Common myths of epublishing
I did some research on a romance writers’ forum, Romance Divas, and asked them to tell me some of the myths they thought were most prevalent about epublishing. This article is a compilation of those, along with my own experience. This list has been shared with other publishing professionals who have used it in workshops and online without attribution, but copyright is fully my own.
1) Myth: Epublishing only publishes books that traditional publishers have rejected.
Reality: Sure, epublishing has and does publish books that have been rejected by traditional publishers for any number of reasons, but that doesn’t make the book either not fit to be published or a bad book. I’ve rejected books that weren’t right for me that have later gone on to be published at other houses. I’ve planned on rejecting books that I’ve passed to other editors in-house who ended up signing them because they were the right editor for the book and I wasn’t. I’ve seen agents blog about turning away projects because they weren’t the right fit for the book/author. Publishers do the same thing.
But in addition to all that, much of the material published by epublishers has never crossed a traditional publishing editor’s figurative desk.
2) Myth: Epublishers publish anything that is submitted.
Reality: Some epublishers do publish anything that’s submitted. But the reputable epublishers have standards that mean only a low percentage of submissions actually get published. Really, if you could see our slush piles and some of the things that are submitted to us, you’d laugh in the face of the next person to suggest that we publish everything…
3) Myth: There’s no overhead in epublishing.
Reality: Epublishing has much of the same overhead as a traditional publisher. I laid out most of this in the first article of this series, about the model of epublishing. There is a lower overhead, but that doesn’t equal no overhead.
4) Myth: Epublishers only publish erotica or erotic romance.
Reality: There are epublishers who are dedicated to the production of erotic romance and erotica, but many epublishers, including Samhain, publish everything from sweet to the sinfully sexy and naughty.
5) Myth: There’s no editing in epublishing.
Reality: Someone should tell my husband all those late nights I’ve spent working are just a figment of his imagination. The reality is, there are epublishers who don’t edit, offer minimal editing or poor editing. But the reality also is that I’ve had authors tell me my edits or edits from another editor are more thorough or in-depth than any they’ve received from traditional publishers. It’s going to depend on the editor and the publisher (whether we’re talking epublishing or traditional publishing)
6) Myth: Epublishers have no investment in the books they contract, and have nothing to lose if the books don’t sell.
Reality: This goes back to the overhead myth and the epublishing business model discussed in article 1. Just because there’s no advance doesn’t meant there’s no investment. Publishers still have to outlay money for editing, copy editing, cover art, formatting, marketing, etc. Additionally, not everything can or should be quantified solely by the monetary outlay, because, to quote the old adage “time is money” and every book published has an immense investment of time from a variety of people.
7) Myth: Authors go from epublishing to traditional pubs and never look back.
Reality: This is one of my favorite myths. There are some authors who see epublishing as a stepping stone to traditional publishing, but there are many, many authors who start in epublishing, move on to traditional publishing and continue to write for epublishing. And I could take quite a bit of time to list the authors who’ve started with traditional publishers and chosen to then also write for epublishers.
8) Myth: It’s easier to get published with an epublisher than a traditional publisher.
Reality: Epublishers have more publishing slots available and can publish more books per month so in that sense, yes it is easier, because there’s not competition for a more limited number of slots.
9) Myth: Epublishing is vanity publishing/you have to pay to get your books published in epublishing.
Reality: Certainly an epublisher can be a vanity publisher thanks to the ease of opening a website, putting your own books up and calling yourself an epublisher. And some epublishers charge money to get your book published. But neither of those would I consider a legitimate, reputable publisher. Remember Yog’s Law? Money flows towards the author. The only place you should be signing a check is on the back to cash it.
10) Myth: It’s not a real book because it’s: an ebook, not long enough, not available in print, you didn’t get a large advance…
Reality: I guess we could argue semantics here, if we want to pull out all the Webster definitions of a book but given the only “real” difference here is in format, it’s still a story that people read and enjoy, does format make it less real?
11) Myth: Traditional publishers don’t see epublishing as a writing credit and shun epublished authors.
Reality: Probably the number of authors who’ve had their start in epublishing would argue this one. But the reality is that some traditional editors, agents, publishers see epublishing as a writing credit and others don’t. Like everything, it depends on who you ask.
12) Myth: Ebooks can only be read on the computer.
Reality: I’m going to address this in the next article but ebooks can be read on phones, PDAs, iTouch, laptops, computers, and dedicated reading devices. In this age of technology there are a lot of options for reading ebooks.
13) Myth: No one reads ebooks.
Reality: My royalty checks beg to differ with you! I think it’s better to say that not everyone does or wants to read ebooks. That’s absolutely true. But that companies thought there was a viable market in dedicated ebook readers shows that people are reading ebooks. As do the piracy sites dedicated to exchanging ebooks.
14) Myth: All ebooks have terrible cover art.
Reality: This one makes me laugh because really? There is some bad ebook cover art out there. Heck, I don’t love every cover ever produced by my publisher. However, there are also a lot of beautiful and amazing covers created by epublishing artists.
15) Myth: You won’t (can’t) make any money in epublishing.
Reality: I think this is probably the question first and foremost in most author’s minds when they consider epublishing. The plain, no-holds-barred, unvarnished truth is that some people will make money and some people won’t. When I did my research on this, I found that the answers varied wildly from authors who’d made just a few dollars on their books to authors who’d made a few hundred thousand dollars in one year on their books.
Being honest, first time, new authors are unlikely to make a few hundred thousand dollars but it’s not unreasonable for some authors to expect to be “mid-list” authors in epublishing, who make twenty to thirty thousand a year within the first year or two of entering epublishing. Whether or not an author does make that much is going to depend on genre (erotic romance does seem to be one of the top sellers, as does paranormal but that does not rule out non-erotic books and authors from making money. I have some who can attest to this), the marketing plan of the author—I don’t care what anyone else tries to convince me of, promotion makes a difference, name recognition makes a difference and the two can and will sell books. Along with genre and marketing/promotion, how much money an author makes can also depend on any number of variables: what kind of cover art they get, what month their book releases in, and who they publish their book with.
When I collected data about epublishing earnings, I didn’t ask people to tell me which publisher they published with. In fact, I specifically said that information was not required. Approximately 95% of respondents shared that information anyway. There was a direct correlation between authors who wrote for publishers I was unfamiliar with or had little knowledge of, and low sales numbers. Which is not to say that low sales numbers only occurred at publishers unfamiliar to me, but that no publisher unfamiliar to me had sales numbers that totaled even close to 100 copies sold in a year’s time. As an aside here, I’m not insinuating that my knowledge of epublishers is so sweeping that I have knowledge of every publisher, but that I feel my knowledge and awareness of the industry is such that I can reasonably expect to have at least passing familiarity with the most reputable, successful epublishers.
In other words, authors who want or expect to make money in epublishing have a better chance of doing so at a better-known, more established epublisher than they do at one which is less familiar or established. There are, of course always exceptions, but they are not the general rule.
Those are the 15 myths which seem to be most common and most discussed about epublishing. There are other misconceptions about epublishing, but I tried to address here those which seemed most prevalent or frequently cited.
Copyright 2009 Angela James