E-Publishing and the Entrepreneurial Author

These days, breaking in to publishing is a decidedly different landscape than it was even just a few years ago. While mainstream print publishing is still going, many authors have cast their eyes toward the New World of digital (or digital-first) publishing. It’s wild, yet exciting, territory with unique challenges that easily rival those of “traditional” publishing. Who wouldn’t want to carve out a slice of it for herself?

Heather is excited to give away a free copy of her ebook to a random commenter. Comment within one week. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (Update: Kimber won.)


Heather Massey searches for sci-fi romance adventures
aboard her blog, The Galaxy Express. She also blogs
about the the subgenre for Germany’s premier
romance magazine, LoveLetter. Heather’s debut
sci-fi romance novel, Once Upon a Time in Space
(Red Sage Publishing, March 2011), features the
last living descendant of Christopher Columbus on
a desperate quest to find a new world.
See Heather’s website here.



Digital publishing is especially attractive for authors who write in niche subgenres, say, science fiction romance. E-publishers eagerly seek out these kinds of niche stories because their goal is to meet the needs of readers left out in the cold by traditional publishers. In 2010, the number of science fiction romance ebooks from royalty paying digital/small press publishers easily matched if not outnumbered the mainstream print releases (that I’m aware of). 2011 seems to be following a similar path.

Ideally, you want to work with a digital publisher that is as transparent as possible. A second is that with some e-publishers, you might—gasp!—actually have some input into your book’s packaging.

Digital publishers that utilize a collaborative team approach is another plus since the strategy can create opportunities for cross-promotion with other like-minded authors (for example, Samhain Publishing’s various science fiction romance anthologies and Carina Press’ forthcoming multi-author SF/SFR blog, CONTACT—Infinite Futures.


Digital publishing offers freedom and control over your niche subgenre career in other ways. If you’re a previously published author with a backlist that includes science fiction romance (for example, (Ellen Fisher’s Never Love A Stranger and (Nancy J. Cohen’s Circle of Light), you can keep your stories on readers’ radars. Good-bye, obscurity; hello, eternal shelf-life!

If you want to e-self-publish, great, but please make sure the story’s quality is at least as good as (LK Rigel’s Space Junque or (Ann Somerville’s Impedimenta. Readers barely have enough time for their published books, let alone those that haven’t benefited from any kind of gate keeping.

As glamorous as all of that sounds, going digital is not easy-peasy street. Science fiction romance, while as valid as any other genre, is still a niche product. Authors face many obstacles in finding the audience for their stories. So when considering e-publishing in any form, it’s important to approach the endeavor with your entrepreneurial hat firmly in place.


You’ll be expected to do as much as—if not more—promotion and marketing as an author with traditional print books, simply because you won’t have the same distribution reach. But what if print is your ultimate goal? In this highly competitive market, attracting a literary agent might require you to demonstrate the influence and reach of your platform/publicity machine, not to mention a successful sales track record. Plus, promotion, marketing, and oh yeah, writing your next book/novella/short story is a 24/7 job, with very little pay.

In short: Be prepared to be in it for the long haul or just stay home.

But all of this is a good thing, not only because of the extra skills you’ll gain, but also the knowledge of the business side of writing in general. Additionally, with the Internet, there’s much less concern about sell through, returns, or even going “out of print” (the Web has a long tail, you see). Building a career in e-publishing can be a creative and satisfying endeavor in and of itself.

For authors writing niche stories, there’s another jazzy benefit: Digital publishing is having and will continue to have a particularly strong impact when it comes to the author-reader-publisher relationship.

Because of this little thing called—maybe you’ve heard of it—social networking—digital publishing is quickly narrowing the gap between authors, readers, and publishers, especially among niche subgenre fans where everybody knows your name.

Science fiction romance readers use social networking to great advantage because it enables them to search online to locate the difficult-to-find books they want as well as discover new authors. And if a subgenre has an online following in the form of a community or forum, then it’s a win-win for everyone.

Nurturing a career in the new frontier of digital publishing takes time, effort, persistence, and more than a little mojo. But you always wanted to be an intrepid explorer, now didn’t you?

Heather is excited to give away a free copy of her ebook to a random commenter. Comment within one week. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (Update: Kimber won.)

Writing romance? Check out the

excellent resource, On Writing Romance

by Leigh Michaels.

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10 thoughts on “E-Publishing and the Entrepreneurial Author

  1. Christine Danse

    Heather, great post!

    Another thing I love about digital publishing is the flexibility with length. There’s not much room in traditional print publishing for novelettes and novellas–one of my favorite story lengths. 15k-40k is long enough to flesh out the story, not so long that it drags or has to be too complex with subplots and secondary characters–and perfect to enjoy on my e-reader! 🙂

  2. Elena

    This was a great article, with great points, and just solidifies the fact that we are past the point of no return. ePublishing is certainly here to stay. I am a huge a book nerd, and I love all of my old books on my shelf… but I am willing to not get left behind. I found NOVOink to be a great source > http://www.Novoink.com. They have a lot of subgenres as you put plus interactive magazines, etc… I wish all of you ‘epublishers’ the best of luck – you are much needed!

  3. Fritz Franke

    Heather, It is so awesome to see a fellow writer make it, especially in the genre of SciFi. I just finished my first book of a 6 book series and I’m hoping for the best with getting into a big house. But after seeing your article, I’m wondering if I’m sweating it too much. You are a trailblazer. I’m going to keep up with you for sure. I’d love to read your book. Take care and I hope to meet you one day. – Fritz Franke

  4. Heather Schick

    Thank you for giving us the "real deal" of how that side of the business really works. It’s often difficult to know what to do next or where to turn so I appreciate this information. Congrats on this book! I look forward to reading it. I expect to read more great works from you in the future.

    Thank you,
    Heather Schick

  5. AmyBeth Inverness

    As a long time lover of science fiction, when I was pregnant and hormonal I turned to romance novels, and fell in love! I’m about to enter query-world with my own SyFy Romance, and I’m trying to read as many books in the genre as I can.

    Digital publishing is an encouraging idea for niche and new authors. It is good that our books can easily "live" on the virtual shelf long enough for people to read them, fall in love with them, and pass the word on to others. With the more traditional "straight to print" publication, the publisher might only promote a book for a limited time, much too short a time for any fan base to develop. Just as many of my favorite television shows end up cancelled after just a few episodes, because the powers that be decided that if it was not an instant success, it must be discarded.

    I look forward to reading Heather’s book whether I win it or buy it!

  6. thelisas

    We’ve been seriously exploring the e-pub option with equal parts enthusiasm and trepidation. Thank you for explaining it in layman’s terms. Wishing you much success with your book and future projects!

  7. Kaye Manro

    Heather, thanks for making the promotional side of epublishing so clear. It is such an ongoing thing. We as ebook authors have to be on top of marketing all the time. In the next few years, I feel ebooks will be the norm for many readers. It’s easy to download a book and it’s fun. Most of the large print pubs are already in on this market. As well as authors whose books are out of print are now releasing said books as ebooks with online markets like Amazon.

    Informative post!

  8. Kimber An

    Awesome post, Heather. And then when an author goes even more ‘niche’ with Young Adult Science Fiction Romance…oy… I’m just thrilled to have a way to share my stories with the world. I know I’m not Stephanie Meyer and I am okay with that.

    I learned another great thing about ePublishing. I remember on my last trip through Queryland an agent said I needed to work on my writing craft. Well, that was great advice, but I’d used up all the free help I could find and couldn’t afford to pay for anything more. In ePublishing, the editors pushed me to the next level I couldn’t reach on my own. They allowed me to ‘sing for my supper’ and I’ll always be grateful for that.

  9. Nancy J. Cohen

    This is an interesting and thorough article. I wasn’t aware of that blog by Carina Press focusing on SFR. You made some very good points and reminded me I have one more backlist book to finish editing and offer online. Heather, your book sounds like a good read, too!


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