Should emerging authors ePublish?

It’s an interesting dilemma. There is no doubt the publishing industry is changing. Rapidly. Statistically, there is an exponential increase in eReader purchases and eBook downloads each year, and a corresponding fall in hardcopy book sales.

There seems to be as many doomsayers predicting the demise of the book, as there are enthusiasts rejoicing in the changing technology. So who is saying what, and why?

I went to the Young Adult Writers Festival at the NSW Writers Centre on the weekend and heard a few different viewpoints on the matter. The fact that the industry is changing is not in dispute, but the best way of dealing with these changes sparked much discussion.

Epublishing opens doors for authors. It allows them to get their work out there to test the waters. I think people will always want to read. Along with the technology, what I think is changing is how, when, and where they read. Savvy consumers are fast realising that they don’t need to buy a book based only on the blurb. Buying an ebook means you can sample the text before you purchase it, sometimes up to a third of the book. And this is not going to happen unless the text is a grammatically correct, well-written, engaging manuscript.

As a prolific reader, I make great use of my local library. But I find that because of the volume I read, I don’t have the patience to persevere with a book that doesn’t grab me in the first few chapters. As eBook consumption increases, unless the book is high quality writing, it just won’t cut it at all. And when the eBook is a great read, it is typically much cheaper than a hardcopy.

This is a good thing for authors and readers alike. But it doesn’t seem to be too popular with publishers. There is some debate about pricing of eBooks, with those thinking that ePublishing at ridiculously cheap prices (for example: $0.99) undermines the integrity of authorship. I’m not sure about this one, I don’t know if it does or not – but I don’t suppose the guy who has just sold his first million ebooks (for $0.99 each) would think it does.

Un-contracted authors at the festival seemed excited by the prospect of being in control of their work and publishing themselves electronically without the costs usually associated with self-publishing. Publishers however, not so. One publisher on a panel, upon hearing that an author had released an eBook before securing a traditional contract, was concerned about ‘what’s left for us?’

An author who had published the traditional way and had since bought back the electronic rights to his book, told of making more money as a $0.99 ebook than he received in royalties from the publisher.

These days, with the tools of social media at everyone’s fingertips, authors are their own best publicists, and if they are on top of things can potentially be very successful in the electronic book world.

I suppose traditional publishers should be worried. No-one can survive doing the same thing in a changing environment. Borders is a testament to that.

I am a writer. I really am.

I’m writing today. I’m two thousand words down so far, and it feels great. I’m now just over half way through my third novel. But I have to work really hard to make sure I get a few free days to write each week. I’m determined not to let life get in the way of making progress on this manuscript.

My first novel took ten years to write. And it’s still sitting at the bottom of my desk drawer. There were a plethora of reasons it took so long. I was raising a child, working, studying, dealing with… well, life! But I think the main reason it took so long to come together was because of the way in which I thought about my writing.

Thoughts of being a writer had plagued me since I was a child. I’d write short stories, poems, opinion pieces, song lyrics, and later, novels ― all to satiate a need I didn’t understand and couldn’t explain. I did this for twenty years. But none of these musings ever saw the light of day.

No matter how much I needed to write, or wanted to be a writer, I guess I didn’t take my writing seriously enough. It was something that sat in the background while I prioritised other things. During that time I was a mother, a teacher, an employee―someone who wrote as a hobby, but I wasn’t a writer.

I battled for years. Mostly myself. The writing thing never went away though. That burning desire to write simmered away just beneath the surface of everything else I did. Eventually it boiled over in spectacular fashion. I quit my job, put my house up for sale, and wrote. Just wrote.

I wrote my second novel in six months. Then I ran out of money. But you know, I have this overwhelming sense of ‘all is right in the world,’ because I’m doing exactly what I need to be doing. I don’t have a cent to spare, and I’ve had to pick up a few days a week casual work to support myself, and make some major concessions and readjustments in terms of lifestyle. But that’s okay. Because I am a writer. It’s who I am, who I’ve always been. It just took me a very long time to get there.