Wednesday, March 30, 2011

We can publish ebooks for free?

Really? Let’s look at that. Publishing houses are quick to tell us that the only difference between an ebook and a print book is the actual cost of printing, that all of the other overhead and costs associated with the book remain the same. But an individual publishing a book does not have this overhead, right?

An individual doesn’t have office space and utilities and that sort of expense because they are already paying those as part of their living expenses, but computer and internet and printers and those sort of expenses would qualify as overhead.

The publisher has to provide levels of editing. Most books, no matter how good a person is at writing and editing really does need a third party to put an objective eye on a project and give it at least a good copy edit if not a substantive edit to be a publishable project. Too many self-published books do not do this which contributes to a reputation of lower quality books. Getting this edit done can be a substantial expense and that is definitely overhead.

The publisher involves people in titling and cover production. A good cover is vital in getting a book considered whether it is sitting on a shelf in B & N or in an online bookstore. If the author also happens to be good in graphic arts they may can reduce this overhead (if they already have the appropriate software) otherwise it has to be contracted out. That is a production cost and more overhead.

The big advantage of a publisher is sales and distribution. They pay significant amounts for good distribution channels and have people working in sales to get the book out. This is pure overhead for the self-publisher who has to try and replicate this activity by getting their name out, getting exposure, advertising if they can afford to do so. The publisher is spending money on staff to do this. The author is spending money as well if they consider their time worth anything. That is significant overhead and there are a lot of other things I’m not going into.

I’m not arguing against self publishing or doing ebooks, I’m doing some of that myself. I am cautioning those involved to recognize that they are not free to produce, however. Just as the big publishers have overhead to produce either print books or ebooks so does the individual doing it. We should identify that overhead and factor it in when we are considering doing it and as we proceed with such projects.


E.J. Wesley said...

Great point, Terry! I'm definitely pro-eBook, and support any and every writer that wants to try to get their work out there (regardless of the route they choose).

However, there are steps that need to be taken to insure the product--which as much as it hurts many authors to think of their writing as a product, that's what it is the second they start charging people for it--is of the highest quality. As you pointed out, many times those 'steps' aren't free.

Good covers, editing and formatting are all expenses that traditional publishers pay for, and the DIY author may have to as well. You might fool a consumer once with a shoddy product, but they won't be fooled a 2nd time. And in a business built on the shoulders of repeat buyers (i.e. fans), that should always be of prime concern.

Enjoyed your thoughts.


Jessie Mac said...

Time and effort is also a cost. In business it's called opportunity cost. If you're spending time marketing and distributing your book - that time is not spent on earning working your other job. Thanks Terry for the post.

B. J. Robinson said...

I have an ebook being released July 15, a Christian romantic suspense novel, but I'm not self-publishing. Desert Breeze is releasing it. Some authors tell me you can do it yourself on Smashwords, but I decided to go with a publisher who has a wonderful book cover award-winning artist, and I had an edtior, then the copyright editor will also look at it as well as someone else. I did personal editing and had part of the novel edited by Tracy Ruckman before submitting. Then, I did a first and a final edit myself for my DB editor. I had feedback from my ACFW critique group on the first half of it. I had a lady who volunteered to be an extra pair of eyes for me as well. So, my novel may not be perfect, but at least it's been edited by several people and not only by myself. I agree authors need feedback, and I enjoyed my ACFW critique group. I want to be able to enjoy the writing process. I'm glad I have a publisher and an editor to help me with the rest. I also enjoy editing, and I learned about formatting for house style, so it's been a rewarding experience for me. Thanks for sharing your knowledge. Blessings, BJ

Book Nerd said...

I haven't published an ebook yet precisely because I get that it is not for "free" still the alternative opens a lot of doors and gives freedom to the writer. I think your article here is useful reading and I took a few points from it. There is something to the issue of editing and I get this help from a friend who is a professional. Thanks for your post!