/ Articles

Get your free email address:  you@dowse.com

Back to



Karen Wiesner, named a "leading romance writer" by The Writer Magazine, is the best-selling author of the Gypsy Road Series, the Angelfire Trilogy, Dare to Love Series as well as upcoming Wounded Warriors Series (coming 2002) from Hard Shell Word Factory. Her fiction novels from Hard Shell have been nominated for Romantic Times' 1999 E-Book of the Year, the Frankfurt and multiple Eppie's. In June 2001, Hard Shell Word Factory published ELECTRONIC PUBLISHING Q&A, the compilation of Karen’s now-defunct Inkspot column. The book includes bonus columns never previously released.

Karen is also the author of ELECTRONIC PUBLISHING The Definitive Guide {The Most Complete Reference to Non-Subsidy E-Publishing}, a bestselling, Frankfurt nominated writer's reference. The Guide was a finalist in the 1999 EPPIE and won the 2000 EPPIE for Best Non-fiction. The 2000 Edition is published byAvid Press, and is excerpted in the 2001 Writers Digest Novel & Short Story Market and made the Inscriptions Books of the Year list. A FREE preview (zipped HTML format) of the Guide is available by sending an e-mail to kwiesner@cuttingedge.net with "EPTDG Preview" in the subject line.

Crash Course in E-Publishing
Karen Wiesner

I myself started out as a skeptic of e-publishing. I definitely thought there was something weird about reading a book on the computer. So, what changed my mind? Well, I've been writing since I was ten years old. In my early 20’s, I started to submit to traditional publishers and spent 7 impossibly frustrating years in that single-minded pursuit of publication. The last 3 or 4 years, all of my rejections were those damnable good ones. The "I love this! But too controversial." "I love this! But character/plot taboos." "I love your writing, but it's too category." "I love your writing, but it's too mainstream.” I got the point where I couldn't do it anymore. I was sitting there with close to ten finished manuscripts and dozens of half-there ones and I knew they'd never sell to a traditional publisher. I decided to write for myself and not try to get published anymore. Then, early in 1998, I heard about e-publishing. I submitted, not exactly sure about the medium but figuring I didn't have anything to lose. Two, short weeks later, I got “The Call” (or, in this case, “The E-mail”!) Since that day, I’ve done everything I could to learn about the medium, and I’m extremely excited about the current interest from the public in e-publishing.

Non-subsidy vs. subsidy publishing

Some of you might be wondering what the differences are between traditional publishers and electronic publishers. The simple answer is format (in some cases) and distribution. There are no other differences. E-books come in download, disk, CD and Print-on-Demand formats. A huge number of e-publishers are turning to POD because it's so ideal to the concept of e-publishing. No warehousing, no middle men.

In e-publishing, we have a variety of types of publishers, just as we do in print publishing:

1) Full-fledged vanity or subsidy, royalty-paying
This type of publisher requires up-front fees. Your book won't get published if you don't accept them. Don't be confused by the term "self-publisher." Many subsidy publishers call themselves "self-publishers", but it's a deceptive term.

2) "Cooperative" subsidy, royalty-paying
This kind of publisher requires no up-front fees to the author; however, they don't provide some of the basics free. An author has the choice of paying for these "extra" services (like covers or in-depth editing), and whether or not they do them doesn't change an acceptance of the book. I advise that authors look at publishers of this kind with a scrutinizing eye. It's a better alternative than subsidy publishing, but there are many caveats.

3) Non-subsidy, royalty-paying
The author pays absolutely no up-front fees whatsoever, no fees at any time. Basics are provided free (in-depth editing, covers, all manufacturing and distribution).

Royalties and advances in e-publishing

What are the royalties like among e-publishers? The variation is between 24% and 80%. The standard royalty rate for e-publishers is 30%. That's pretty huge, when you consider the average for print publishers is 8%, more or less. A print-published friend of mine says she makes about 5 cents per book. That's sad when you think of the passion she puts into writing each book, but since an average book sells tens of thousands of copies, she's actually making a return. A lot of e-authors don't get that, especially if they don't learn to promote aggressively and creatively.

A few e-publishers pay advances, but it's a mere token in every case. Are advances necessary? Well, let's see. The reason for an advance is to give the author something to live on in the lapse between contract and book release, which could be anywhere between one to three years. An author must then "earn out" that advance before they begin collecting royalties. So that advance may have to last them for years! Most e-publishers don't have that kind of lapse between contract and release. In the case of new e-publishers, e-books can be released within weeks or months of contract. Hence, advances aren't really necessary in e-publishing. The high royalty rate makes it unnecessary too. Authors don't need to earn out an advance and they begin receiving royalties immediately--within a month to three months. The potential to make a lot of money is definitely there with e-publishing.

Advantages/disadvantages in e-publishing

The advantages and disadvantages of e-publishing frequently mesh, so look for caveats to several of the points.


-Turnaround times are much quicker. I've sold books to e-publishers in a matter of hours, whereas when I submit to a print publisher I plan to wait at least 6 months yet usually wait closer to a year. If you submit to a new e-publisher, you'll probably get a query for the full mss. or an acceptance/rejection within a couple weeks. The caveat is that many established e-publishers (Hard Shell, DiskUs, The Fiction Works, New Concepts) now have turnaround times as long as those of traditional publishers. If you submit to any of the established e-publishing houses, you may be in for an extremely long wait. To handle the overflow, many have closed submissions. Keep in mind that these are very small businesses that don't have the manpower to handle submissions similar to those a traditional publisher receives. The publishers are working to implement changes that should streamline the process for their customers, their authors/potential authors and themselves.

-Author friendly contracts that are simple to understand (and only a couple pages long.)

-Authors have control of their books. Revisions are usually minimal because an e-publisher will only buy a book that they feel is close to perfect. No more writing the heart of your book to please your editor. No plot restrictions. No character taboos. Fine and dandy if you straddle the fence between more than one genre. No word count requirements.

-The shrinking shelf space crisis that so pervades the traditional market simply doesn't exist in e-publishing. While e-publishers are very interested in making their individual authors into bestsellers, they continue to buy quality stories from brand new and "mid-list" authors.

Bonus advantages to e-publishing:

-Agents are completely unnecessary to sell an e-book (so that 15% of your royalties goes directly into your pocket instead of someone else's.)

-No title changes unless the publisher already has one with that name.

-Book covers are done to your specifications--or you can do it yourself if you're an artist (subject to publisher approval.)

-E-publishers don't try to "own" their authors. Authors are free to submit anywhere else. Exclusive contracts are on a book-by-book basis instead of for the length of your career with that publisher.

-Your books are available anywhere in the world--none of those confusing "foreign rights" issues.

-Your books are available 24 hours a day. The reader never has to leave their computer to browse, buy and receive their books.

-Your books are available--quite possibly-forever. This means that you'll be getting royalties on them for a lot longer, which means if your first and second books don't do well but your third does, readers have easy access to your back list.

-E-authors have more opportunity to become bestsellers because there are no time limits. Think about this: If your book published by a traditional publisher doesn't sell well, you're judged on that. It affects your next advance, your relationship with the publisher and your probability of being published again by them. I've heard of far too many print authors being blackballed by their publishers because they're "mid-list." E-authors aren't penalized in that way. If they've written a great book, their publisher will accept it. If their books don't sell well, it isn't necessarily a reflection on the author so much as on a slow-growing medium.


1) There isn't a heck of a lot of money in e-publishing RIGHT NOW. The potential for a lot of money is definitely there. We can sell faster, we can have our books come out sooner, we can sell to more than one publisher. We can have money coming in constantly if we're prolific. But the market is small right now. We don't have the potential fans that print authors have to sell our books because e-books are just becoming popular though not common. The average number of books an e-author sells of one title per year is probably around 200. If you have a lot of books out there, with a variety of publishers, and you promote aggressively and creatively that figure can be much higher. A handful of authors are selling more than 5000 per title and making 4 to 5 figures, but right now that's rare. I will tell you this though: my royalties from my first check in 1998 to my first in 1999 increased 700%. I expect that percentage to increase rapidly in the future too. I heard that less than 5% of authors actually are able to make a living from writing, so I think we just need to be patient.

2) Promotion isn't a question in e-publishing. It's an absolute requirement. You don't promote, you don't sell a single copy--that's the literal truth.


For more information about Karen and her work, visit her web site at http://karenwiesner.hypermart.net.

Back to Articles Contents Page

Search the web




Dowse Fiction Hub
Dowse Science Fiction and Fantasy Hub
Dowse home - Web Gateway for Creative Minds


We hope you have enjoyed this page. Please go back to the Fiction Hub Contents to read another story or for more information. We believe you will also find that the Dowse Science Fiction Hub has much of interest.


Computing & Internet
Fantasy art
Myths & Legends
News & Info
Science Fiction
Security online
Web Makers Tools
Writing & Publishing

. How to make
  your start page
. Your free email
. Message Bds
   & communities

. Suggest links
. Link to us

. About dowse
. Search the web


Copyright © 2001 dowse.com
all rights reserved


Dowse Articles