Save Me from Shoddy Epublishing!

Why the stigma? I followed a mini flair-up on the AAR message board yesterday in which one writer basically trashed epublishing (well, her epublishing experience). Of course her message was followed with the predictable (well written) rounds of posts defending the editorial integrity at various epublishing houses.

Is there such a difference in the quality of “regular” print publishing (romance) and epublished books? How can one make such a sweeping statement? I like some ebooks and hate some. Same goes for print. Of course, it’s pretty damned hard to open a mass market print publishing house. If everything stinks, folks will notice pretty quickly. It’s a lot easier to start an epublishing house and stink. Not easy–I didn’t say easy.

But this got me thinking about the bigger question. A lot of writers and readers (and reportedly agents and NY editors) don’t consider epublishing…well…publishing at all. Some council that writers should not even mention their epublishing experience in queries and pitches. Hmmn. Surely this message needs to be revised a bit. I’ve watched so many fellow romance writers land nice contracts recently, and I don’t think their sales at EC and other spots hurt them one bit. Of course, the lines are getting a little blurry, aren’t they, with trade books from a number of “epublishers” now on the shelves at Borders and available online?

Yep, I know, when your pals ask where they can buy your books, and you reply “online,” you can draw a very blank, if not insulting look. Why? I purchase a LOT of stuff for a university every day, and most of it is done online. I don’t walk into a mall to do it. In fact, I try not to ever walk into a mall. Sure, I sighed a bit when I visited my local independent bookseller the other day and ran my hand across the lovely covers.

Is epublishing growing, or gaining legitimacy through the houses that also put books into bookstores and onto Amazon, get reviews in RT, etc. Or are we just hacks trying to kid ourselves? What do you think?


8 thoughts on “Save Me from Shoddy Epublishing!

  1. Natalie Damschroder says:

    I don’t think e-books are alone in the not-in-stores stigma. I mean, what do people think if you bought something of a “not available in stores!” infomercial? They think it’s crap and going to be housed in the back left corner of your closet after one use, right?


    Yes, e-publishing has had a ton of obstacles, not least of which was incredibly shoddy quality by some publishers in the early years, and the constant come-and-go of businesses. But it’s changing, slowly. Tracy Farrell of HQN said at National (I heard her myself) that it’s very hard to market a debut author, and it’s easier if they’ve had some alternative publication (I am assuming she didn’t say e-publishing because most e-pubs also do print, but that’s just a guess) prior, because it makes the process so much easier since we have experience and know what we’re doing.

    And as you pointed out, other editors have acquired authors BECAUSE of their e-pub publication, so I think it’s become the stepping stone we always wanted it to be. Eventually, it will be more than that.

  2. Rene Lyons says:

    Look…I’ve read some print books with enough typos left in to make even blush (I’m know in some circles as the typo queen!). And I’ve read one eBook in particular that made me cringe by page five with the typos left in. I think there’s good and bad in everything. Unfortunately, it’s easy to point and snicker at the ‘little guy’. But the world better watch out since it’s the little guys who sneak in the back door and take over the house.

  3. Lauren Dane says:

    I got an agent because she read one of my books from EC. Shrug.

    Yes, there’s a stigma. And yes, there are hacks and shoddy books. But there are hacks and shoddy books in NY too.

    I suppose I’ve gotten to this point where I’m just used to it. Not quite jaded about it, but I know the prejudice is out there and I try to prove them wrong.

    I hope like hell that my publishing history will make a difference with NY.

    But I know that there will be people who will always consider us second best wannabes who “can’t sell elsewhere”

    At the same time, I think epublishing is gaining legitimacy, especially the bigger houses. It’ll take time but I think it’ll happen.

  4. Jenn on the Island says:

    If you have an ISBN number and copyright protection, it’s published. But, just about anyone can do this by going to a vanity press. And I think that’s part of the problem with the reputation of ebooks.

    Epublishing companies are very often owned by writers. The editors for the publisher have their own books published there. This looks dangerously close to being a vanity press.

    I’m not saying that this type of thing doesn’t happen with the print houses, but if you want a publishing credit or two in that query letter what do you do? You open an epub, release three books, a couple of your friends books and a few others. You may have to shut down six months later because you had no idea you were actually running a business, but at least you have that credit in your cover letter.

    I think when epublishers start keeping an arms length between themselves and the authors, there will be a bit more respect garnered from the print houses.

  5. Lynn Daniels says:

    Yes, I think e-publishing still carries a stigma. Part of the problem is that not everybody is online, and even a large percentage of those who are have never even heard of ebooks. Print books, however, are accessable to most, and even available for free reading from your local library.

    I think the stigma is shrinking, though. I mean, if epublishing were a fad, why is New York epublishing some of their books?

    It’s my firm opinion that epublishing will not gain a strong foothold in the market until a good quality inexpensive reader is on the market. Once that happens, the sky’s the limit.

  6. Becka says:

    I agree with all that was said above, however, I do believe that both the print and the ebook world will one day merge and be one big publishing pool.

    I look around and see pubs like EC and Samhain getting their books into bookstores, and then I see pubs like TOR and Harlequin putting their books in ebook, it’s hard to ignore.

    Pretty soon, everyone will just be “published”, regardless of print or ebook. Ebook will be “just another format”, such as audio books.

    If you’re a shrewd author, you’ll do your homework and know the difference between a publishing house that cares about their product and one that doesn’t. Houses that just push their books out the door without looking at the quality of the work will not be in business very long.

    I think with the advent of electronic publishers having more and more of their ebooks offered in print at the bookstores, New York will “lose” their status of being the “big boys” in publishing, as authors will suddenly have new choices as to where they send their books for publication.

    If New York wants to continue to make money, they’ll HAVE to grow and change with the times. And I believe their jaunt into ebooks proves my theory. 🙂


  7. Anonymous says:

    New York easing into e-publishing while sneering at it is like the big oil companies pushing Hummers while buying up alternative fuel patents. Change happens.

    Amazon cutting the throats of anyone not using their mobi-pocket reader? I hope Mobi turns out to be the Betamax of e-publishing, but it’s clear that Amazon thinks there’s a market and they mean to corner it.

    I have a friend who works in a dot-com customer service company, and she mentioned seeing a huge market for Ebooks in Europe and Asia, where personal living space is often at a premium and hundreds of books on disk can fit in the space of one dictionary.

    There are many e-books that are not worth reading, no argument. Same’s true of print. Since e-publishing is a lot cheaper and easier, sure, the percentage of junk is higher. But if an e-publisher can establish good editorial standards and has a head for business, there’s no reason we can’t have both.

    I love print-on-demand… I want to be able to read my favorite books on a printed page, without worrying about recharging batteries. But how many people under 20 even remember what a vinyl phonograph record looks like?


  8. Becka says:

    Another thing too about epublishing against print is that I believe epublished authors are closer to their readers than the print authors are.

    When’s the last time you chatted casually with Nora? Johanna? Jude? How about Kathleen or Judith?

    OK, so I’m naming “older” authors, but still, the fact remains. Unless they have a blog or they’re on MySpace or some other public forum, you’re not going to be chummy with print authors–not like you are with the e-pubbed ones.

    And I think readers really like that, actually talking to the author about the books they read.


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