When we talk about writing, we talk about paper. We talk about facing a blank page, or putting pen to paper; we talk about compelling books as page-turners; and we talk, of course, about judging a book by its cover. But we all know by now that writing and publishing have changed so much in the past few years that paper is only a portion of what’s going on. You could go through every single step in the lifecycle of a book — writing down the idea, composing and editing text, submitting portions to beta readers for critique, reaching out to agents and selling the book to a publisher, going through revisions and copyedits and final layout, and finally, seeing the book released — without a single word of that book ever existing on paper, at any point.
Mind-blowing, isn’t it?
So often when people talk about the new reality of publishing, they talk about e-books as an “alternative to traditional publishing” — something you can do on your own, or at least close to it. And that’s certainly one approach. But e-books released by traditional publishers are also a huge part of the landscape, so no matter what path to publication you plan on taking, count on e-books to be part of it.
On one hand, there’s nothing special you need to do. For my book The Kitchen Daughter, which was released as an e-book on the same day it came out in hardcover in April 2011, I had no separate process for the two book types. The copyedits I worked through for the print book were made in the e-book, and when I approved the cover image for the hardcover, I was approving it for the e-book as well. From my vantage point, it was all the same.
And in my promotion path, same thing. Reviews of the book tell people what’s in it, not where to buy it. Some book bloggers received e-galleys of the book and some received physical ARCs, but their reviews rarely differed based on that. As someone who supports independent bookstores, I leaned toward encouraging people to buy the book at their local indie or other book outlet if possible, but for the most part I just talked about The Book, and left the rest up to the reader. Some authors run e-book-specific or even Kindle-specific promotions, targeting that specific group of readers. I didn’t do that — largely just because I was doing so many other things I just didn’t have time for it.
What were the results of focusing on promoting the book, not the form the book took? I never crunched the numbers in depth, but the pattern was easy to see: some months, The Kitchen Daughter sold just as many electronic copies as it did hardcovers. Clearly, e-books weren’t just part of my landscape — they were half the hills, half the trees, half the horizon.
Later this month, I’m trying something new.
A few months ago, I approached my publisher about releasing a short story in e-book form. Selling printed short stories a la carte doesn’t make much sense, but electronically, there are no boundaries. So why not? I suggested a short story to come out around the holidays, something food-themed, to help span the gap between the hardcover and paperback releases of The Kitchen Daughter. They liked the idea, and added to it — how about we release the story around the same time as the paperback, and include a substantial excerpt of The Kitchen Daughter along with it? Yes. Even better.
So, starting December 20th, you can pick up Croquembouche for 99 cents, and get the first three chapters of The Kitchen Daughter besides.
It’s my first pure e-venture, and I can’t wait to see what happens. Will readers who enjoyed The Kitchen Daughter buy the short story to see something else from me? Will we sell copies of the short story to people who only want the preview? Will we sell nothing at all if people aren’t really shopping for short stories? Only time will tell. I’ve heard and read plenty about e-publishing, and I’m excited to see how e-publishing in the context of traditional publishing performs for me personally.
There are no absolutes in publishing, really, but the closest thing to an absolute I know is this: there’s always more to try, and more to learn.
Therese butting in for a sec to direct you toward Jael’s announcement on Intrepid Media today, via a post entitled 40 weeks of a new life.