The Fort Worth Star-Telegram, our local newspaper, recently ran an article titled “Authors see e-books as escape from publishers” – written by Alex Pham of the Los Angeles Times. In it, Pham mentions several well known authors who are now publishing at least some of their books electronically, or are planning to do so. They include crime novelist Joe Konrath, science fiction author Greg Bear, action writer David Morrell, Seth Godwin, author of books on marketing, Brazilian novelist Paulo Coelo, self-help author Stephen Covey and, last but far from least, Stephen King. Obviously, these celebrated authors haven’t made that decision lightly. They see e-books as a way to retain more of the profits from their work, rather than watching a large percentage go to publishers. “Authors typically get 10 to 25 percent of the proceeds of digital sales through a publisher, compared with 40 to 70 percent if they self-publish,” says Pham.
What Pham doesn’t say is how little first-time authors such as myself receive from traditional print publishers. Advances can run as low as $1,000 – $1,500 for months, even years worth of work. And if the author’s book doesn’t sell very well, he or she may never receive much more than that. More importantly, most new authors never even see their work in print because they can’t get past the “gatekeepers” – the agents, editors, assistant editors, etc., who might read only a few pages (if that much) of their submissions before tossing them aside and moving on to the next unfortunate author’s work. Not that every would-be author should be published. Far from it! But there are some truly talented people who go unrecognized and unpublished because their work doesn’t fit into some publisher’s predetermined mold.
Of course there are definite advantages to traditional print publishers: editing, cover design and marketing support to name a few. But online services such as Amazon’s CreateSpace now offer some of these support tools for a relatively small flat fee. In my case, I had author friends help me with editing and I designed my own book cover. (Which admittedly isn’t the greatest, and which I may end up having redone by a pro.) As for marketing, well, it’s not easy, but it can be done with persistence, ingenuity and hard work. Online sites offer all kinds of tips for promoting a self-published book, tips like book tagging, soliciting reviews and that big gorilla in the room, Social Networking. In short, e-books are a growing outlet for creativity that authors can’t afford to ignore.