Should I Just Do an E-book?

by C. Hope Clark

Today’s guest post comes from Hope Clark, the founder of Funds For Writers and author of the mystery Lowcountry Bribe. I noticed today that 45 out of 54 reviewers at Amazon have given her book 5-Star reviews. That’s great feedback!

I have been very fortunate to know Hope over the past decade through the online writing community and I know that she is constantly reaching out and helping writers to understand the business of writing and publishing.  Today she shares her insight into some of the wrong reasons many writers have for creating an e-book. Plus, she gives you some of the right reasons to e-publish!


When I speak at workshops and conferences, and we’re delving into the whys and wherefores of finding a publisher, a question invariably arises.

“Should I just go ahead and publish an e-book?”

I fight to hold back the sigh, because the image of an e-book shouldn’t be that of last resort. However, the ease that has developed in publishing an e-book has unfortunately been misinterpreted as a chance to publish when other hopes are gone.

Via emails with the disheartened, I see all the wrong reasons for creating an e-book:

  • Rejected by agents and publishers –

One author thought twelve rejections was too much to bear, so he self-published his story as an e-book.

  • Traditional takes too long –

Young writers say they have to make a name for themselves electronically to be current and savvy like Amanda Hocking, and they rush to join the traffic of writers making big bucks online. Senior writers say they don’t have enough years left to wait for all the steps of traditional publishing.

  • Traditional is too complicated to learn –

The Barnes & Noble Glossary of Book Terms might make your head spin, but if you don’t understand the business, how do you know you’re making the right decision for that story you’ve slaved over for months, even years?

  • Self-publishing print is too costly –

Yes, self-publishing costs. There are no grants for self-publishing your first book. (The most common question I’m asked.) Even if you publish for free via CreateSpace, without all the bells and whistles, you have to buy the books and manage distribution.

E-books are remarkably easy to do; too easy. But the tools are there, so if you go down this path, like any good book, an e-book needs excellent independent editing, a striking cover, professional formatting, a platform, and stringent marketing. And sooner or later, you’ll need a print copy in your hand. Some readers still want paper. If that scares you, because e-books are so much easier, then maybe you are publishing for the wrong reason. Traditional publishers automatically publish in both print and e-book, and in many e-book formats to boot! You must be willing to do what it takes for your story, not create a story because you have an easy means to publish.

Let’s turn this around and study the reasons you should publish your e-book:

  • You’re passionate about your story.
  • It’s been edited almost to a fault, by other than you.
  • You are a serious writer, seeking to make a living as an author.
  • You’re positive this is as good as you can be.
  • The book accentuates your brand or name.
  • You want to reach out to the world.
  • You have a well-honed marketing plan.
  • You’re willing to bust your butt to self-promote.

Amazingly, the reasons are the same for electronic publishing as they are for print – whether traditional or self-pubbing.

An e-book is a means to publication. Instead of thinking that the struggles of the publishing world are making you electronically publish, stop and wonder if your work is ready for the world. If you have the least doubt, hold off until it’s superb. You get no change for a do-over, and an e-book mistake haunts you for life.

You don’t resort to e-publishing. You proactively choose it, because it best suits the image you’ve painted for your writing career. It has to be clear that you’ve written a book that’s not only competitive in design and delivery, but also beautiful in craft.

C. Hope Clark is founder of FundsforWriters.com, voted one of Writer’s Digest’s ‘101 Best Websites for Writers’ for the past twelve years. Her newsletters reach 43,000 readers each week.

However, Hope is also a mystery author. Her new release, Lowcountry Bribe, is available in print and e-book, published through Bell Bridge Books, February 2012. It’s available via Amazon, B&N, and most independent bookstores. Find Hope at www.fundsforwriters.com and www.chopeclark.com

Comments

  1. Great insight! I don’t know why the mindset is sometimes almost feeling like you’re taking the easy route and just simply doing an eBook… and I know some writers who will say they’re waiting for their next (better) book to go to print… don’t get it…

    Armand Rosamilia

  2. What attracts me to ebooks is the feeling of having control over the entire writing, editing, publication and marketing process. I guess I am just a power-freak!

  3. Thanks, Hope, for pointing out the reasons why to e-publish in your bulleted list. This should be distributed at all publishing and writing seminars. With no gatekeepers whatsoever in the publishing world, a world where everyone can and does publish absolutely everything, the need for editing and true merit cannot be over-emphasized. Yes, Independent Publishing is often the way to go, but consider these statistics: 700,000-plus print books are published every year; the e-book stats are a bit nebulous, but between 50,000 to 100,000 ebooks are published every month! Your book must stand out!

    Thanks for re-iterating too the need for a marketing self-commmitment. The days of paid books tours are long past! My own blog is running a series on the “Write Way to Publish” and I am constantly reminding the most hopeful about the need to have professional editing, to do their research, and to not be taken in by those who prey on egos. Thanks again, Hope. BTW, I love your web site and FFW.

  4. Yes, ebooks are power we can control, but having power can be a daunting and dangerous thing. Editing is so necessary, and I find that the most underestimated part of publishing these days when we have such autonomy at our fingertips. Glad y’all liked the piece!

  5. Great post, Hope. I want the validation of traditional publishing. But my nonfiction with activities for homeschoolers is interactive with the Internet. You cannot click on links in a paper book. So I am working on an ebook. However, to have something to offer when I speak at conventions, and to sell through homeschooling curriculum catalogs, I thought I could burn it on disc. Any thoughts?

    • Carol

      While I am not cozy in your genre of curriculum for homeschooling, I worry that discs are too old-fashioned. I think the best answer for that can come simply from studying homeschooling curriculum catalogs and seeing how materials and publications are presented there. Many discs available there? Then go with it. If not, then stop and ponder why.

  6. Hope, thanks for the perspective. With all the clamor to self-publish, it’s nice to see an alternate point of view.

    • Glad I could paint that side, Laura. Publishing anything should involve a writer’s best quality, regardless of the tool used to put it out there. I hate seeing e-books used as a shortcut.

  7. Hi Hope,

    Thanks for this great advice. Many years ago I was inspired by Australian author Matthew Reilly’s success with his self-published first novel. Then a writing instructor I had in 2004 expressed loathing at the idea of self publishing. One of his reasons was that it basically shot down any credibility an unknown author might have. I guess that attitude has changed slightly in recent years.
    I’m glad I’m of the perfectionist kind. I’m reluctant to let my 60,000-word-and-counting baby out on to the street without unblemished skin and neatly styled hair. However I’m equally reluctant to let a random editor send her out in hideous clothes. I feel as an unknown author I would be obliged to accept 100% of the editor’s suggestions without question. That scares me. And I’d have to pay for advice I might not want. Do they know my story like I do? It could be argued that if I did my job well enough, they would. If that is the case do they need to change anything at all? Maybe some spelling and grammar I may have missed but I hope not too much else. I like to think I have a knack for editing and some feedback I’ve received suggests this may be true. Am I sounding too arrogant? Perhaps. I’ve seen some shockingly bad editing out there even when the author has raved about this fantastic editor they used and proudly named them in all their publicity. I’m actually glad he did this because it allowed me to black-list them.
    I’m also a big fan of letting a work sleep in between edits. This helps me a lot. “Forgetting” the story helps me come at it again with fresh eyes.
    I’ve digressed slightly from topic, I know, but I agree with a blogger I read recently who suggested that traditional publishers are more likely to stick with their well known money makers rather than risk an unknown author even if that unknown is a better writer. It’s almost as if the marketing people at the publishing houses are being lazy and essentially not doing their job. Why work hard to promote Joe Citizen’s book when Stephen King’s new best-seller is already exactly that before the ink dries? This attitude also puts me off traditional publishing. Yes, it’s a money thing, but tackling injustice just makes me angry and I don’t like being angry.
    Maybe it’s me with the bad attitude?

    Looking forward to your thoughts. 🙂

    Thanks,

    Richard.

    @RichardELeonard

    • Richard,
      I’m always amazed at the writers who “know” what traditional publishers are thinking, when the grand majority of them are not traditionally published. A publisher is going to promote anyone, new or seasoned, who writes well enough to be deemed marketable. They do go for debut authors, but they will not cut them slack and hold their hand. If you want to be traditionally published, you have to step up your game and be open to the fact they’ve marketed many books and know a lot about what sells and what doesn’t. The writer that does not give an editor his full ear as to edits is missing opportunity, IMHO. I was very self-assured of my manuscript for Lowcountry Bribe, having edited it myself two dozen times (also written from scratch three times – run through two critique groups twice and three times – reviewed by two qualified beta readers). But my editor made me take out a major scene, change how the bad guy died, and lighten up another crime scene. Grammar was not an issue. I remember not a single grammar mistake. It was more story line. I was seriously skeptical about the major changes, but in the end, the book was better for it. While you know your story better than anyone else, that does not mean that you know how to edit it best. When you traditionally publish, the major suggestions are made before you sign a contract . . . to let you know what’s expected. Unless someone has traditionally published, they cannot talk about traditional publishing, and also the same goes for self-publishing. Like I tell people, don’t say why you AREN’T publishing a certain way. Just state why you ARE deciding how to publish.

      • Hi Hope,

        Thanks for the prompt reply.
        I can understand your amazement. Not sure if the blogger/author I was think of was published the traditional way or not, now that I think about it. My agreement with him was most likely reinforced by my own experiences of 20 years in a different industry where quality is often traded off by lower cost and reduced risk. Quite scary, actually. However, I am open to different views.
        As for story editing, would it be true that any two editors are unlikely to produce exactly the same result? I’m all for having someone (preferably qualified) read and provide feedback at all levels but this is what worries me. How to know good editor from a bad one before I commit? I’m probably too paranoid about landing a bad editor. And giving up control. I have work to do to improve, I think.
        Thanks for your time, Hope.

        Cheers,

        Richard.

  8. Hi Richard, I suspect that most of your conversation was with Hope. Hope I’m not intruding. First, it gives me the willies when someone says “should I ‘just’ do an e-book”–it implies that the way of publishing is something less and that you’re somehow “settling,” and therefore your book will also be something less. If you feel that way, why bother?

    Second, the editor is not the bad guy in this scenario. Do you need to accept everything the editor says? No–usually. Editors are your partners: we make your good writing better. Yes, in some cases you will pay an editor and I advocate for these partnerships, not the faceless editorial mills of the fee-for-publishing (self-pub) world. Most of these large publishing companies outsource, often to India or to students who sadly lack skills and experience. One of my clients had the misfortune to deal with an “editor” who didn’t know what the CMS was. Find and sample good editors in your area, and then you can send forth your “baby” looking her best. You’ll know when you’ve found the right one.

    Third, I am an author and an editor. Do I edit my own work? Never. I revise continually, but self-editing is nearly impossible. I am grateful to have partnerships with other editors who also make my writing better. Yes, I’m all for letting a manuscript rest–6 weeks, 6 monhs, a year, or whatever it takes. Next revise it, because you’ll be seeing your own writing with new eyes. When the fire is burning in your belly and you feel that your book may be ready for exposure to agents or publishers, then have it edited by someone whose work you know.

    Fourth, NYC and the rest of the publishing world is gradually coming around and accepting more unagented authors. All the more reason to work at your craft. After your third or fourth e-book, when the reading public is looking everywhere for every scrap of writing you’ve ever done, will those first books that you rushed to publish be something you’ll wish they can’t find? Just because you can publish absolutely anything, should you? A talented, devoted writer, who understands the publishing process, will hang in there and get noticed. I recently finished a blog series on publishing pitfalls, and you might enjoy the post “E-Publishing for the Write Reasons.” There are certain stories and literary forms (e.g., short fiction and essays) that lend themselves to e-publishing, perhaps later asembled as a print collection. These must be edited and proofread before you hit that “Publish” button. You might also be interested in my discussion of Small Independent Traditional Presses.

    Last, I believe that Hope Clark said it well: please don’t take a fierce stand AGAINST something if you haven’t been involved in it. Traditional publishing is not the enemy. Good writing will rise to the top. Keep at it, devote this energy to your craft, and remember–whether you are published by Random House or by TheLittleHouseNextDoor, marketing–publicizing your book(s)–will largely be up to you.

    Choose wisely and Happy Writing,
    Michaele Lockhart
    author of “Hoarding Lies, Keeping Secrets”

    http://www.MichaeleLockhart.com/blog

    • Well said, Michaele, and thanks for stepping in. Editors are great, but you do have to screen who you use, and then be open -minded about the suggestions. You can learn to be confident in what you’re willing to change and what is needed in the story, but that takes time. I’m open to suggestions on my work. And when feel this knee-jerk NO at some suggested change, I’ve learned to walk away from it and let it stew. I’ve acquired some grand ideas from unpublished writers as well as very opinionated editors who thought their way was the only way. Be willing to be led, but don’t do it blindly.

  9. Thank you, ladies for your responses.
    Firstly, I admit I’ve been stewing all day about my original post about editors. My apparent “fierce stand” against editors was a little too harsh and unjustified and certainly not as fierce as it appeared. And it was an over-generalisation. Obviously the vast majority of editors do a fantastic job. The angle I was coming from was one where a business needs to make money. I could believe publishing houses these days feeling threatened by self-pub ebooks and perhaps instructing their agents/editors/marketing/sales/whatever people to minimise risk and maximise return on investment. I don’t know. It’s something that applies all over the capitalist world, I think.
    Secondly I’m certainly not one to rush into getting published, regardless of the method. I’m more likely to procrastinate till I’m on my death bed, full of regret! But seriously, I’m more of a perfectionist. I need to balance these traits somehow.
    Michaele, I will certainly read the blogs posts you mentioned. Sounds like very valuable advice.
    Thanks again! 🙂

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