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 Massey searches for sci-fi romance adventures aboard her blog, The Galaxy Express.
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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.)



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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

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.

THE SHELF-LIFE OF E-PUBLISHING

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.


BEING AN ENTREPRENEUR

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.)

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Writing romance? Check out the

excellent resource, On Writing Romance


by Leigh Michaels.