An ebook is a book in what may be, for some, an unfamiliar format. This necessitates the reader to get used to different methods of reading and storing books, but the end product is still that of a story. The writer has other differences to consider between electronic and print markets.
First, there are seldom advances. Some publishers have
introduced a small advance but generally, this is not the case and don't
expect the type of up-front payment as the 'big six' might offer if
they feel a book has the potential to be a bestseller. To be fair, many
mid-stream print publishers aren't so free with initial payouts. When
offered, these prepayments aren't always as large as they once were and
based on a number of books a publisher 'expects' to sell. I've heard of
huge advances withdrawn if an acceptable manuscript isn't delivered and,
in some instances, if books simply don't retail well and meet
expectation. Advice is, don't spend an advance -- bank it for a good
Print books are often also released electronically now
whereas predominately electronic books aren't going to make the shelf in
a local bookstore, not unless they eventually go to print, or the shop
has the facilities to offer electronic books as part of its 'stock'.
Maybe not even then. Many printed books never make it to local shops,
either, and require ordering, but let's not forget technology is
advancing. Predictions are one day a book 'shop' may consist of a
catalogue and a screen from which to order, the books appearing
'magically' as some sort of electronic download or almost instant POD
(Print on Demand. While this sounds like science-fiction such scientific
applications are being considered and in development.
news for the writer is royalties on ebooks are higher and here's where
the ebook author has a difficult choice. Print books are wonderful and
many writers will say they long for their titles to be in print. They
may read ebooks themselves and love them, but the writer wants to hold
their work as something 'solid'. Touch makes something feel more actual.
It may be why many mistakenly conclude the electronic markets aren't
real publishing, while others love being able to cart a library around
on a small device that fits into a pocket. In context, there are those
who say emails aren't real letters but the technology still transfers
information effectively. However, the writer also needs to consider he
or she can earn approximately 25, 35 or 50% in royalties from an ebook.
From a print book, royalty payments can be as low as 7%. Let that sink
in for a minute before I add a writer can earn more in royalties from an
ebook but these titles may not have such a wide distribution, so the
potential to sell fewer copies, though this has improved through
distributor networks more recently. As more mainstream titles appeared
in electronic formats so more companies became distributors just as they
would with print, and even printed works can have the same problem with
limited markets and outlets.
Now we move to why ebooks cost so
much. After all, they skip the printing stage. Yes, they do, but this is
another matter for those who scorn ebooks to consider. Printing is the
ONLY element that the ebook skips. This is a rough guide only based on
experience but consider the levels a story goes through before release.
submitted to a publisher the submission goes to a reader. A reader may
be an editor at the publishing house or a reader only, but either way,
from a synopsis and first three chapters, a reader will decide whether
to ask for the entire manuscript. If the reader likes the draft, they'll
pass it on, discuss it with others in the publishing house including
management, and a team will decide whether to offer a contract. This is
especially true if the writer is an unknown name to them. An editor is
assigned and the work goes through the editing process. Some publishers
allow a writer to work with a single editor for all work submitted.
Sometimes, publishers simply hand the next book scheduled for editing to
an available editor. I much prefer building up a relationship with an
editor, to learn how we both work, and where we can trust each other.
This can make for less friction and time wasted. Depending on how much
attention the work needs, it may go through one, two, three, or more
edit rounds before the line-editing department provides a fresh 'set of
eyes' to look the story over. This time, the book is specifically
checked for punctuation errors, house-style etc., and even obvious story
problems. When one or two line editors are finished, the work is
returned to the main editor who will look at the changes before sending
them on to the writer. The writer and editor collaborate and, once
happy, send the work to the proofing department. A final effort is made
to spot any errors before the book is formatted* and ready for release.
The writer may or may not get to proof the final galley. (*Some
formatting is often left to the author, but I'll not go into that this
While this sounds like a leisurely process, it isn't. I've
grown used to "Can we have this yesterday?" It's often a fraught time.
Think of all the effort that goes into this editing procedure. As much
as I love my books when I've gone through all the revisions I do prior
to submitting and all these edits, and considering that I try to re-read
at every opportunity, by the time the book is published I'm feeling a
little sick of it. Also, keep in mind most writers work part-time if not
full-time as well as write. Many editors do likewise. In some
instances, so do the publishers. Many companies, with the exception of
extremely large publishing houses, are run as secondary businesses.
Management, editors, line editors, proofers, and the authors all give of
their so-called 'spare' time -- a phrase that quickly becomes an
in-house joke. When considering the number of man-hours, it makes the
financial rewards paltry.
There's also the cost of cover art.
Early on the writer may be required to submit a cover art request to
provide an idea of the book's subject. Providing the artist with enough
details takes considerably more thought than many expect. Some
publishing houses ask the writer to 'okay' the cover, some don't. I've
heard of some authors being extremely upset by their book covers. I'm
sure there are good and bad examples in all markets but, so far, my
comments have almost always been taken into consideration. Covers can
range from quite cheap to expensive.
Wait. We're not finished. Who
writes the blurb? That's the short teaser on the back cover of a
printed book to get the reader interested in buying. Often, that's the
job of the author, too. A publisher may change the blurb completely or
simply tweak it, but the author has to provide an original and full
blurb. The writer also has to submit a new story with a synopsis and
usually needs to maintain a website. The author needs to promote, though
if with a good publisher the company will do at least of a portion of
promoting, too. Some now request a whole marketing strategy along with a
manuscript. I'd be wary if the publisher asks for this without any
indication of what they will do in return, but it is a part of
modern-day publishing. A writer's best ability is to be accomplished at
Promotion shouldn't be left entirely to the author but any
'wannabe' needs to know they are expected to play their part. For the
writer who envisages the romantic image of sitting at a desk tapping
happily away, one work after the other, nothing could be further from
This still looks as if I've not answered why ebooks can
cost as much to produce as print. One reason is the difference in those
royalties, but we're not talking millions made by the writer or
publisher. Not these days. What this means in terms of actual money,
I'll cover another time, but in brief, an ebook goes through the same or
similar process as most printed books. Only the final stage -- the
format it's produced in -- differs, and this can take 'more effort'
because there are many types of files available now. Glitches can
happen. Returns for errors create more work and cost.
whether to read ebooks...as much as choosing what book to read is about
choice, so should choosing the format in which one wishes to read be an
act of free-will. I'd be devastated to see print books disappear, but I
like to own a collection of both if for no other reason than much-needed
space. Something else to consider is that I made my decision to write
for an e-publisher based on what I could see happening to the book
market in general. Although erotic publishers were at the forefront and
the mainstay of the e-publishing market for a long time, books face
strong competition. Many people struggle to find the time to read. The
way ALL books are produced is changing, with even large mainstream
publishers turning to POD technology and electronic formats. I own the
works of Poe both in print and ebook. When considering publishing I
decided not to turn my back on what might happen to the future of books.
I could see many who sneer being taken by surprise. The author who
turns their back on the idea of change could risk being left behind, and
may miss out on some wonderful opportunities.