Friday, November 29, 2013

Should Readers and Writers Be Thankful for E-Books? By Jacqueline Seewald

According to Bowker’s last publishing report, the number of self-published book titles available in the marketplace went up 59% between 2011 and 2012.  These are staggering figures. The report looked at U.S. ISBN data to identify that there were more than 391,000 books self-published in 2012!  Of these, E-books made up approximately 40 percent of the ISBNs.

Does it surprise anyone that so many e-books are flooding the market, often being offered for free on Amazon among other places? Even for the e-books which are not given away for free, prices have dropped dramatically. Is this a good thing for readers?  I was using a treadmill recently in our building’s gym on a rainy day. The woman next to me was reading on a Kindle as she walked.

“How do you like your Kindle?” I asked.

She smiled. “I love it. I get to read so many more books than I ever did before. And lots of them are free. It’s wonderful.”

I think that says it for many readers. Some of the features are great for readers. For instance, e-book readers are lightweight and compact. Yet they hold many titles. Also you can adjust the font size. This is a blessing for those of us who prefer large print which is easier on the eyes.

But what about writers? Is this good for them? Here’s one positive. Many writers have had books and short stories published in the past. Too soon these titles have gone out of print. This is one way to make backlist titles available to the public for long periods of time. By self-publishing an e-book, a writer can keep work available to readers indefinitely.

A second positive for writers: many would remain unpublished but for the advent of e-books. Publishers will only invest in books they believe will make money. A majority of books will earn out very little, especially if the author is unknown. By self-publishing an e-book, a frustrated writer has the opportunity to get his/her work out in the marketplace and hopefully read by the public.

For those who believe in democracy, this is indeed a democratic revolution. The internet has provided a forum for writers of all kinds. It has opened the floodgates of self-expression. Of course, it is also a bit overwhelming. Certainly, not every e-book will go viral—nor should it. But at least hopeful writers will get the exposure they so crave.

The negative factors are quite obvious as well. First, with such a flood of e-books on the market, quality writers may be ignored. Secondly, as to reviews, they often come from friends and relatives and are not necessarily meaningful. Third, many readers simply ignore unknown names and look only at the work of famous writers and celebrities when they buy books. The attitude is that they may download a free book when it’s offered, but won’t buy subsequent books as the author is hoping. This leads to much disappointment among wannabe authors. It may be coming to a point where there are many more books than readers. And of course, if there are no gatekeepers, anything and everything can be published with little regard to quality. Readers are still much more willing to pay for “brand” name authors. E-publishing appears to be something of a mixed blessing.

For me as a writer, I don’t know what the future will hold. My co-authored Five Star/Gale family mystery THE THIRD EYE, initially out in hardcover in September, is now offered by the publisher as an ebook on Kindle for $3. Will the novel now draw a wider readership?

My short story collection, BEYOND THE BO TREE, was published as an ebook on Amazon this summer. Do such collections draw readers?

I won a writing contest sponsored by Australian publisher, Eside Media. There was a generous cash prize as well as publication which occurred yesterday. This will be my first novel published initially as an e-book in all platforms. THE CHEVALIER is a sensual historical romance set in the Georgian period.  I hope it draws many romance readers.

 What are your thoughts? Does the e-book revolution thrill you as a reader and/or as an author?


Susan Oleksiw said...

You sound as ambivalent as I am, Jacquie. There is no easy answer, no simple answer, but there seems to be a lot of opportunity, as you point out. Thanks for bringing the discussion further along.

Alice Duncan said...

I used to be ambivalent, but I'm not a fan of e-books. Mind you, a *whole bunch* of them should have been edited and haven't been, but I appreciate the fact that my big out-of-print back list is now available for people to read again. Writing is such a ridiculous business, you never know what will work and what won't. Personally, I wish I'd written 50 SHADES OF GREY, even though I've heard it's poorly written. At least the writer thereof is now rich, which I'm sure a whole bunch of us would like to be and aren't, even though we've struggled for what seems at this point like centuries :-)

Jim Hartley said...

The advent of e-books has made it easier to get published. It used to be that the big 6 (or or whatever) were the gatekeepers, but now small indie (but traditional style) presses make it much easier to get a book accepted. And if you can't manage that, there is always self-publishing. For those who prefer paper to an e-reader, a parallel advance, POD publishing, has also helped the writers get their books out to the public. Great advances over the stodgy old-fashioned publishing business of several decades ago, and I say it's good for the writers.

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Hi, Susan,

Thanks for dropping by and commenting. I suppose I am ambivalent about e-books for the reasons stated.

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Hi, Alice,

I would like the details of how Fifty Shades of Grey went viral. Promotion seems to be crucial. I believe the author knew just how to go about it. As to your books, it's great to have your backlist available to readers as e-books.

Jacqueline Seewald said...


Thanks for commenting. Everything you say is quite true. Publishing with indy pubs is now much easier. Small pubs have sprung up and a good number of them are quite legitimate.
I can vouch for that.

Jan Christensen said...

Good post, hitting all the points about pros and cons of self-publishing, Jacqueline. All I can say is, we live in interesting times. That's supposed to be a good thing. Time will tell.

Jacqueline Seewald said...

I always thought the Chinese said: "May you live in interesting times" when they were providing a curse.
But we agree. On the subject of e-books, time will tell.

Nikki said...

Like everyone else, I'm ambivalent, and for many of the same reasons, especially as a writer who hates to do marketing. Life's too short to read bad books, and there are plenty of bad ones self-pubbed. But e-books that have been vetted by a reputable publisher, big 6 or small 600? As a reader,I'd take a risk on those. There are plenty of very good and excellent writers out there.

Terrie Farley Moran said...

First off congratulations Jacquie on all your success!
As to e-books as a reader who travels a lot, I find using an e-reader very convenient, although I still buy books as well.
As a writer I have long accepted that e-books are here to stay. Nikki pointed out the difference between well done e-books and the not-so-well done. The market may be crowded but it is still "buyer beware."

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Hi, Nikki,

I agree with you about e-books that are put out by an actual publisher. THE CHEVALIER for instance actually won in a competition. The book went through two editors and a copy edit before publication. I myself had to go through the manuscript several extra times. It wasn't any different than what I do for print publishers.

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Hi, Terrie,

Well said. E-books are very convenient for travelers. When you have to sit in an airport, for instance, it's very convenient to be able to use one.

Alice Duncan said...

I meant to say I'm NOW a fan of e-books. Sheesh.

D'Ann said...

E-books have been good for me. I wouldn't have been published otherwise. I hate the stigma that they aren't edited. Yes, mine are! I think the marketplace is flooded and to get noticed in the rising waters, you've really go to work, and work hard.

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Hi, D'Ann,

Point taken. The truth is that if e-books aren't well-edited, readers will complain or they just won't buy another book by that author. That is likely the way e-books will even out. As Jack London would say: survival of the fittest.

Carole Price said...

Good post, Jacquie. Not a huge fan of e-books, but I'm grateful to sell more after the initial rush of the hardback. I usually only buy when it's an author I'm familiar with. Too bad there aren't more that I like available on the Nook.

Nancy Means Wright said...

Goodness, Jacquie: you continue to collect prizes! Congratulations on the Australian romance. And a thoughtful essay on ebooks. Where will it all end? So many that we can never find what we want? I, too,see them as both a positive and troubling force. Yet more positive tan negative, methinks.

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Hi, Carole,

I think you are typical in the sense that readers still prefer to buy the novels of well-known authors, ones that they have previously read. It is difficult for unknown writers to break through and reach create a readership.

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Hi, Nancy,

The ideal, of course, would be for writers to obtain publication in print, e-books and audios. But alas, life is rarely perfect!

Anna Seewald said...

The ease of publishing yourself and the connivence of the internet produced a large number of "writers". I recently purchased a self-published book and I was very disappointed in the quality of the content. I met someone recently who claims to be "an author". she is just working on a book. But when I checked her twitter account, she presents herself as author. One just doesn't know where to draw the line between real authors and self-proclaimed "writers". You won't believe how many times people have told me that I should write a book. But I tell them that I am not a writer even though I write a blog.
As for e-readers, they are great!

Jacqueline Seewald said...


Thanks for stopping by and commenting. It's important to share thoughts and ideas.

Cindy Sample said...

Hi Jacquie. I always enjoy your provocative posts. I'm a huge fan of e-books. If it wasn't for the ease of indie publishing, my books would be languishing in publishing purgatory after our mutual publisher closed last summer. I'm sure the excellent reviews I received in the past encouraged new readers to give my series a chance. I'm thrilled that I've found my niche in the $2.99 humorous mystery market. I've also discovered some excellent new mystery authors myself based on Amazon's recommendations. It is a new world, but I'm thankful to be a part of it.

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Hi, Cindy,

I love humorous mysteries and I know yours are great fun. Our Dreamspell books do get a second life through self-publication. But I should point out that you also have reprints available through Harlequin Worldwide Mystery, just as I do.
I've been very pleased with Harlequin.

Terry Odell said...

While it's true that it's harder to get discovered amongst the huge number of ebooks, I can't be happier that they're out there. As a reader: I live in a remote area and there are no bookstores. With the click of button, I can find something to read any time of day or night. And with the free samples offered by the e-stores, I don't worry about finding out a book isn't what I want, either for the story or the writing.

As an author, I LOVE LOVE LOVE being able to get my books out to a much wider audience than my publisher was willing to reach. For the first time in my writing career, I'm making money. Real money. The kind I have to pay taxes on, but I still keep most of it! I pay for an editor, I pay for cover art. I put out what I think is a professional product, and my readers seem to agree, as my newest release hit #1 on the Amazon list for Action Adventure Romance.

Terry's Place

June Shaw said...

Excellent comments. I agree with you. And also want to congratulate you for winning that contest. Great job!

Jacqueline Seewald said...


Congrats on your success! I think you can teach the rest of us a thing or two about book promotion.

Jacqueline Seewald said...


Thanks. Winning the romance writing contest was such a lovely surprise as the publisher is Australian which makes it more of an honor for an American writer.

Anonymous said...

I never thought I would get rich by writing. What excites me the most is getting positive reviews for my books from readers.

As to ebooks, I believe there are about 200 million people in the U.S. who are 18 or over. I have read that about one millin books are publsihed each year by either regular publishers or self published. Thats one half of one percent of the population.

Therefore, to me just putting words to paper, or computer, whichever you prefer, and finishing writing a book good or bad is a major feat and only attempted by so very few people.

Richard Brawer

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Hi, Richard,

You have a very good attitude. You're right. Finishing writing a book is a major accomplishment. I've met a great many people who say they want to write but never do.

Peter DiChellis said...

An insightful discussion of pros and cons. To me, anything that both increases the number of readers and the publishing opportunities for writers (however imperfectly) is, on balance, a definite positive.

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Hi, Peter,

I agree with you there. Ideally, we want to be published in as many different medias as possible.

Mary F. Schoenecker said...

Goodness, Jacquie! Though I'm late in commenting there isn't much left to say - except that I'm glad for the opportunity to publish my backlist as eBooks.I do agree with one of the comments - there are some ebooks that I've read on my kindle(free or purchased) which were really not quality writing. But that could be true of print books too, I guess.

Anonymous said...

I found out about this blog on the RT website under Reader's Roundtable. I love my Kindle but I speak for the trees. More ebooks and less trees cut for paper. Trees are a renewable resource but this cuts into the number of trees sacrificed.

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Hi, Mary,

I've found many print books that weren't worth the read and many e-books that are quality reads. I agree, it depends. Readers need to keep an open mind.

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Thanks, Anonymous, for dropping by and commenting. Good to know readers are looking at RT posts as well.

carl brookins said...

Technology has brought a revolution to book publishing and reading. Good deal! Democratization. Reduction of wrong-headed censorship and protectionism.

Jacqueline Seewald said...


I value your opinions. I do agree that e-book technology has offered democratization to publishing. It's opened the floodgates of writing to many new writers with interesting and different ideas.

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