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e-Books, starting somewhere

So what do you do now if you have a manuscript (or several) to sell? Traditional publishing (agents, publishers, slush piles, querying) or the untamed frontier of self e-publishing? The question seemed pretty clear not too long ago, particularly if you were serious about your writing, were persistent, were willing to make contacts and put your work out there. Traditional publishing, normal publishing was where all the cool kids were.

I'm not sure that's the case anymore.

Moving forward, it seems to be fairly clear that the answer will be different for every writer, but that almost certainly writers will utilise a combination of institutional publishing and their own efforts. Many already are.

What will I do? I don't know.

I’m a published writer but am yet to publish enough or works significant enough to make a living from writing. I say “yet” because I will get there. It is not a dream. It’s a goal I am working to achieving.

Essentially, I’m a beginning or emerging writer, or whatever other epithet you care to use to describe a non-professional, but serious writer.

And because of who I am and what I am, I am in the middle of the e-books and e-publishing quandary. I don’t have the new opportunity of releasing my back-list of published works dating to 1970 in e-book format to take advantage of these new methods of distribution. I don’t have the ready-made audience of an experienced and veteran writer. I don’t have the industry contacts or past relationships with publishers, agents and editors. I have grown up hearing of and dreaming of the traditional mode of publishing: slush-pile, agent, network, persistence. But I have not lived it to any great extent.

In other words, I am not particularly beholden to any model of publishing. My natural caution is sceptical of the promises being thrown out there by advocates of e-publishing and particularly self-publishing, but my interest is of course piqued by the tempting thought of being able to bypass a lot of the gate-keeping in traditional publishing. Skip the agent, skip the slush-pile, distribute your work directly to the reader.

The corollary to this of making thousands of dollars proclaimed by self-proclaimed self-publishing gurus seems like the promise of a pyramid marketing scheme. Or the promise of a dodgy real estate scheme.

I’d like to believe it, I’d like to think there is a possibility I could promote and market my novels to such a readership that would get me to that goal of part-time income for writing, but it does seem too good to be true.

Whether it is or not, the fact is e-books are here to stay and are likely to challenge paper books for supremacy if not completely obliterate their dominance. As such, my excuse to stay on the sideline for now, concentrate on writing and more writing, seems naive. I want to know, I want to try, I want to get out there and see what could happen. If nothing else, I’ll learn about it more than I would otherwise.

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Reader Comments (2)

Hi Ben,
Hope everything is well with you and the family down there - thanks for sharing your thoughts on this - I've been checkihg out the ebook publishing world lately myself (not that my novel is that close to finishing), just out of interest because I do like the thought of cutting out the middle man and setting your own price etc.
I noticed that a couple of winners from the Writers of the Future contest had even put their short stories up for sale.
There are a couple of spectacular success stories re ebooks but not too many that I've noticed from relatively new authors - the amount of people throwing up sub-par stuff that probably would never have seen the light of day in traditional publishing is staggering, and growing, so not sure if good novels would be lost in that self-publicising book storm.
My feeling is that, if it is a great novel and you can get a few people to look at it and spread the word, like any other great novel it will spread by word of mouth regardless of the form of publishing used. Still a bit early to tell yet but I'm also keeping an eye on things in this area - I guess you could try putting a novel up electronically while you try to sell it traditionally and see which one looks like succeeding first.
Steve T

April 20, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSteve T

Agreed. In fact, I think the key is to put something up, then put something else, and keep at it. Simply put, I think we need to write faster and finish faster and increase the quantity of work with our own names on it.

April 23, 2011 | Registered CommenterBen Julien

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