ePublish or Perish

I’m debating whether to self-publish or to find a literary agent.

This is not a new debate, hence the label of “Internal Debate 42”. I’m not sure if I have 41 other things I am debating about my writing career, and there are some who might dispute my use of the word “Internal”, but to me this question gets to the center of “Life, The Universe and Everything.”

We’re living in an interesting moment. Just in the last week:

  • James Franco sold his first book exclusively to Amazon
  • Apple is expected to announce they are selling eBooks
  • eBook sales are up, but so are print books

This last point is one of the ways I frame this question. If I self-publish, it’ll probably be an eBook, possibly print on demand but not at first. If I go through a literary agent and on to a publisher, I will have a physical artifact of my work, one that I can feel the weight of, share with friends and sign for fans.

But, that book will probably cost $15-$25 and take at least another 1-2 years to come out if I had a literary agent right now (which I don’t). I don’t mind the waiting so much, but the money is a factor.

I like used books. I rarely pay more than $5 for a book, electronic or otherwise. Often I get things from the library (which you can do with print or eBooks). A publisher has costs they need to offset by charging more for the book. Self-publishing is a different story. On Amazon, I could sell my book for $5.00, keep $3.50 for myself and have my book out there in as long as it took to upload.

But right now, who would read it?

Publishers come with publicity and experience and they are the gatekeepers of what is “good fiction”. I don’t dispute that it takes a certain standard of writing to be published, and I might not be there yet with this book. But I also know that publishing is a business, one subject to market tastes, and that rejection or even lack of immediate success has little to do with whether the book is good.

If I self-publish I can promote the book as long as I want. I can change the price myself, write more timely material, and keep control of a lot of things like formatting and editorial vision.

I’m still thinking about it.

Do you prefer to read printed books or electronic ones? Did you get an eReader for Chstimas? Do you think it will change how read?


Filed under Internal Debate 42, Introduction

2 responses to “ePublish or Perish

  1. Chuck Conover

    I bought a E-Reader awhile back – not because I wanted an E-Reader, but to stop my wife complaining about ALL THE BOOKS! Once I started to use the device, I found I liked it. I could carry an entire library of books with me – and I didn’t have to worry about the weight. But I do not know if this rant answerers your question. I do think we are in the midst of a paradigm shift, but I also think we are still in the early stages of this change – cresting the top of that hill could take years – but I do see it coming. I have no doubt that paper books will decline, be reserved for “special” editions, for the gold leaf, and archival press versions.

    So what should you do? Why does the answer HAVE to be one or the other? Why can’t you do both? Self publish WHILE you try to find an agent … something to consider.

  2. Ben Trube

    That is an option I am considering. Since I’m working on a couple of novels now, I am willing to self publish one to potentially help the next. The question I need to answer is whether my reluctance to begin the query process is based on what I see as emerging trends or whether I am just not wanting to stop what I am working on to do it. I want to self publish because it’s a choice I’m actually making.

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