More profit. Quicker publishing. Greater control over your work. A way to reintroduce out-of-print books.
Many local authors are asking themselves: What's not to love about producing e-books?
Beginners and established writers alike are increasingly choosing the e-book path. Unpublished writers see it as a way to break into the business. Veterans are eager to see some of their older books in the hands of new readers, and they don't care that those hands are holding a Kindle or Nook instead of a book.
But as alluring as it sounds, publishing only e-books can carry some big drawbacks for both writers and readers, industry insiders warn.
For writers, one of the biggest problems is promotion, said Ken Flint, author of numerous volumes of history and historical Irish fantasy over the past 30 years.
A writing instructor at the University of Nebraska at Omaha and Metropolitan Community College, Flint has re-released 13 of his print novels as e-books and likes the idea that they're reaching new readers and that his fans can buy harder-to-find titles.
But without the public relations boost from a publishing house, he said, he depends on word of mouth and a presence on Facebook and Twitter to let people know they are available.
You have to know how to use social media if you're publishing an e-book, said Sally J. Walker, a published author, Omaha-area writing coach and editorial director of fictionworks.com, a national company based in Oregon that publishes both print and e-books. Publisher Ray Hoy says his company was one of the very first e-book companies (and that he has "the scars to prove it").
Since last summer, fictionworks.com's sales of e-books is up 400 percent, Walker said. The introduction and convenience of Amazon's Kindle, Apple's iPad, Barnes & Noble's Nook and other electronic readers, along with the availability of thousands of titles and lower prices, have combined to make e-book sales soar.
Companies such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Smashwords also have free formatting programs for authors who want to self-publish a book. Self-publishing and how-to websites have popped up like mushrooms. Their help can cost nothing or $5 or much more, depending on what a writer can do for himself.
There also are companies that handle all of authors' e-publishing for them — for a fee. That's the route Flint took, and he receives 40 percent of his book sales as opposed to the 8 percent he received for his print titles.
Omaha marketing consultant Aaron Filipi wrote a book about losing his job and the effect that had on him and his family. With the recession and high unemployment, he said, he saw an audience for it.
He didn't want to wait years to find an agent, an editor and a publisher. So he self-published "Job Lo$$" through Amazon. Publishing was free, but he'll have to give Amazon a percentage of his sales.
Filipi used several editors before putting his book online. Many self-published authors skip that step.
That irritates authors who produce print books and work with editors on serious rewriting — and sloppy writing and errors are common complaints from e-book buyers. You get what you pay for, Walker said. That 99-cent e-book may be a mess or just plain awful.
Since Filipi felt his work was worth more than 99 cents, he charged $4.99 for his book. Most of Flint's titles sell for that, too. Only writers who already are big names in publishing can ask for (and receive) $10 or more for e-books, although many of their older titles can sell for as little as 99 cents. For example, Nora Roberts and Charlaine Harris' new titles are $14.99; Suzanne Collins' "Hunger Games" trilogy as a set is $18.99 on Amazon. Books by James Patterson range from $5.99 to $14.99 for Barnes & Noble's Nook.
Some authors try for years to get published in print, only to receive rejection after rejection. That, and the lower costs of publishing online, drove Omaha retiree Phil Duke to publish e-books. He's at 13 and counting.
"I write for my pleasure, so I write on various subjects that interest me," Duke said.
To Duke's surprise, his most popular book with online shoppers is "Heroin, God's Own Medicine," a novel based on his work with alcoholics and addicts. Next best-selling is "Sherlock Holmes and the Alien Abduction," one book of a trilogy.
Many e-books are aimed at a small audience, so the author of a family history or a memoir may not care if only friends and relatives purchase the book. They often go with print-on-demand companies; if an author wants to order print books on top of her e-books, she can order only as many as needed, not boxes of them that would end up in her basement.
These books traditionally would have gone to vanity presses, Walker said. The writers would have to cover all the costs of print publishing and order a specified amount of books. Now they don't have to.
After struggling to find a traditional publisher for his children's book, "The Day My Socks Ran Away," Michael Mitchell opted to self-publish it as an e-book. It was a fairly easy step for him because he has a degree in computer science, he said. Once he'd figured out the format he received for free from Amazon, he was published in 12 hours.
"There is a learning curve," he said of self-publishing. "You're either going to have to learn to do this yourself or you're going to have to pay someone to do it for you."
He urged writers who want to work with an e-book publishing company to research them before signing with one.
Most of the authors aren't writing to get rich. They're writing to share information or a story with people they think will enjoy it.
And most of them love books — real paper and glue books — and don't see that changing for themselves or millions of others anytime soon.
But there's no denying that e-books have permanently changed the book world.
The share of adults in the United States who own at least one digital reading device jumped from about 18 percent in December 2011 to 29 percent in January 2012, according to the Pew Research Center's Internet and American Life Project. And e-book demand shows no sign of slowing.
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