Testing the eWaters

Recently, I did two things of great significance, at least for me—as a reader and writer. First, I purchased a Kindle eReader. More on that in a later post. The second significant thing I did was to upload a short story of mine as an ebook.

It was just a test; just a dip of the big toe in a strange body of water, one about which I know little. But I’ll try to share what I do know with you and, as I learn more, I’ll pass that along as well.

To begin, maybe I can expound on why I decided to take the plunge, as it were (though, as I’ve mentioned, I’d qualify my foray into the world of epublishing as more of a dip than a plunge).

There is no question that the publishing world is changing. New avenues for publication are opening up, new opportunities are cropping up, and it can be said that epublishing is the most promising of these avenues, the most intriguing of these opportunities.

As sales for paper books stagnate, as brick-and-mortar bookstores close, sales in ebooks have continued to climb, year after year (more on that in a later post).

I’m not one of those who say that paper books will entirely disappear, or that the old way of publishing, known as legacy publishing, is dead; but there is absolutely no doubt that things are changing—fast—and that publishers will have to adapt to those changes or get left behind.

For more on those changes, I recommend glancing through J.A. Konrath’s blog. It’s a little heavy on the rhetoric, and Konrath is convinced that legacy publishing is on its tired and deluded way out, but much of the information is worth reading and his arguments are often hard to discount. He’s also sharing his blog, as of now, with a variety of guest bloggers, all offering different viewpoints on epublishing.

So what have I taken from all this? For one, epublishing cuts out the middle men, the many, many middle men. As it stands, to get a novel published, you should first get an agent. To do this, you have to sell your book to said agent. Once you’ve gotten an agent, your agent will try and find an interested editor and/or publisher. So now you’re selling to the editor. Finally, once you’ve rewritten your book a half dozen times to conform to what your agent/editor/publisher wants, you get to try selling your book to the reader.

With epublishing, you take your book directly to the reader. To some, this seems like a terrible thing since, well, you’re book might be absolute crap. But then, in that case, the reader simply won’t read and certainly won’t recommend it. So you lose not because an agent or editor didn’t think your book would sell, but because the reader though it was trash.

This essentially democratizes the process. It’s still heavily reliant on luck, but it skips the gatekeepers and goes straight to those people whose opinion truly matters: the readers.

Let’s put it this way: The first Harry Potter book was rejected a dozen times before it was finally accepted for publication. A dozen times. How many times did you have to read it before you knew you enjoyed it?

And let’s be honest, it’s not like there isn’t a ton of trash crowding bookstore shelves even with the gatekeepers hard at work.

So anyway, I’ve got these novels I’ve written and I know an agent wouldn’t be interested but, who knows, maybe a few readers might. So why not put them out there and let the readers decide. Are these novels great literature? Nope. Are they best seller material? I highly doubt it. But I think they’re well-written and entertaining and that’s all I asked of them and that’s what many readers are looking for so . . . Like I said: why not?

Fact is, if I make only ten bucks off one of my novels, that’s ten bucks more than if I’d kept sending it out to agents or simply left it to rot on my hard drive. I’ll say it again: why not?

Well, actually, there is a reason why not, and it’s a convincing one: If the novel I choose to publish is not so great, then that’s what I’ll be known for: sub-par work. If people loath it, write poor reviews for it, otherwise publicize their hatred of my work, it could mean the end of a nascent career as a novelist, one that could have had potential if it had been guided by a good agent.

Honestly, I’m not worried. Not because I think my work is so awesome that no one will hate it, but rather because I’m not out to make a name for myself or rock the literary world. I fully expect to have, at best, a tiny, almost imperceptible impact on the epublishing market. In other words, my expectations are very, very low. But I’m also fairly confident that, though no readers might love my work, nor will any hate it with enough passion to destroy me.

But, hell, I’m still just testing the waters, experimenting. So what was my first step? As I mentioned, I published a short story. It’s free on Smashwords and a dollar on Amazon (though I’m hoping it will be made free there as well—again, more on that in another post).

In coming posts, I plan on detailing the process, passing on any advice I might have, and sharing my experiences with you.

It should be an interesting journey . . .