I met another writer today. It's funny how many people reveal that they are would-be authors, once I tell them that I write for a living!
This particular writer is a financial planner by day (which was the service we were seeking from her) but a young-adult fiction writer by night. When she heard my tale of publishing success and I talked to her more about self-publishing as opposed to the query-go-round of legacy publishing, she began to really understand the advantages. And of course, the idea that she might be able to publish her already-finished first book in her trilogy RIGHT NOW was thrilling. I sent her over to the Newbie's Guide (which I always do with aspiring writers who are thinking about self-publishing - why try to reinvent the wheel?) and we moved on from talking ebooks to discussing finances. Apparently, my husband and I have official labels in the finance world. We're called "young accumulators." I was thrilled we got to be "young." My husband was much happier with the "accumulator" part of the equation!
After we left her office, I got to thinking about my initial experiences with ebooks and ebook publishing and ereaders. When my first ebook was published in 2006, I wasn't thinking of epublishing. I didn't consider ebooks "real books." And small ebook publishers were barely a step up from vanity presses, as far as I was concerned. I just saw that a small epublisher was having a contest for entries. Winners would recieve $100 and a publishing contract. Three runners-up would receive a publishing contract, but no cash. Me, I was looking to win the cash. I didn't. But I did win a contract.
I was reluctant. But finally, I decided - why not? What could it hurt? These were the days before online ebook self-publishing was really viable. There was no Kindle Publishing Direct. There was no Barnes and Noble PubIt. So I signed a contract with the now-defunct StarDust Press to publish my story, Christmas Stalking. They gave me 35% profit and kept 75%. And that was pretty good, considering a legacy publishing deal would only give you about 17%, and they wouldn't publish anything as short as 17,000 words anyway, except in an anthology.
I learned a lot at that little publisher. I dealt with editors (she was great, and I was insufferable) and cover artists (not so great - vector drawing covers, ugh!) I learned about marketing on blogs and in chat rooms and on Yahoo groups. I learned that there was already a large network of romance and erotic romance readers who had been reading on ereaders for years. Really, years! They liked to read their fiction anonymously and electronically. Especially the erotic romance, because no one could see the covers or ask what they were reading! It was like a whole little underground network that I'd never known existed.
Maybe I'd misjudged this ebook thing? Maybe ereaders really were going to be the wave of the future?
Little did I know! It's funny to me to look back now at my judgments and attitudes. I accepted the publishing contract, but I didn't tell anyone. I mean, I wasn't really published. Ebooks weren't real books! Then Kindle came along, and even though my books were now all over the place, including on Amazon through their Mobi site (back then, Amazon only offered publishers 35% profit, not the 70% they give to authors now, believe it or not) I still didn't consider ebooks as real books.
It cracks me up that Fictionwise (before Amazon opened their self-publishing department) actually cancelled our account and deleted all of Excessica's books because they'd found out that, as an author co-op, we had done all our own editing and cover art! *gasp* They were simply horrified by this fact. Horrified enough to actually just delete us! I had to go to bat and convince them that we were a business, an LLC, just like they were, and that I didn't publish "just anything" and that we did have editors and cover artists on staff (never mind that they happened to be co-op volunteers... shhhh!) They finally reinstated our account.
I can laugh about that now. But back then, it was a big deal. Fictionwise was the largest ebook retailer at the time, and here they were saying "NO!" to self-publishing. Of course, that was before Amazon got into the game and blew them out of the water.
It was all so new, so strange, such uncharted territory. The rules in ebook publishing seemed to change every few months. I just continued to plug along, writing and (self) publishing under the umbrella of our little co-op at Excessica. But I still didn't own an ereader. That's right. I was making $10,000 a month via ebooks, but I'd never actually read one!
Then my husband decided we had to have a Kindle. I was reluctant. I liked paper books. I liked my hardcover collectibles. Here I was, an ebook author making my primary living as an ebook author--and I was still hesitant to actually own an ereader! How crazy is that?
But once I got my hands on my Kindle, I never looked back. I've now officially been assimilated. I write ebooks, and use print-on-demand services to provide them as paperbacks. I consider ebooks as "real" books now. I even primarily read ebooks as opposed to dead-tree books. In fact, I haven't purchased a paper book in over a year, unless it was something out-of-print I couldn't get on my Kindle. (And I get really, really cranky when that happens!)
And as my own attitudes changed, I watched the culture shift. Writers like JA Konrath, who had once denounced epublishing, were jumping on that wagon with both feet and huge backlists, speeding toward a six-or-seven figure income.
I started seeing people reading Kindles in coffee shops and at the gym. When I got my first ereader, I got asked about it all the time when I was reading in public. "Is that one of those new Kindle things?" People were interested, curious. Now, people glance at my ereader and then go on with their business. It's commonplace. They know what it is. They probably own one or know someone who does.
And all of this has happened in a very short span of time. When I published my first ebook five years ago, they were less than 1% of the market. (Although the market did exist!) Now, the ebook market is about 25% of total book sales. Granted, the idea of self-publishing and ebooks hasn't fully entered the collective consciousness... not quite yet. As my conversation with my financial-planner/would-be author can attest.
But it's coming. Ch-ch-changes! Back in 2006, I couldn't have predicted where the epublishing market would be today. I never thought I would e-publish. I didn't really believe that ebooks would become popular. And there was no way I was going to switch to an ereader over paperbacks! Yet here I am, making a (very, very comfortable) living writing ebooks. Self-publishing them. And I read almost exclusively on an ereader myself.
The prejudice against self-publishing is going to fade. Trust me - my own prejudices were quite strong, and they have all but disappeared. The world of publishing is going to look very different five, ten years from now. I feel as if I got into the game at a strange time, like being caught between the years of Betamax and VHS. Or MySpace and FaceBook. There are bigger things coming, I think. Bigger, even, than Amazon. I don't know what they'll be. But hang on - it's going to be one hell of a ride, folks!
Erotic Fiction You Won't Forget