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Reader Question: Thoughts on e-Books

What does the publishing industry and agents think of e-books? If you’re published by an e-book publisher, do the paper publishers look down on you? Do agents work with e-book published writers that want to break into the world of paper publishing? Is it easier or harder to get into paper publishing after being an e-book writer, or a first-time writer?

Well, since I have at least six clients who started their careers in e-books, I can certainly say I don’t look down on them. However, that being said, every single one of them writes erotica or erotic romance. So while the publishing industry, and BookEnds, doesn’t look down on e-books, e-book publishing doesn’t work for every genre. I think it’s become acceptable in the erotic writing world for e-book authors to move to mainstream publishers simply because there was nowhere else for these authors to go. It’s only been very recent that mainstream publishers have started publishing erotic writing. I’m not so sure the same holds true for other genres.

So, unless you are writing erotica or erotic romance, I wouldn’t consider e-book publishing as a step toward furthering your career into mainstream publishing. However, if you simply want to get that book published, then go for it. E-book publishing can’t hurt, but it won’t necessarily help.


Category: Blog


  1. I can tell you my mentor-type Blog Buddies warned me off e-publishing and strongly urged perseverance with traditional publication instead. Maybe their advice is genre-specific (Science Fiction Romance), I don’t know. I’m still pretty green at this.

  2. While your comments, may or may not be true, there are dozens and dozens of fantastic books being published electronically because they don’t fit into a “formula” that many romance publishers require.

    E-book publishing isn’t just a way to get your book published regardless of how good it is. It’s a way for an author to write what’s in his/her heart and what makes him/her move to tears or laughter. However, like any other publishing house, there are many books that get rejected for one reason or another.

    There is at least one agency, Roberta Brown Literary Agency, which handles authors who are published both by e-book publishers and New York based publishing houses. The agency doesn’t represent the e-books, just the authors who are published with the bigger houses or at least striving for that position.

    There are also a couple of e-book publishers who have finally been acceptable to a national organization and can be found in many of the big bookstores. Granted, they may be of the erotica genre, but Ellora’s Cave started out as an e-book publisher as did Triskelion Publishing. I do believe both of these houses still offer e-books as well as print versions of their publications and are growing into other genres.

    And if you’ve noticed, some of the bigger houses are not only publishing in print, but also as e-books. All one has to do is go to or to see some familiar houses offering e-books.

    Thank you for the opportunity to shed a bit more light on e-books.

  3. You’re right. I don’t think I was implying that books published by e-book houses weren’t good. As I said, we have a number of authors who have published both electronically, with Ellora’s Cave and other houses, and now at the bigger, more traditional houses. Certainly they wouldn’t be experiencing the success they are having if their e-books weren’t good. Some of these authors have opted to continue an e-book career while others have chosen to simply focus their efforts on the contracts they have with big houses. BookEnds, like many agencies, is certainly willing to allow an author to build a career in whatever way possible and an e-book publisher can certainly do that.

    For those clients no longer publishing with an e-book publisher the decision is not usually made lightly or because of dissatisfaction with the publisher. Typically it is a time management issue or a career building decision.

    Ebook publisher really became successful because they were the first publishers to embrace erotic, futuristic and fantasy romances. Since then a number of publishers are picking up those sub-genres of books and experiencing huge success.

    The question I was asked was whether or not publishing in ebook form could advance your career and my answer was that it depends. In certain sub-genres of romance we have seen authors use ebook publishers to their advantage and we have bestselling authors who started that way. However, we have seen that same success in other genres. It doesn’t mean it won’t happen it just means you should be cautious to think that by publishing with an ebook publisher you have an “easy in” to traditional publishing.

  4. We have many great authors from both sides of the rating system. Some sell better than others and it all comes down to marketing.

    If you’ve noticed that a few newspapers and libraries are no longer offering paper. Perhaps it’s a growing trend?

  5. I started my career with ebooks because I couldn’t sell my contemporary romances to a NY publisher back in 1998. I didn’t make much money with ebooks, even when print on demand technology advanced to the point where my epublishers were also doing print, until I started writing erotic romances through Ellora’s Cave. When NY was looking for authors in that genre, I was finally able to make the move from small press to large. (Thank you, Jessica!!!) However, regarding whether or not epublishing can help an author’s career, I would answer yes, because it is a wonderful place to learn the business. Most reputable epublishers offer excellent editing as well as a powerful support system as new authors follow the learning curve from unpublished to published. Epubbed authors do their own promotion and are closely involved in the entire production process with their books. Epublishing gave me a fantastic background in the business of writing. I made contacts that have helped my career since moving to a larger publisher and I believe I was able to make the move with much more confidence than if I had sold my first story to a large publisher. I would suggest epublishing for anyone looking for experience as a writer, with the caveat that you first check carefully to make sure the company you submit to has a good reputation in the industry. I always suggest checking the Preditors and Editors website before submitting to an epublisher.

  6. On the flip side, with the number of reputable epublishers growing, I have friends who worry that it’s becoming almost a necessary first step in publishing – that if they don’t have at least one sale to an epub, no mainstream houses will even look at them.


  7. Kimber,

    There are instances of epublished authors NOT writing erotic who’ve gone on to sell those same books to trad houses. I know of one who went on to win a RITA (science fiction romance, too!). However, as an author published with a small press that does both ebooks and trade paperbacks, I can say that, yes, non-erotic stories don’t sell as well as the erotics do. Like Anonymous says, there’s a place in epublishing for stories that don’t fit the current NYC “mold.” And that’s wonderful. I must think so, because I’ve gone on to sign another epub/trade paper contract for a book that’ll be out this spring that is simply too short for NYC ST houses and no longer applicable to category houses since they cancelled their romantic comedy lines. I love that epublishing allows a venue for these types of stories, but when I tease to my friends that I earn enough $ to keep my family stocked in Kraft Dinner…I mean it. 🙂

    There are good and bad epublishers out there. I had the misfortune to get stuck with a bad one for my first book, even after I researched the company up the whazoo. Great editing, great cover art. Payment of due royalties? Don’t get me started! My bad experience resulted in me not subbing to another epublisher for way too long, but I personally needed a great experience to convince me that epublishing was a valid route. And I’ve had that now, so I’m happy.

    Epublishing does teach you a ton about working with editors and production schedules, cover art, yadda. I’ve gone on to sell an erotic novella to a trad publisher, and my experience with them editorially has been the same as my experience with my current two epublishers.


  8. I think Jessica represents a Liquid Silver author who also writes for Changling and probably other e-houses–and who must have recently sold to Berkley. The author’s blog says she has two books coming out from a big-boy house.

    I kind of figure that each of us small press/e-authors will have his/her day up the rung if we keep putting out quality stories that readers enjoy.

  9. I do think the most fun thing about writing for the epubs is the shorter story length. I like writing the shorter stuff as well as the longer, and I like writing the really, really hot stuff too.

  10. E-publishing with EC was a nice foot in the door for me–and it was a plus that there was $$ with it too. I think that getting those great reviews for EC books definitely helped with grabbing the attention of NY.

  11. As a recently e-published author, I am grateful for the way it kickstarted my effort to build my author brand and a reader base. Prior to being e-published, I’d considered developing a Web site, but selling my book made that Web site a necessity. And despite my “day job” as a PR/marketing consultant, I’ve learned so much about author self-promotion that I’m thankful I didn’t wait to learn until after being print-published. Because of my one e-book, I have a yahoogroup that grows daily, experience with Internet chats and book reviews, and contacts in the business I wouldn’t have otherwise. So, while I’m concerned about some of the contract clauses certain e-publishers are including these days, I think e-publishing can be a wonderful training ground for an author who does her homework.

  12. I’d have to disagree, though you certainly have the right to speak for your opinions and your company. The truth of the matter is, erotic romance and erotica are not the only cornerstone you’re going to find in e-publishing. Looking at the lists of bestsellers there, the highest of the year is more often than not a SF/F genre book…or something more mainstream. The two bestsellers at Fictionwise last year were both SF/F, one from indie/e and one from NY.

    What does that have to do with the price of beer? To paraphrase Ms. Snark (not that I’m a fan of hers, but she makes a lot of good points along the way), “It proves someone besides your mother thinks you can write.”

    Let’s look at the facts. Yes, the author who makes it big in EITHER e-publishing or self/vanity/subsidy and gets that “same book” signed to NY is rare and precious. However, most agents and editors I’ve talked to…or seen represented in the yearly survey of agents agree that a e-book that sells well, reviews well, does well in contests…is still a positive publishing credit. Why? Because someone besides your mother thinks you can write.

    Unlike self/subsidy/vanity (which that same survey suggests NOT using as a publishing credit, unless you win the publishing lottery with a bestselling self/subsidy/vanity book), there IS the typical screening process for publishing in e-book at REPUTABLE indie/e publishers. Are there fly-by-nights out there, putting out substandard books? Of course there are, but there are also good books in e-book…and in self/subsidy/vanity, for that matter. And, there are some truly substandard books in NY, mixed in with the cream of the crop. None of them are inherently better than the other.

    Back to subject… Reputable e-publishers don’t take every book tossed at them. In a survey of member publishers taken by EPIC last year, some of the newer publishers were taking 1 in 40 submissions. The established houses were taking between 1 in 100 and 1 in 200 submissions. Hardly seems like a free ride to me. Then add into the mix that they DO edit, format, etc.

    So, I’d have to strongly disagree with your assertion that only romance and erotic romance has a place in e-publishing as a step into NY. At the very least, you should be adding dark romance genre into that mix.


  13. You are right Brenna. I was too narrow in my genres. I suspect it was too early in the morning. This is obviously a subject that touches on nerves which surprises me, especially since I’m someone who does support epublishing. Earlier today I wrote a follow-up post that will appear next week.


  14. I think the most important point to remember here — as in every part of getting published — is that you have to do your homework. Not all e-publishers are created equal. And there are a lot of them out there.

    Jessica never said that an e-book outside of erotica/romance isn’t worth reading. We, too, are happy that there are outlets for writers to distribute work that might not fit into the parameters of NY publishing houses.

    The question was whether getting e-published could help you get at contract with a NY publisher. Jessica didn’t even say “no”. There are always exceptions. Obviously, as Brenna pointed out, anything that has amazing sales and attention is going to be of interest to an editor no matter what genre it is. But the reason these blockbuster books stand out so much, is because they are largely the exceptions to the rule. There are a TON of e-books published and it’s only a precious few that go on to big sales and consequently, the audience of a NY editor. The genre that has really stood out as having the most blockbusters is erotica and romantic fantasy. So much so that editors are instantly attracted to e-published authors in that genre. We simply don’t get the same interest from them for e-published authors in mysteries, nonfiction and other genres we represent. Who knows…in time that could change.

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