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Saturday, 30 April 2011

E-publishing V Traditional Publishing

The world of publishing is undergoing changes as the electronic world catches up. As an author who has published both ways it seemed to me to be a good time to weigh up the pros and cons.

My first book Dead Wood was published in the traditional way after winning the Dundee International Book Prize. What an exciting time that was. The procedure prior to publication was not without pain. Any author will tell you that writing ‘The End’ when you finish, is not really the end. There follows a period, which can last up to a year, but in my case was 8 months, for the editorial process. During this time conflicting demands were made – to add words and to cut words. The cover was decided by the publisher and the title changed. But what a feeling of achievement there was when I held my book in my hands and saw it on the bookstore shelves.
 
Now all that may seem fairly easy to the new author, but that book had been hawked round publishers and agents for 4 years prior to winning the prize. Rejections were the order of the day. The last rejection I had was 1 month before winning the prize and that publisher had retained the book for 4 years before making up his mind. That same publisher, I may add, had a recent column in a Sunday newspaper bemoaning the fact that publishers were losing their authors to e-publishing.

So, 2 years later, after hawking my second book round the publishers and agents, I decided to go down the electronic route and publish Night Watcher to Kindle. After the formatting it was relatively painless and cost me nothing, apart from the editing fee, which is a good investment. Shortly after, basking in my success, I published the book to Smashwords so that other reader formats could have access to the novel. Admittedly I didn’t have that wonderful feeling of holding a book in my hands but at least it’s out there and being read. After all, what is a writer without an audience?

So what are the pros and cons. Well, with traditional publishing you have all the pain of constant rejections, plus the length of time everything takes. With e-publishing you can have your book on sale almost immediately, although I would advise sending it to a literary agency or editor prior to taking that step. A traditional publisher will give you 8 per cent royalties (average), while with e-publishing you can be earning anything between 35 to 85 per cent, provided you publish yourself. But best of all you are independent, and the feeling of liberation that comes with that, because you don’t have to prostrate yourself to publishers, is marvellous.

I would say that the e-publishing route has been a success for me, although I do miss being able to hold my book in my hands following publication.

E-publishing or traditional. What do you think?

9 comments:

Adela Stockton said...

Hi Chris
I have enjoyed this post, I am also heading towards embracing the e-publishing route with my latest book Gentle Birth Companions:doulas serving humanity, but I am intrigued that you say the conversion to Kindle was easy for you. My lovely webmaster has had a go for me and even he has struggled to get the text into a format that is compatible. Any tips you can give me would be really welcome! Meantime, thank you for sharing your experience, I agree that digital publishing looks set to stay, so we might as well embrace it!
Adela

Janice Horton said...

Very interesting and balanced post, Chris. I too have done it both ways (trad & indie)and there are pros and cons just as you said. I haven't quite made my mind up yet about sending my current WIP (once it's ready) down the traditional route or going straight to Kindle & Smashwords with it. I have to say I'm favouring the indie route just now.

Chris Longmuir said...

Adela, if you send me your email address I can send you my Guide to Kindle Publishing which I compiled to help my more technologically challenged friends. You can send the addres through the Contact page on my website, that way you're not making it public.
Chris

Bill Kirton said...

Clear concise post - which is exactly what I'd expect of you, Chris. Your analysis is spot on but it's that nostalgic thing about actually holding a printed copy in your hands that's difficult to shake off, isn't it?

Rosemary Gemmell said...

Great post, Chris, and you clearly show the advantages of going it alone. However, in the interests of further balance, another option is to go with a smaller publisher who also publishes to e-book. That way, you get the professional editors and cover artists and they usually pay generous royalties (unlike some of the bigger publishers).

Melanie said...

I have a Sony reader and the Kindle and Kobo apps on the ipad. I love reading on both but there is something about holding a physical book - and my bookcases resemble yours, Chris.

However, that being said, the idea of having something marketable withing days as opposed to years is definitely a plus.

Big press, small press, indie e-publishing (or even indie print) more and more the onus is falling on the author to do the marketing and promotion.

I think with indie e-publishing there's even more marketing that needs to be done. There are so many titles out there electronically, you have to do something dramatic to get your work noticed.

Aye, it's a conundrum for sure. I guess we'll all decide when the time comes what route is best for us.

Jenny Harper said...

Changing times indeed. I'm loving my Kindle - but a real book? There's a thing.

myraduffy said...

The scary thing is -what will come after Kindle?

Melanie said...

I'm not sure what is going to come next but I did hear on CBC Radio on my way to work one day last week that the students at Queens University had created a computer from paper!