A friend and I were talking about should she take the plunge into e-publishing. One of the things that I said was it’s important to research the e-publishing market before you submit–just as you would an agent or a traditional publisher.
Thinking about my own experience with e-publishing both Stained Glass Summer (Musa Publishing) and Weaving Magic,(MuseItUp Publishing) I came up with some guidelines to help those who are thinking about e-publishing.
Who Foots the Bill: The first question to ask is: Are you, the author, being asked to pay for your editing, cover art, formatting, or anything else to do with the e-book? Or does the publisher have people on staff who will edit your book, format your book, produce a quality cover, and distribute your book? At Musa, the directors tell us, Money flows TO the author, not the other way around. This is key because you will end up paying out of pocket for other things that have to do with marketing such as: websites, domains, hosting services, marketing bling such as postcards, bookmarks, and any travel you might want to do to attend a conference in another place. This is true whether you publish traditionally or e-publish. Unless the stars have aligned and you are being tossed tons of money for marketing, you’re going to pay for some of your marketing and promotion bill.
Book Design/Cover Art: It’s not enough to simply upload a document file and transfer it to an epub file so it can be an e-book. The book should be designed. At Musa, we have someone on staff who is the book designer. Stained Glass Summer has small paint brush graphics which are inserted in the scene breaks. The font is rich and varies from the title page to the chapter headings, and the e-book looks like a book. There is a cover page, a title page, a copyright page, a dedication page, and then the start of the book. On the same side as design is cover art. If you go to MuseItUp’s cover art blog, you can see some of the gorgeous covers for MuseItUp. They win awards for these covers. Covers are very important. As an author, you plaster these covers all over the place–Blogs, Interviews, Websites, Reviews, Goodreads, postcards, bookmarks, anywhere you can think of. It’s important to have a good one that is eye-catching.
Distribution: Your e-book should be available in multiple places. Yes, Amazon has a big share of the e-book market, but there are still a ton of people who want to download the book from the Itunes store for their Ipads, the Barnes and Noble Store for their Nook, and some want to buy your e-book from an independent bookseller who is distributing through Baker and Taylor. Both Musa and MuseItUp distribute through Smashwords as well as Amazon. Smashwords feeds out to multiple places including Barnes and Noble, Apple Itunes Store, and now Smashwords has a partnership with Baker and Taylor so yes, it’s possible to get those e-books at your favorite independent bookstore.
Library Market: Yes. Patrons can check out e-books for their e-readers! BUT….the books need to be in a large system such as Overdrive and/or Baker and Taylor. From what I’ve seen, Overdrive is the big player in this game. Check to make sure that the e-publisher has this lined up. Both Musa and MuseItUp have recently been approved as Overdrive publishers. This is key to getting your book ordered for library and school library markets.
Network Opportunities: One question you can ask other published e-book authors is are there opportunities for authors to mingle? Sure, you might be involved in a local critique group, or an RWA or SCBWI chapter, but nothing beats being able to discuss writing and publishing with other authors all published under the same house. This is one of the perks I love about both Musa and MuseItUp. They both have Yahoo boards set up for the staff–including cover artists, editors, as well as the other authors. Questions can be discussed such as: how to do blog tours, what promotional tools work best, as well as shout-outs for blog interviews and news about good reviews. At Musa, the other authors were very supportive of Stained Glass Summer and hosted me on their blogs, made comments on my blog, and joined me on Facebook. MuseItUp hosts a Fall event for authors in Canada. Authors sell their books at bookstores and get a weekend to meet face-to face. It’s nice to have a team!
Reviews: Do the e- publisher’s books get reviewed on blogs, Goodreads, Amazon? At this stage, you’re probably not going to find a lot of reviews in places like Publishers Weekly and Kirkus simply for the fact that most e-publishers are new, and it takes a while to get the publication schedule where books have galleys three-months in advance. You may also not find reviews on some of the big bloggers websites (especially in the children’s world) because most e-publishers are beginning to build their brand too, and are not well-known enough yet to be picked up. But remember, every publisher started as someone no one knew. I often think of Candlewick when it was first coming out–it took authors like Kate DiCamillo to put Candlewick on the map–the same is true of e-pubs. Maybe you’ll be that author who puts an e-pub on the map!
Print Books: If having a print book is important to you, then be sure to find an e-publisher who does both print and e-books. At Musa, print will come later as the company grows and stabilizes. Musa is still under one years old! At MuseItUp, you have the option of selling your print rights or not. I sold both my print and e-book rights to MuseItUp with Weaving Magic because it just seemed easier to have my print copy under the same house as my e-book.Plus, if you buy the print copy of Weaving Magic from MuseItUp, you get the e-book FREE. How neat is that! Also, I didn’t have to worry about finding a new cover artist, hiring them to do the cover art, and then using one of Amazon’s packages to print my own books. Plus, I felt that both my editors worked hard on the book and to sell a print copy somewhere else wasn’t very nice to their time and effort.
Editing: How much editing will be done on your book? At both Musa and MuseItUp, I had a content editor and a line editor. At Musa, I worked on three rounds with my content editor, who also did a lot of line editing. At MuseItUp, I did two rounds of content editing and two intensive rounds of line editing. One problem I had with Weaving Magic was a tense change in Christopher’s side of the story. We changed his first person present tense to be first person past tense in line with Shantel’s side of the story–a very good decision!
The bottom line is do your research. Buy, download and read books from the e-publisher you are targeting. How are they formatted? How easy are they to buy? Where are the books distributed? Contact some authors and ask them about their experience. How was the editing? How was their experience? Or, if you don’t want to contact an author, read an author’s blog who is e-published. Are they happy with their publishers? Do they blog about their experience? Do they blog about other books in the same publishing house? Look at the book’s reviews. Do they have reviews on Amazon and Goodreads? What are people saying about the books?
And finally, remember….e-publishing is in the Wild West stage of it’s growth. There will be pitfalls, mistakes, and major blunders, but if you have the courage, and take the plunge, I bet you’ll find it’s a great time to be an author and be on the cutting edge of publishing’s newest chapter. See you on the journey!