Friday, June 25, 2010

Throwing Print Books Overboard?

I'm seeing it more and more often. Authors opting to go the eBook route directly, bypassing a print version entirely. Is this practical? Logical? Is it the wave of the future?

Many authors who have been in print either with larger New York houses or even with smaller, independent presses, are taking their out-of-print books and going "Indie,"  publishing those books as eBooks on Amazon or Smashwords. And Barnes and Noble is now going to offer their own indie eBook publishing platform. It looks bright in the eBook world.

But what interests me most are the authors who are skipping print versions of new books and releasing them only as Kindle editions. Mystery author Robert Walker is one of the biggest proponents of this new phenomenon and speaks highly of his success (see Guest Blog below). Another highly rated print author and mystery favorite, J.A. Konrath, has also released original eBooks. But you could argue the point that in the case of both Walker and Konrath, they have had previous success at garnering readers and a fan base because of publication with big NY publishing firms. They have ready readers hungry for their books.

What about the lesser known authors? There are authors writing in the shadows of the more well-known names who are also grand storytellers but may lack as big a fan base or name recognition. Can they sell as many eBooks?  Despite all the noise and fanfare of the eBook revolution, eBooks still account for a smaller market share of books sales. Can an author without an already established brand name or readership do better in the eBook market without the safety net of print books?  Creating an eBook and offering it for sale on Amazon as a Kindle download costs the indie author nothing if you do your own cover and your own conversions. Publishing a print version will cost you for distribution and ISBN purchase.

In my opinion, the eBook market is going to expand. Print books will always be around to snuggle with the eBook versions, of course. But the quandary for authors is whether there is sanity, profit and stability in ditching print versions of original books and hanging their careers solely in the eBook corner. I have been selling more eBooks than print books. For the indie author with a strict or non-existent budget and no lingering love for print books, the answer should be simple.

Will it be simple for most of us?


Sarah Ettritch said...

While it's easy and cheap to publish eBooks, I'll continue to offer my work in print for the following reasons:

1. Some (perhaps most) readers will always prefer print.
2. Since one can literally take a Word file to an eBook in an hour or two and without spending a dime, I think the eBook market is going to be flooded with dreck. Indie authors who put their work through a full publication cycle (editing, etc.) will be outnumbered by those who finish a first draft and slap it up at Smashwords and the Kindle store. In addition, it will become more difficult to stand out in the crowd when tons of authors are publishing an eBook a month at a price point of $0.99 each.
3. Those of us who don't abandon print might sell more books in that format when the space becomes less crowded.

Patty G. Henderson said...

I think you make a valid point, Sarah, and one that comes to my mind as well. That's why I think it's important to have open and realistic conversations pointing out the negatives and positives of the new eBook popularity. But if an author already has a big reader following and brand name recognition, the worries about being flooded out of the eBook market are going to be less. It will be a struggle for an emerging or lower than mid-list author to commit fully to only eBook publication.

Thanks for your thoughtful post.