Friday, October 15, 2010

Questions about the new epublication services like PubIt

One thing I've noticed about the advent of the ebook technology - the spread of ereaders like the Kindle, the Nook, the Sony, and a few others - has been the retailers' offer of direct ebook publication such as PubIt.  (Amazon's is CreateSpace by the looks of things although BookSurge is supposed to be a name for the service...)

What this means is that writers no longer have to go through an agent or a large (or even small independent) publisher like Penguin, Simon and Schuster, Random House and HarperCollins.  All they have to do is sign up for the epublisher program, sign over their firstborn child uh sign over a good-sized percentage of sales and viola you're a writer.  Screw you, Dean Koontz.

Of course, there are disadvantages.  Whereas a major publisher like Penguin et al can market your book across the globe, you the writer are responsible for marketing yourself... which can cost more out-of-pocket money.  Also, from my personal experiences and having met a few other would-be writers over the years... let me just say that for a creative bunch of people who can pound out a 500-page epic about cyborg ninjas battling zombie pandas we writers can be pretty horrible with advertising and public relations.  Selling ourselves is rarely a strong trait.

Another problem: the need for editing.  Trust me, a first draft of a novel is NOT perfect.  An agent and publishing firm usually helps in that they can point out flaws, make suggestions, and meddle (usually in positive ways).  It's their jobs, after all, since they're hoping to make money off the good idea that your novel can be.  You may notice that the established writers - Tom Clancy comes quick to mind - tend to write terrible and oversized novels further into their careers: this is because their names are so big that they can afford to ignore everybody about the poor grammar, overweighted plots, and overt messaging that the writer wants to hammer into everyone's anvils.  Now consider the poor first-time writer, who may not necessarily have the writing skill that the big-name writers had when they broke big, and the desire to rush that massive new epic straight into the ebook market without having their friends and fellow writers, um, check for spelling first.  There's a reason why the major publishers take only a handful of first-time novels: the thousands of submissions they get are absolutely horrible.  With the epublishing, that filter will be long gone.

Still, the advantages seem to outweigh the weaknesses.  The near-ease of direct publishing is too tempting a lure.  But with that I still have questions that need answering:

1) While epublishing books is a given, does PubIt and the other epublish services allow for something like short stories or novellas?  I've had an easier go of writing shorts than novels, and there's a pile of short stories I'd like to print straight to ebook format...

2) If I publish to PubIt, which is Barnes & Noble, can I market the ebook to other eReaders like Kindle or Sony or the others?  I may need to re-read the Terms of Agreement regarding copyright, ownership, and availability to other eReaders I suppose...

3) This may also be in the Terms of Agreement, but does the PubIt service extend to print publishing just in case there are non-eReader owners who'd like the book?  I'm a librarian by heart, I like the idea of multiple formats (and there are people who still like print books... just the simple feel of them).

4) What's the number of eReader downloads I need to aim for to be considered a best-seller writer?  (ego-stroking bhwhahahahaha)

Okay, answer those Questions Three, there to the other side ye see.  Wait, that's four q... AAAAAAAAHHHH (cast into the Gorge of Eternal Peril).

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