And so over to Brian:
When Gary Dobbs announced that he wanted to have a debate both for and against ebooks, I had to chime in with what I’ve experienced after “publishing” a couple of ebooks with Amazon.Com and Smashwords.Com.
I was not prepared for how much uncertainty surrounds the entire e-publishing process. I have a fair amount of confidence in my work, and luckily have a great friend in Rebecca Forster, herself a successful author (in both print and electronic formats--check out Hostile Witness for a really hot read), who will peek at my pages from time to time, but for my two ebooks I could not afford a freelance editor and had to look elsewhere for feedback. You must be careful when you ask somebody to read your manuscript. Can you trust your poker buddies? Or your English major girlfriend who doesn’t like action thrillers or crime stories whose best comment is that you spelled all of the big words right? They often leave you with more doubts than anything else.
At the start, this doesn’t make self-publishing in the electronic format seem very positive, but I did the best I could, took a deep breath, and dived in. Then something odd happens. I checked Amazon and saw that people were buying the book (people I didn’t know!) Strangers emailed to say they couldn’t put the book down. Blog reviews appeared and were more than kind (and, yes, I gave them review copies free of charge--more on this in a moment).
Secondly, I found some of the “start-up” costs unexpected. When I did the short story collection Reaper’s Dozen, my friend Rebecca Forster designed the cover, and did a super job, and did that job free of charge. With Justified Sins I wanted to do something different, and asked an artist friend to draw a cover to my specifications. That cover cost me $150, which I really didn’t have, and if I’d had a little more to spend I would have insisted the gun be drawn to resemble what the character actually uses in the book. I mean, seriously, how big does it have to be?
Other than those two observations, it’s hard to see a downside to the “ebook revolution” (if that’s indeed what it is) currently taking place. The future is rosy as long as readers can find the best “indie” writers in the barrel. How might they do that? You need to get out and promote your work. Forget telling friends, family, and colleagues. In my case, most of them don’t even know what a real book is let along an electronic book. Instead send queries to bloggers who are friendly to “indies” (there are a ton!) and offer to send them a free copy in return for a review, or ask if they’ll let you do a guest post where you can mention your book. Of course, if they do a review, you run the risk of somebody not liking your book, but any publicity is good publicity.
Here are some other pros and cons of electronic self-publishing I lined up for your consideration:
1. Pro: You’re in charge of your own destiny. If you can make a name for yourself, you may do quite well.
2. Con: You could sink in a sea of a gazillion other “real authors” and indies and go nowhere fast so get out and promote.
3. Pro: You can be on the vanguard of new technology.
4. Con: You can’t hold a physical book in your hand (if you like that sort of thing).
5. Pro: With an ebook, you’re never abandoned for dead at the library or used book store.
6. Con: You won’t be one of those authors whose work is hunted for at used bookstores by rabid fans.
7. Pro: The network of indie authors and bloggers friendly to indies is quite extensive and supportive.
8. Con: The “real authors” who have been traditionally published--some of your heroes, perhaps--won’t let you into their “club” because they say that ebooks suck harder than a guitar amplifier that doesn’t go to eleven.
9. Pro: If the “real authors” are such sourpusses I don’t want to be in their club anyway.
The best approach you as a writer can take if you’re going to do an ebook, for now, as long as paper books and electronic books exist, is to use the platform to build an audience that will show a traditional publisher that not only are you a good writer, but a savvy marketer who can reach an audience that will pay for a real physical book.
And that’s the biggest “pro” of all.
Give ‘em hell.
Brian Drake is the author of Justified Sins and Reaper’s Dozen, both available at the Amazon Kindle Store. He has been a writer of mystery and crime fiction since his first publication at age 25, and discusses important contributions to the hard-boiled canon at his blog, “Brian Drake Explains It All”. In his spare time, Brian, a California native, can be found racing through the back canyon roads of the Central Valley in a bright red hot rod. Someday he may get a dog.