Monday, May 21, 2007

Print versus e-Book

One of my favorite things about doing a daily blog is that, over time, readers have started to direct my attention to items they think I might find interesting. It's very helpful--especially on days when I'm searching for a blog topic.

That happened yesterday morning. Marie Tuhart pointed me toward the Dear Authors site to read the discusson on e-publishers and print books.

Jane--one of the two Ja(y)ne owners--spoke with Patty Marks of Ellora's Cave, Angela James of Samhain and Treva Harte of Loose ID (pronounced "lucid"). All three e-imprints began as e-publishers only. All three are now converting e-book titles into print books sold by retailers like Borders.

According to a July, 2006 article in Publishers Weekly, Ellora's Cave (EC) is "a force in the industry," meaning the erotic romance industry. EC was the first e-publisher to be acknowledged by the Romance Writers of America as a RWA Recognized Publisher and the first e-publisher to be invited to contract for print copies of their titles by a national bookstore chain (Borders in 2004).

Patty Marks, speaking for Ellora's Cave, told Jane that EC recently upgraded their print-on-demand printing equipment. Among other things, she indicated that the POD equipment gave EC more control over quantity, timing, and needed changes.

When Jane asked if success with in-print books was necessary for a publisher to be viable, Patty responded that it wasn't necessary for financial success (EC's e-books sell more than their print books), but that it was necessary for EC to continue to attract authors.

Angela James of Samhain, a relatively new e-publisher, echoed Patty Marks' comments about authors wanting to see their books in print. Angela said, "Adding a print program provides another source of revenue and, as I said, access to a new market of readers and buyers, but it also adds another layer of cost, commitment and responsibility . . ."

The challenge for an author when choosing a publisher is to balance conflicting priorities. There's no question that it's easier to get e-pubbed than print pubbed and probably easier to build an audience as well. People who are inclined to read e-books are also more inclined to read blogs and reviews online that recommend a specific book or author. Also, online Yahoo groups are a huge help for an e-author to build an audience.

Although print books give an author something tangible to hold in his hand, it takes a loonnngggg time to go from contract to actual publication in print. In the interest of fairness, my e-book author friends are complaining that the most popular e-publishers are taking much longer than they once did to get a story online.

Traditional print publishers do offer advances--according to a recent article in the New York Times--publishers generally offer 10% of what they expect the book to earn.

The reading audience for any specific e-publisher varies widely. If an author sells to a large e-publisher like Ellora's Cave, the reading audience can be substantial. However, this is not the case with all e-imprints.

As e-publishers move into print and traditional print publishers begin to market online, the once-clear lines between the two business models begin to blur.

To read the Dear Author post, go here and check May 19.

To read a Labor Day, 2004 interview with Patty Marks of Ellora's Cave go here.

One interesting note: That interview with Patty Marks contains a photo of Patty, the mother of the founder of EC, standing with the EC chief operating officer, Chrissy Brashear. A little over a year after this photo was taken, Chrissy opened her own e-publishing house: Samhain, which just celebrated 18 months in business.

Thanks to Marie for directing me to Dear Author. Read Marie's blog here.