The Movie is Here in Thunder Bay. Don't Miss it.

The Movie is Here  in Thunder Bay. Don't Miss it.
Indian Horse, the movie based on the book by Richard Wagamese

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Self publishing? E publishing? The new way?

An old friend, Peter Bernhardt, Author of The Stasi File: Opera and Espionage - A Deadly Combination,  (Vol.1,Deadly Combination Series; Amazon/Amazon Kindle; Autographed Copies from Author; sends me an interesting article on e publishing.

Why I took the e-book route

Canadian author Peter Darbyshire tells all

By Peter Darbyshire, Postmedia News March 20, 2011

I recently managed to generate some controversy in the usually quiet and conservative world of CanLit by publishing a book.

The book itself isn't controversial; it's the way I decided to put it out.

I self-published it as an e-book. Or rather, I republished it as an e-book. The book, Please, was my first novel and was originally published as a paperback by Vancouver's Raincoast Press a few years back. It went on to do wonderful things, including win the ReLit prize for Canada's best alternative novel. So when it went out of print, the logical thing would have been to find another publisher and get it back into bookstores, not self-publish it as an e-book, right?

Well, maybe. A lot of other people certainly thought so. I received messages telling me I was mad, that self-publishing is for wannabe, amateur writers only, that e-books are killing "real" books and that such a move would hurt my career.

I think the critics are wrong. Why? Because of the e-book revolution.

For the better part of a decade, many people have been predicting the end of traditional publishing and the rise of the e-book. That moment appears to have finally arrived, thanks to the popularity of the Kindle and other e-readers, as well as the iPad.

The past few weeks have seen the bankruptcy of the Borders bookstore chain in the U.S. and HB Fenn in Canada, as well as layoffs at indie stalwart Powell's in Portland. As publishers and bookstores fall, e-book sales are exploding. It's not hard to see the relationship.

But, as usual, the bad news for some is good news for others. While publishers and bookstores are hurting, many writers are doing better than ever, thanks to e-books. In fact, some are doing so well they've walked away from careers with publishing houses to go it alone on the Kindle, iBookstore, Kobo and the other e-services that are launching almost daily.

Most of these services allow writers to self-publish and offer them a decent cut: 35 to 70 per cent, depending on the price. That's a lot better than the 25 per cent publishers generally offer for e-book rights.

Just a few years ago, most selfpublished writers lost money. Now, many are making more than they could with publishing houses -and they're reaching more readers.

The author leading the charge is Joe Konrath, a mystery writer who had a successful career in traditional publishing before he decided to go indie. Now he sells thousands of e-books a month. In a recent blog post, he estimates he's on track to earn half a million dollars this year.

Other writers have struck it rich on Kindle without even going the traditional publishing route. Amanda Hocking, a young writer from Minnesota, started self-publishing her paranormal novels on Kindle and other services last year after being rejected multiple times by agents. She's sold around 900,000 books so far.

But Americans have had the Kindle and other e-readers longer than Canadians, and the U.S. has a larger reading audience, so it's easier for writers to go indie in the States. And they've been helped along by the financial crisis, which has hammered publishers as hard as all the other industries, and put an end to the era of large advances, or even any advances for many midlist writers. It's made good business sense for American writers to self-publish e-books.

So the question is: Will the e-book revolution spread to Canada?

As it turns out, there are a few Canadian writers who have already gone indie and aren't looking back.

In the 1990s, writer Cliff Burns formed his own imprint and published his book Sex and Other Acts of the Imagination after being unable to find a publisher.

"Self-publishing saved my career and my sanity," says Burns, who "got tired of all the power resting in the hands of editors and agents who clearly had no affinity for work that carves a different path ... Now, new technologies like print-on-demand and blogging have placed more power and responsibility in authors' hands."

When asked about the future of books, Burns says, "I think in the next decade or two, the physical book will become more of a curio, like vinyl albums," and people will mainly read on "screens of various kinds."

It's a claim that's backed up by Burns' sales, as his e-book editions outsell the print ones by a considerable margin.

And it's also a claim backed up the marketplace, as e-book sales in general are rapidly gaining on print sales. Forrester Research reports that e-book sales in the United States hit $966 million in 2010, up from $301 million the year before.

In Canada, HarperCollins says it's seen a 500-per-cent increase in e-book sales since 2009, while Random House Canada has seen a 400-per-cent jump.

The success of e-books and indie writers has opened up the market for more writers to experiment with the new technology. Joey Comeau, who is one of the creative mad geniuses behind the online comic A Softer World, feels the stigma of self-publishing has finally faded, thanks to e-books.

"If you aren't with a real publisher, then you aren't a real writer," he says, explaining the historical prejudice against self-publishing. So he went with a real publisher for his early novels. But Comeau recently put out a new book, Bible Camp Bloodbath, on his own, in both print and e-book form. And the success of that led him to self-publish another book a few weeks ago, The Girl Who Couldn't Come."After a while, you start to wonder why you're working so hard to make money for somebody else," he says. "And you start looking around for alternatives."

Comeau doesn't see an end to print publishing, but he does think the industry will have to reinvent itself. "As book technology gets cheaper and cheaper, and as e-books become more common, I think publishers are going to have to start offering authors a bigger piece of the profits," he says.

In my case, it's too early to tell whether Please will be more successful as an e-book rather than as a print book, as it's only been a few weeks since I published it on Kindle.

But the attention I received for my experiment certainly shows people are interested. Shortly after I posted about publishing the book on my blog, I was contacted by the hip culture site Book Madam, which published an article on the "future of publishing" that featured my book. That piece was viewed thousands of times, and I was overwhelmed by messages from other writers asking me about it. Most of them didn't want to know why I selfpublished Please on Kindle. Instead, they wanted to know how I did it.

I imagine you'll be seeing their e-books on sale any day now.

Peter Darbyshire is a former Ottawa resident who now lives in Vancouver.

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