Writer’s Craft #60 – Digital is Dandy

S. A. Bolich’s first novel, Firedancer, was published by Sky Warrior Books in 2011, to be followed by Windrider in 2012 and Seaborn in 2013. Her short fiction has appeared in such venues as Beneath Ceaseless Skies, On Spec, Damnation Books, and the anthologies No Man’s Land (Defending the Future IV) and Wolfsongs 2. She is a full time freelancer, an historian, an ex-military intelligence officer, and a riding instructor, among other things. Find links to her work at www.sabolichbooks.com and learn how to make your fictional horses come alive in her Horses in Fiction blog series on Words From Thin Air.

Digital is Dandy, But…

My first novel, Firedancer, came out first in e-book form, which is wonderful for royalties, with a much higher split than from traditional print publishers. It also makes for a much faster turnaround from manuscript to edited final proof and the book’s appearance in bookstores, and length is not as big an issue. My convention handouts feature a QR code (the square squiggly image that looks like you’re trying to brainwash someone into assassinating the Martian ambassador) so that people can just swipe it across their smart phone and instantly download the book.

All these things are quite dandy, but the-novel-as-e-book does have its drawbacks. Many reviewers and awards committees won’t accept e-books. Many readers don’t like them. Many people assume an e-book is the same as self-published, with all the attached stigma. Print books still own the market for the moment, and despite the many clever ways authors have found to “sign” a digital book, it’s still not the same as having print copies in hand at conventions and book signings. I remember moderating a panel, sitting between J. A. Pitts and William F. Nolan, flanked by Mike Moscoe and Steven Barnes, all of whom had piles of books on the table, and me with my wee little flashcard. Somehow it didn’t make the same impression on the audience.

People still expect “real” books from “real” authors, despite the success of such digital powerhouses as Amanda Hocking. I am very happy to be able to satisfy the whole range of readership now with editions for both print and e-reader aficionados.

Should the way the book arrives matter? Thoughts on how to make the most of digital? It’s definitely here to stay, so how can we overcome its drawbacks?

5 thoughts on “Writer’s Craft #60 – Digital is Dandy

  1. On Goodreads I found many reviewers who love their Kindles or Nooks or i-Pads… My print editions always come out much later through POD because it’s way too expensive for me. I’ll stick to e-book reviewers, because sending a printed copy from Italy costs a fortune anyway! 😉
    Also, e-books are international. You might think you’re selling only in North America, in brick-and-mortar stones with your printed books… but there are millions of other English speakers (native or not) outside the US, and they usually can’t afford paper books (in my case because they take shelf space and take months to get to me. While e-books are on my Kindle with a click and don’t take shelf space – and they’re usually cheaper!).
    So… think international and keep writing – books or e-books, doesn’t matter, your readers will find you (and me, hopefully)!

  2. A good point, Barb. I will only send a hard copy to someone who has agreed in advance to review it, and you’re right, it is expensive. I try to stick to reviewers with a good enough following to make it worthwhile.

  3. I like to look at it from something of a marketing perspective and to give the people at the conventions something that still makes them feel special. I’m still working up a larger portfolio of stories before I start e-publishing, but if I ever get to the point where I have a table at a convention, my plan is to publish mini-books or a couple of short stories in fairly cheap to print format (small packet staple binding) to sell at the convention. That way, people there get something exclusive to themselves, it can be signed and it’s not a huge out of pocket expense for an author handling their own publishing.

  4. I am struggling with the conundrum at this very moment: To ePublish or not to ePublish? Slings and arrows of outrageous fortune doesn’t even begin to cover it. The worst part is the contradictory advice from experts on panels or in blogs. I feel I have to constantly be looking under the bed for hidden agendas. Who is talking up or putting down what because they stand to lose or profit from it? It makes my head hurt. Makes me long for simpler times, when one knew exactly what one needed to do: Labor long and mightily, produce a brilliant work, send it off for the publisher to pass judgement. You might argue about how wonderful it is to have so many more options now. Hrrmph. The number of options makes my head hurt. And it all boils down to a choice: Do Nothing or Possibly Do The Wrong Thing.

    Sorry, Sue, just had to get that off my chest. I agree that digital is here to stay, but neither is paper going to go away. The convenience of digital is often trumped by the solid presence of a book with an attractive cover and a title page that one can sign. It’s just more collectible.

  5. Hi, Justine,

    I do agree, confusion rules the day at the moment. I just came back from Radcon, where several people I talked to absolutely wanted the hard copy and were not at all interested in ebooks. I am happy to be able to accommodate both. There are so many advantages to the writer in ebooks, and yet so many remain in the traditional publishing route, because most people do still find new books at the local bookstore or library. Having something in hand, even if you have to manufacture it yourself, is ever so much better than going out among the fans with nothing to show or sign.

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