I have been involved in the print publishing world for nearly eighteen years, and it is a world filled with frustration, patience, and major business decisions. My late husband, Don Pendleton was a very successful author for more than 30 years. He published more than one hundred twenty five books-with 200 million books in print worldwide and I worked very closely with him in his business dealings with the industry.
The changes that have taken place in the print industry in these last few years have had a big impact on most authors, I believe due to the merging of big publishing companies, leaving only about five companies, down from more than fifteen not too many years ago. Because the dollar controls these companies more than ever today, vision and enthusiasm on their part has been lost, and authors suffer, especially the mid-list authors. The huge advances now given to big name authors also hurt all of us. Many of these big advances given to celebrities are never recovered by sales. So it only stands to reason that the publishers then have to make it up in some way, and in all probability that would be by giving lower advances to most authors.
Advantages of print publishing:
1. Payment of advances.
1. Struggle to be paid royalties fairly.
In some cases, books will stay in print for years. Our nonfiction book, "To Dance With Angels" has continually been in print for nearly twelve years now-four editions. But that doesn't always happen. In fact, it seldom happens. Shelf life can be as short as two months.
Even though Don had the success of a best-selling novelist for years, we had problems selling a couple of his later books. It was also difficult for New York publishing to accept his movement between fiction and nonfiction.
One of the biggest complaints from authors is the very slow response time from traditional publishers on submissions. It can take months, or years, before being notified of rejection or acceptance. One of my manuscripts was under serious consideration by my previous publisher for more than five months before it was decided by the sales/marketing division to turn it down.
Electronic publishers normally have a much faster response time although with the volume of submitted manuscripts increasing in recent time the turnaround may be longer.
As writers, we want our work shared with others. That's what it is all about. Yes, it is nice when that sharing also includes fat checks! Don always told new authors to get all they could up front with the advance because creative bookkeeping on the part of publishers may not bring much more their way.
Advantages of e-book publishing:
1. Your book is published
1. Usually no advance.
The Authors Guild and the American Society of Journalists and Authors
issued this stand on Electronic Publishing Rights in 1993:
They, of course, recommend that authors retain their electronic rights in print contracts, but it is becoming more unlikely that an author can take that stand. The Authors Guild suggests that separate terms be negotiated for electronic rights as the electronic publishing industry is changing radically.
Based on these arguments and research, I decided to move into e-book publishing. In my own personal discussion about e-book contracts with my publishing attorney and with the Authors Guild it was suggested that I negotiate a royalty rate as close to 50% as possible. Some electronic publishers will consider that, others will not. The smaller electronic publishers that do not pay the higher royalty rates will suffer as the print publishers are now moving toward paying higher electronic rates-and also offering their own electronic publishing programs separate from print publishing deals. Take for instance, Barnes & Noble is affiliated with i-universe.com and Xlibris.com is a division of Random House.
The Authors Guild notified its members some time ago that Random House, the largest trade book publisher, announced that they were increasing E-book royalty rates, and will evenly split its electronic book sales revenue with all its writers, both retroactively for authors who have signed contracts and in all future contracts. Erik Engstrom, President and Chief Operating officer, said a 50-50 split of its proceeds from e-books sales reflects the publishing giant's cost savings from publishing electronically. (Source: Authors Guild Electronic Update, November 14, 2000).
The Authors Guild went on to say "some industry observers caution that Random House may choose to define its proceeds in a manner that would reduce the amount it would have to share evenly with authors."
Larry Kirshbaum, Chairman, CEO of Time Warner Trade Publishing discussed electronic publishing on a NY panel in September of 2000, which was covered by C-Span Book TV. He spoke of the advantages offered to an author by a print publisher, which basically include what I mentioned above. Advances, editing, promotion, marketing, and distribution are advantages that he believes far outweigh what an author is able to do on his or her own. Which may be true. He said in book publishing that "talent comes first"-speaking of the author, and that "they would always get their fair share," but emphasized that there are others in the game, i.e., the publisher, distributors, retailers who all need their share. And of course, the publisher's role is big.
In regards to electronic publishing
Kirshbaum stated, "My attitude
is let's build a bigger pie here. Let's make this business so big, so
exciting, and then we will decide, we can argue about, how we divide
These are all good points. The ideal for any author is a large advance, great promotion and marketing, and to have their book available in several formats, including print, electronic, audio-and a position at the top of a best seller list. But in reality, it does not often happen that way. So what choices may be second best? That is for you to decide. And it may depend on how many rejection slips you and your book agent may collect before you choose to walk down another avenue.
I saw the writing on the wall when Stephen King did his thing on the Internet. The publishing world was not going to turn away from the opportunity to get in on the game, and fast. It is true that some publishers had already been in the field of electronic publishing but it had not received the attention it should have.
As with many dot-com companies, we have seen a few established independent e-publishers close their doors but at the same time we have seen others growing. Obviously some small publishers opened their business on a shoestring budget and a hope and prayer. For any business to be successful it takes solid financial backing otherwise it is probably doomed for failure.
It appears that to be an e-book author it takes self-promotion along with the promotional efforts of your publisher. Many writers prefer to write and leave promotion to their publishers, so self-promotion may not be an ideal situation for some. But we have at our fingertips, (or click of the mouse) the Internet which does allow for a lot of exposure. That can be accomplished through a personal web site, and good search engine coverage. Most of the writers groups allow for a web page or at least a link to your web site. It is advantages to join professional ebook writers groups. Promotional tools such as press releases via snail mail, emails and e-Zines can be helpful. There are several annual E-book Awards including the EPPIE's, the Independent E-book Awards, and the Franklin E-book Awards. Take advantage of those.
I would suggest before making a decision to go exclusively into e-publishing that you do your homework and research thoroughly your options and opportunities. One excellent book to read on the subject is "Electronic Publishing: The Most Complete Reference to Non-Subsidy E-Publishing" by Karen S. Wiesner. Karen, a best selling ebook author, updates her book annually.
Along with electronic publishing, I have also opted to put back in print twelve of Don's novels through the Authors Guild (of which I am a member and Don was for many years), and i-universe's Print on Demand program. Six of those books are also available as e-books through Palm Digital Media and I am pleased with the initial sales of the e-books there. All six e-books were on the Top Ten mystery bestseller list within a couple of days of going on sale. Obviously, Don's name has always had visibility in the publishing and reading world and he does have an established fan base, which may account for the good sales. I have no idea.
I have also licensed audio rights on those same six books and hope to do more in the near future. So in some ways, the new opportunities are exciting for writers, but it is to be seen if those opportunities will also be lucrative. I believe it is important to have Print on Demand available on all e-books. I personally do not believe that the electronic format will ever become more popular than paper books (at least not in my lifetime) but I do believe there is room for both and acceptance of the electronic format will continue to grow. Let's hope that it will grow in leaps and bounds!
Good writing! Linda Pendleton
For Additional Information:
Authors Guild: http://www.authorsguild.org
2002-2010 by Linda Pendleton, all rights reserved.