According to a recent article in the New York Times, while traditional publishers are struggling to turn a profit, e-book publishing is undergoing a boom. Not unlike (in my opinion!) the initial shot heard round the Internet when the first e-books hit the scene a decade or so ago.As an author, entrepreneur or small business owner, should you turn to e-book publishing as a solid tool in your marketing repertoire? I say “yes!”First, the Bad RapFrom day one, the bad rap about e-books was that nobody wanted to sit at a computer and read a book. Further, the thought of how much ink it would take to print a 50, 80 or 120 page book was daunting.Early adopters [note: these are people who are typically on the front lines of any new idea or new product] jumped on e-books, inherently understanding their potential.And while early adopters (including savvy Internet marketers) stayed on the e-book band wagon, others fell off – certain that no one wanted to read at a computer, print an e-book, or worse – – what if one person bought the book and illegally copied it and sent it to 50 of their pals? After all, who in their right mind wants to spend time putting together a product, only to see it given away to the masses?And did I mention selling an e-book meant putting up a site, setting up a payment vendor, and then figuring out stuff like auto responders, secure downloads, FTP and the whole techie lot? For mainline authors, this is the stuff that nightmares are made of.And, like any idea who time has come and gone, e-books as a popular delivery model gave way to podcasts, videos, and subscription services.But wait – that’s not the end of the tale.New Life for the Digital PublisherAs online marketing evolved, podcasts, videos and subscription services remained popular, but ta-da! e-books (like that famous Phoenix in Harry Potter) rose from the ashes. Did the same problems remain, i.e. lack of security, reading at the computer, etc.? Yes, but what caused the revival – in my opinion – was the ease of delivery.Today, authors, entrepreneurs, and small business owners can easily publish digitally without knowing anything about technology. How? By using services that publish digital media – like Lulu.com or Amazon’s Kindle. Yes, you have to convert your digital media to the correct format – an easy service to track down, or as a DIY project for the adventurous souls – but you can get your product out in front of millions of eyes without a lot of time or money invested.Does this mean your e-book will make you a gazillionaire? Sadly, I don’t own that particular crystal ball! However, I do believe that with the right material, a solid marketing plan, and the willingness to succeed, you will do as well as you choose.And if the New York Times is correct, there’s no time like right now to jump into e-books; there’s very little overhead, you’ll make more than if you were traditionally published, and you’ll have the creative control traditional publishing steals away from authors and entrepreneurs.Watch the news, and I guarantee you’ll start seeing the major publishing houses lay off editors, while online publishers gear up for more and more work. Now that prediction IS in my crystal ball!Take the Leap – Jump on the Front End of this TrendAs a four-time traditionally published author, I’m living proof that the benefits of e-publishing are many, not the least the financial side.I earned more money in one week from just one of my e-books than I earned in royalties from my four traditionally published books combined. Now that’s saying something.And the something it’s saying is: Get E-Published!
Agents and publishers will make money if an author’s writing is successful. Publisher’s will get their money either after sales or up front. Agents get their cut after the royalties come in on the author’s sold book. If they do a good job, both deserve and earn what they make. The problem is with the publishers and/or agents who are not ethical.Let’s start with “publishers.” Some who ask for up-front money are legitimate, if they provide certain services such as professional editing, promotion, and production of a quality product. Those services should be included in the price paid for the books the author agrees to buy. However, if the “editing” provided is at best a spell check, then beware. A publisher will provide at least one professional editor who will work with the author to improve, tighten, and error-proof the book. That editing should be part of the package deal, not provided only if extra is paid. As stated previously, a publisher will be paid either up front or after books are printed and sold.Any “publisher” who does not do a thorough editing is, however, nothing but a vanity publisher, one who will provide a few books for a price (usually high price) for people who simply want to see their words in a book, flaws and all. Don’t confuse print on demand businesses with publishers, though. A POD doesn’t claim to be anything except a printer. A publishing scam promises that the company is a publisher.A true publisher does not request material from a writer for an anthology and then expect the author to buy a book. A real publisher rewards the writer, not expect the writer to reward the publisher: Now this means book publishers rather than magazine publishers, who often “pay” in issues of the publication.Anytime a person or organization claims to be an agent or agency but asks for money up front – run. An agent receives payment as a percentage of the author’s royalties. Other than a few expenses such as mailing your manuscript to a publisher, with documentation of actual postage cost, and possibly for photocopying your manuscript. However, some agents may ask you to send several copies rather than billing you for copying. Any billing is for actual expenses, not for inflated amounts.Another point about expenses charged to the client: The author and agent agree to which expenses will be billed before they are incurred. If the writer never agreed to any expense and the expense was not included in a contract, then the agent who bills such expenses is at least unethical, if not criminal. Allowable expenses should be clearly included in any contract, and agents should not make any profit from such expenses.Jenna Glatzer, in Writer’s Digest June 2006, states, “Don’t ever pay anyone to represent you.”An agent is supposed to get a percentage of the client’s earning from publishers and producers, not from the client. That means agents first do their job – selling the author’s work – and then receive their pay. Ethical agents do not ask for representation fees, retainers, set-up fees, evaluation fees, marketing fees, or editing fees. They also do not suggest an author “hire” an editor that they recommend.Getting a compatible, aggressive, and knowledgeable agent is wise for anyone wanting to have a book published. However a bad agent is worse than no agent. One way to check an agent is to find the ethical organization for agents on line, AAR or go to literary agents.org.Just don’t get scammed by unethical “publishers” or “agents” who turn your writing into a feast for their greed.Sources:1. Andrew Zack, The Writer, October 20052. Brian A. Klems, Writer’s Digest, January 20063. Jenna Glatzer, with Daniel Steven, , June 20064. Various speakers at OWFI Conference, May 2006