a PDA is a tad more dangerous in the tub than a book. :)

Shesawriter said...

I've never submited to an e-publisher, although I did get a request from one that judged a contest I entered. I think once the hand readers are better, cheaper and lighter, they may give books a run for their money.

As for POD, you know more about it than me.

Tanya

ivan said...

Before H.E.E. closed down her
Phantom Keyboard to work on her new house, she challenged all of us nine readers to produce a short story under the idea of an old goat and his ways. She wanted flash fiction, schnell, right now.
Like old Balzac chained to his coffee urn (which I was) I responded immediately with THE OLD GOAT (Heh).
You somehow feel more authentic to put your short stories on somebody else's site reather than self-publish or going POD.
Just glad she liked the story.
I will not correct her use of singulars and plurals again.

Everybody will pick up their books, etc.--you know.
And she still liked me after all that pedantry.
Grace, I say.

Carla said...

Interesting article in the Guardian yesterday on self-publishing:
http://books.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,,1710311,00.html

Sela Carsen said...

Like Tanya, I also received a request to submit to an e-pub. I never did follow up with that and they went out of business last week. Lucky me, unlucky them.

Bernita said...

Thank you, R.J. Distribution/availability is a BIG point against.
I understood POD meant real paper books sold by a real publisher.

Tami, that is a really great post with valuable insights. Thank you.

Tanya, you could scarcely know less than I about this.

Thank you, Carla, for the link for those interested in exploring that avenue.

Myself, I would stuff an ms. in a drawer rather than go that - or a vanity publisher - route; my vanity takes a different direction ( quite apart from the horrifying ball of business wax entailed). Self-publishing may be practical for those with cookbooks, family memoirs, non-fiction on an esoteric subject, etc.,etc., or like the example Ric cites.

I think it will be very interesting to see how this opens up, as J.B. says.
With the long waits that are standard now in most cases, we will have the time.

Bernita said...

Yes, it's a neat story, Ivan.

Bernita said...

Sort of separates the sheep from the goats, do it not, Sela?
Would you file that under "narrow escapes?" or "missed opportunities?"

A credit is a credit, but from Miss Snark, one concludes that some are more equal than others.

Note: a clause re: rights on "death of publisher" is something to remember.

Sela Carsen said...

Definitely a narrow escape for me, Bernita.

Bernita said...

Put a mark on the wall then, smart girl!

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