The landscape of the book industry is changing with ePublishing enabling authors to skip the middle-man and take the entire process under their control.
Some are hailing it as a breakthrough and an empowering development for writers, while others say it could also be detrimental. The invention of Amazon’s Kindle and the Apple iPad have revolutionized the eBook industry, making them portable and easily downloadable.
Nanaimo science fiction writer Douglas Boulter, who publishes under the name D.A. Boulter, touts the ePublishing movement as an exciting evolution, allowing artists more control over their work.
“The ePublishing world is really exploding. It’s an exciting time to be a writer,” said Boulter. “As an artist, you don’t have to bow to the whims of business. You have complete creative control if you self-publish.”
Boulter said it’s getting harder to get publisher’s attention, with many dropping mid-list authors from their ranks, instead keeping bestsellers and well-known authors. This is being compounded by the loss shelf space at bookstores.
Boulter said most publishers won’t take on niche-market writers, which is where he sees himself, so he turned to ePublishing.
Boulter has written five books and two novellas that he self-published and sells through Amazon’s website. There is even a feature he uses that allows print-on-demand books so buyers can get a hard cover.
He has sold his work for about a year, but sales began to pick up when another science fiction writer recommended his book on a blog. Since then, sales have picked up and he has sold nearly 5,000 copies since this March.
Boulter sells his books for an average of $2.99 and receives a 70-per cent royalty, while authors with publishers get about a 15-per cent royalty, minus the literary agent’s percentage. He sells his books for a third of what traditional writers do, but receives nearly double the revenue.
But self-publishing comes with a number or responsibilities authors must take on. They must write, edit, market, recruit beta-readers, design their cover and typeset their project. The challenge Boulter faced was designing his cover.
Nanaimo author Susan Juby took a traditional route for her books. Her books include Alice, I Think; Miss Smithers and The Woefield Poultry Collective.
It’s getting easier for people to get their books out there with the advent of ePublishing, if they have the energy,she said. For now, Juby isn’t entering the ePublishing realm, but says if her books go out of print, she might consider getting the rights back and offering them as eBooks.
When she tried to get her first book published, she was “roundly rejected by everyone in sight”. One small press took a chance on her and her work got to an agent.
“It was hard to break in,” she said.
Juby said while ePublishing is making it easier for people to publish their work, it is hard to garner the interest of readers.
“You have to get the attention of readers and build an audience. Traditionally that has been the work of the publishers, but it is gone with eBooks,” she said. “It will be very fascinating to see how this works out long-term with publishing and how it influences it.”
Frank Moher, a Vancouver Island University creative writing and journalism instructor and former chairman of the department, said publishers have been the gatekeepers of the industry. They are integral in promoting an author’s work, but also act as filters for books, weeding out the good from the bad.
But now anyone can offer their work for sale.
“What follows is there is a lot of garbage,” said Moher, adding that could eventually discourage readers from buying independent authors’ eBooks.
Aand going the self-publishing route doesn’t guarantee big returns.
“The success stories, even though they are spectacular, are few and far between, but it is very empowering for the writer,” said Moher.
As a playwright, Moher is publishing his work online as well.
He created ProPlay, which publishes scripts that were professionally produced. Many of those plays might never be heard of again after the first production, because they can disappear or sit at the back of a 500-page catalogue. The website, www.singlelane.com/proplay, allows people to easily access the plays all in one spot.
And despite the challenges, ePublishing is an extraordinary development in the publishing world, Moher said.
“We are reshaping our publishing courses to be more digitally orientated because that is obviously the way things are going,” he said.