Finding The Best E-publisher
For Your Novel.
So...did you believe e-publishing was a passing fad?
It may be that e-publishing's time has come. A recent article in Publishers'
Weekly's on-line bookseller newsletter announced that, "Hoping to break new
ground in electronic publishing, Stephen King has teamed up with Simon &
Schuster to publish his newest work, Riding the Bullet, in ebook format
only." (PW Daily, March 8, 2022).
King's book sold over 400,000 copies in its first day of sales -- tying knots
in Amazon's and Barnes & Nobles' on-line ordering systems. King's novel will
surely boost the acceptance and popularity of e-books.
Want to join the fun, but don't know which e-publishers are good ones? There
are a lot of overnight start-up operations that close their doors just as
swiftly a short time later. Even the best e-publishers have only been around for
a few years, so it can be hard to tell them apart.
Here's a way to find the best one for you:
Subsidy or commercial publisher?
First up, decide if you want your book published the "traditional"
way or not. That is, do you want a publisher to buy your electronic rights in
exchange for royalties?
Or do you want to maintain control (and most of the profits from sales) of
your book? A subsidy publisher might be for you.
If you're confused about this issue, then consult Inkspot's Electronic
Publishing FAQ, by Moira Allen: http://www.inkspot.com/epublish/articles/epublishfaq.html.
The difference between the two types of publisher are defined and discussed.
As the most common form of e-publishing chosen by fiction authors is
commercial, I will deal with commercial publishers for this article.
Build a list of possible publishers
I could give you a list, but because of the velocity at which the industry is
growing, the list would already be out of date as you're reading it. You need to
build your own:
1. Do you know any e-publishers at all? Write them down.
2. Raid the EPIC site (http://www.eclectics.com/epic/index.html). On
the members page you'll find each author's e-publisher listed and
3. Plug "electronic publishers" and other related terms
such as "e-publisher", "digital publisher",
"e-books", in your favourite search engine. And brace
4. Also tap into Yahoo's listing of electronic publishers: http://dir.yahoo.com/Business_and_Economy/Companies/Publishing/Electronic_Publishing/
Rate the ratings
Find websites and magazines that review e-books. Not all will review e-books.
You'll recognize e-publisher names from your list if they do. Check the ratings
for your genre. Notice which e-publishers get consistently good ratings. This is
how I found my publisher -- they were getting five star ratings with
national romance magazines.
Are they a subsidy publisher?
The quickest way to tell is: Are they asking for any money up front? Are
there any aspects of the book's production that are up to you (such as art
production, layout, editing)? They're probably a subsidy publisher.
Check free excerpts...and more.
Check the excerpts of books for sale, listed on e-publishers' sites. Do they
consistently make you wince? Avoid this publisher.
But if the excerpts excite you, explore further. The traditional advice was
always "read our current titles to see what we're looking for." This
applies to e-publishers, too. Buy a couple of books and read them. Besides,
shouldn't you be supporting the industry you're hoping to capitalize upon?
Check the published contracts
Many e-publishers publish a standard contract on their website, or else fully
explain their terms of offer. Check:
a) if they pay advances? Unusual. This is not an industry standard.
b) what rights do they want? Many ask for electronic rights only, but some
ask for print, print-on-demand and more. Decide what you want to sell, and
c) the royalties they offer? E-book royalties vary wildly from a high of
70% to a low of 15%. The highest is not necessarily the best.
d) if they edit your book? This is critical. Some e-publishers are
retailers in disguise. If you want your book published through the familiar
process of submission, sale, editing, book packaging and release, then check
the small print, or ask if you can't find the answer.
e) if they promote your book? Most fiction e-publishers work on the
tightest of budgets, and the successful ones are experiencing enormous cash
crunches. Promotion is not a given for any novel (including print novels!),
but some e-publishers do whole-company promotion, and they have support
systems for authors' PR efforts.
f) How long is the contract for? The standard is a year, often with options
for either party to withdraw or extend the contract by another year. How long
do you want to be committed?
g) Where's the out-clause? How can you get out of this publishing contract
if you need to? Unlike print contracts, your book is going to be on the
shelves for over a year. It's conceivable you might want to withdraw it (you
might sell it to a print publisher, who insists on the e-book version being
withdrawn, for example). Most out-clauses are very simple and reasonable --
usually 30 to 90 day's notice in writing is all it takes. Make sure there is
one in the contract. You never know what is around the corner.
Talk to authors
Ask those authors who've sold to publishers on your short list for a candid
opinion of the e-publisher's services. You'll receive some insights into the
pros and cons of each publisher.
Most e-authors have email hotlinks on their publisher's site, and they adore
getting mail from readers. (I speak from experience.) You might try asking them
what they think of their publisher, one writer to another, but their answers
will be extremely cautious and diplomatic.
You will get more open and frank answers from authors you know, or know from
email discussion lists or newsgroups. If you're actively marketing your novel,
then you probably already belong to several author groups and associations and
know a few e-authors already.
How does the site feel? Do you like the way it looks? Do the titles appeal to
you? What promotion do they do on the site? Would you feel happy with your book
listed amongst their ranks? Is there only one or two books for sale? Are their
submission requirements impossibly long, detailed and demanding (indicating
imperious power monsters)? How long have they been in operation? Do they have
their own domain, do they take credit cards, do they have shopping cart
software, do they have full contact details for lost customers?
In other words, do they operate like a professional business?
If, despite consistently high rankings across all your most important
criteria, you just aren't happy about the "feel" of a publisher, cross
them off your list. You have to work with these people for nearly two years if
you sell, so you have to be happy with what they do.
There you have it: a short list of e-publishers that suit your novel and
reassure you with their professionalism and quality. They will have submission
guidelines on their site. You know what to do next.
Go for it.
And good luck!
Copyright Tracy Cooper-Posey © 2000