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Ask Daphne! About E-Publishing

erotokritos-red-eshoes2Happy Tuesday, all! I’m looking forward to heading back to the Home Office this afternoon, but in the meantime, let’s dive into the mailbag again, shall we? Karen writes:

I have a friend who has started an e-publishing company. In addition to e-books it will have audio and print on demand. She has read my novel and asked if I wanted to submit it to her to be one of her debut authors. I truly respect this woman and I know she is very intelligent, but I also know that intelligence will only take you so far in this industry. You need contacts and I’m not sure she has them. She does run a very successful website for writers, but still, I don’t know her contacts. As with most writers, I have a dream of how I want my career to go–agent, publisher, bookstores. I know there are a lot of steps in between that, but my point is, I had a plan and I never put much thought into e-books or print on demand.

I guess my question is this: If I go with an e-book or P.O.D. publisher, will it hurt my chances of ever taking that same novel through traditional publishing if the e-publishing isn’t successful? I don’t want to hurt my novel just because someone likes it. Any help you could offer would be greatly appreciated.

First of all, a little shout out to the shoes above, which came up when I did an image search for “e-shoes”. The designer is Erotokritos (and they’re having a SALE! Ohmigod! Must… avoid… spending…). Ahem.

Anyway, Karen, I think it’s brilliant that your friend likes your novel, and is striking out on her own with her own company. There have been authors who have gone from being only e-published to having rather successful traditional publishing careers, and that may be a course you wish to pursue.

However, I think you’re wise to be a little leery. Just as you wouldn’t submit to an agent blindly, or randomly mail your manuscript to publishing houses without knowing something about what they’re looking for and what they publish, so too should you be careful about promising something to an e-publisher without knowing what that entails. And being on a debut list for a new endeavor can be risky.

You could agree that your book would be published by her company on an e-book only basis, which means that any future traditional trade publishing deal might not be jeopardized — but what if the publisher who later wants to buy your book has a strong e-book division themselves, and wants to do their own e-book edition? Could you agree to a non-exclusive e-book edition only agreement with your friend? Sure, maybe.

But if you want to go the traditional publishing route, if you have that as your dream and your goal, I would strongly recommend that you explore all your options in that realm before signing something away that may be very valuable to you later.

How could you do both? Well, I assume while you’re submitting your current novel, you’re working on something new. Maybe you reach out to a wide varied range of agents and don’t get the response you’re looking for, and over time, you realize that book #2 is stronger, and may be the one you want to start submitting. Could you then let your friend publish book #1 as an e-book while you submit book #2? Sure. If you still want to. If you haven’t come to realize by that time that the people who said no to it were right to do so, for whatever reason. If you don’t want to put it back in a drawer to revise again later.

Or you could write something different just for your friend, as a sort of calling card to readers and, possibly, to editors who might be looking at the epub world for their new authors. There are possibilities.

Look, I know this sounds a little negative and down on epublishers. I think you may hear that kind of reaction from many agents, because of the way the business works TODAY. It may not always be this way. And if your friend’s company is willing to pay you an advance and a competitive royalty on sales of your e-book, then you may be making a very smart move in publishing it with them.

This is just my personal opinion. If you were my client asking my opinion on doing this with a book I was shopping to editors, I would say hell no. If you were my friend, who I believed had a real shot at being published traditionally, I’d probably also say no.

But that’s me. Readers, what do you think? What would YOU do?

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