has been newsworthy more than a few times this year. Most people, even industry professionals who ten years ago were prematurely mourning the ways in which digital publishing would make paper books obsolete, agree that digital publishing has actually revived publishing. It’s given non-readers a whole new platform for reading, and it’s proven that certain demographics—older women and professional men—are in fact buying more books than ever.
The question of whether it’s helping or hurting authors, however, is a little more nuanced. I’ve previously made the case for why all authors want to publish paperback versions of their books. And publishing a digital version simultaneous to a paperback version is status quo for traditional publishers at this stage of the game. So where the nuance comes in really has to do with e-only publishing. I only advocate e-only (by which I mean you opt to publish a digital but not a print version of your book) in very specific scenarios:
1. You're a business owner looking to build visibility for yourself and your business and you publish an e-book to use primarily for promotional purposes.
2. You’re an already well-known author who has a big following and want to publish something short and sweet (in the 5,000- to 10,000-word range) for your readers—and you know they’ll come.
3. You’re publishing a few chapters of a longer book in an e-only format several months (but no more than a year) before the full print (and digital) book is released for the purposes of gauging readers’ interest and/or building buzz for the bigger book.
4. You’re in the business of producing quick e-books as products, making use of key words to encourage impulse buys in what closely approximates a get-rich-quick scheme.
The above reasons are good reasons to publish digital formats without a print counterpart. All of them have to do with increasing visibility (i.e., growing your platform) or making money.
You can make good money with e-books, but only if you follow the low word-count model. If you have a traditional-length book (60,000–100,000), that’s a book you want to see in print. Because Amazon essentially forces authors to price their e-books at $9.99 or less, the vast majority of authors aren’t making big bucks off of their e-books (unless they’re a scenario #2 author, like Stephen King or Ann Patchett).
By the time you’ve written 60,000 to 100,000 words, you’ve put a lot of work into your book. I’ve worked with a lot of authors who’ve trimmed down their 100,000-word books to 80,000 and published the other 20,000 as Kindle edition books. Smart business!
The only way to make digital publishing work for you is to use it in tandem with print publishing. Digital publishing isn’t hurting authors, unless they don’t understand that it’s supplemental. E-publishing has not surpassed print publishing, and it will be a good long while before it does.
If being an author is part of your long-term goal for yourself—whether exclusively or in conjunction with what you already do—you need to value print publishing as king and use digital publishing to your advantage. Yes, I’m pretty much saying honor the former and use the latter. When you make digital publishing work for you, it will never harm you, but if you start to believe that it’s anything more than a stepping stone, or perhaps a quick way to make a few bucks (when you do it right), then it can be detrimental to your long-term publishing goals.
About the Author:
Brooke Warner is founder of Warner Coaching Inc. and publisher of She Writes Press. Brooke’s expertise is in traditional and new publishing, and she is an equal advocate for publishing with a traditional house and self-publishing. What’s Your Book? A Step-by-Step Guide to Get You from Inspiration to Published Author is her first book, and she’s honored to be publishing on She Writes Press.
Find Brooke online:www.warnercoaching.com