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Tom E. Sechrist, Jr. is the author of the highly acclaimed e-book “The Devenshire Chronicles” Book One: “The Stones of Snamuh” available at Crossroadspub.com. He also offers a free newsletter on a monthly basis that is dedicated to writing and publishing in the e-book format. Each issue includes articles on writing/publishing, background information on "The Devenshire Chronicles" (a behind-the-scenes type of section), interviews with other published authors and a true (if somewhat slightly exasgerated at times) humorous story taken from his life. You can subscribe to "The Chronicles Newsletter" by visiting his website and using the form on the home page.

Tom offers a very interesting take on e-books verses paperbacks. This article was first published in Tom's newsletter.

Tom E. Sechrist, Jr.

“So when will your book hit bookstore shelves?”

“Well, it won’t exactly ‘hit’ the shelves. You see it’s an e-book.”

“Oh, so it isn’t really a published book, then.” Or “Huh? What’s an e-book?”

If I had a dime for every time I have had the above conversation, I could retire and not worry over whether or not my books sold. It seems that while computers and the Internet have inundated almost every facet of modern life, e-books haven’t.

It seems that people just can’t make the connection. That if they can’t pick it up and hold it in their hands, then it’s just not a ‘real’ book. Or if your book is in e-book form, then you aren’t really a published author.

A big portion of this preconceived notion about e-books stems from an older generation of readers who just cannot (or will not) view anything but the trusty old paperback as the only true published work of literature.

A fellow author recently put it in a more defining light by saying that people look at paperbacks and e-books much the same way as people looked at cassettes and compact disks. I’ll take it back even one step further. How about 8-tracks and cassettes? I can remember thinking that cassettes would NEVER replace the good ol’ 8-track. I also said the same thing about CD’s when they made their debut, so I can hardly criticize the nay Sayers of e-books.

In fact, I used to be one of those who looked down their noses at e-books.

“They’re a fad. They’re a novelty. E-books are like Pet Rocks; they’re cute, but they’ll soon fade away.”

It was not the intention of this article to criticize the nay Sayers of e-books anyway. Nor was it the intention of this article to criticize paperbacks or the traditional in-print publishing industry. I still enjoy a good paperback (if I can’t find the title in e-book form). The intention of this article was to inform. To show the differences between the two formats of publishing and why I, personally, feel that the day is coming, in the not too distant future, when paperbacks will be the novelty and e-books the norm.

Do the research for yourself. Given how competitive the in-print publishing industry is today, the rising costs of publishing a paperback book and the incredible strain on natural resources, it’s hard to see how the in-print publishing industry can survive in its current form.

There is a literal flood of new authors in the e-book industry. Why? The answer is very simple. The near cutthroat competition levels between in-print publishing houses makes it very impractical to gamble a very limited budget on a new, unknown author.

Let’s be honest. If a major publishing house is looking ahead at a very tight budget and has two manuscripts before him/her, one from a Dean Koontz and one from this Tom… Seekrit? SeCrust? SeaCrist? (How the hell do you say his name anyway?), which do you think he/she will gamble on? Of course they’ll go with the Dean Koontz’, Stephen Kings, John Grishams of the world over the Tom Sechrists. These are established, well-known and very talented writers while this Tom however-you-say-his name is neither established nor well known. (By the way…it’s pronounced Seek-wrist)

E-books are cheaper to produce and cost less than a paperback. While there is still stiff competition for e-book dollars, the overhead involved makes it easier for e-book publishers to take a chance on a new, unknown talent. Another benefit is the talent available from e-book authors. While they may be new, unknown authors, many of them are every bit as talented (if not more so) as their in-print counterparts.

This is not to say that e-book publishers are pushovers either. With the exception of a few e-publishers, vanity presses, etc (who will gladly publish your book for a ‘nominal’ fee), e-publishers are very stringent in their quality guidelines. For example, my publisher, CrossroadsPub.com, has VERY stringent quality demands. Every single manuscript that CrossroadsPub accepts for publication goes through two editors before being released. While this may mean that other e-publishers may be able to release a book sooner than CrossroadsPub, you can be assured of the quality of any CrossroadsPub release. Of all the e-publishers I researched before submitting my novel (and believe me there were plenty of them researched), CrossroadsPub had the highest level of professional quality expectations.

Another factor is the time involved in the submission/decision/editing/release process. Based on my research, most in-print publishers won’t even consider unsolicited manuscripts and many won’t consider your manuscript unless you have an agent. The involvement of an agent adds another factor to be considered. Now it is not simply a question of how much money the publisher and author can make, but the agent as well. Guess who’s share of the profits the agent’s fee comes from? I can tell you it’s not from the publisher’s share.

Also, with more and more aspiring authors seeking to make their mark in the in-print publishing world, agents are almost as difficult as publishers when it comes to getting one to even look at your work.

Let’s take a look at an average submission to publication process of in-print publishers. This is not an absolute rule, but a rough average put together based on my research.

IF a publisher decides to consider your manuscript, they don’t allow for multiple submissions. That means that you can’t send your manuscript to any other publishers until that one has made its decision. It will take anywhere from six to nine months for that publisher to reach a yes or no decision about publishing your manuscript. That’s six to nine months that your manuscript is tied up before you can send it to another publisher.

Then, IF the publisher decides to accept your manuscript, it can take up to 18 months (if not longer) for the book to be released. Once your book is released, you have a very short window of opportunity to sell as many copies of your book as you can. In-print publishers print what they call a first run (usually about 50,000 copies). If that first run doesn’t sell relatively quickly, then your book is doomed to becoming an out of print book. Meaning that soon your book will vanish from bookstore shelves, never to be seen again (unless an old, tattered copy of it turns up at a garage sale somewhere for .25).

Let’s not forget royalties. The average royalty for a new author is usually between 7 and 12%. That’s 7 to 12% of every book sold.

Hardly seems worth the effort. Writing professionally is one of those careers where the love of the work has to outweigh the desire for the money. Trust me, Stephen King didn’t ‘strike it rich’ with his first novel and you won’t either.

Now let’s take a look at the e-book submission to publication process. Again, these are not absolute figures and are based on an average of the results of my research.

More and more e-publishers are turning to the ‘no multiple submissions’ guideline, so there is no difference there. The average wait time to hear whether or not an e-publisher has accepted your manuscript is about two to three weeks. The turn around time, that is the time that the publisher takes to edit your manuscript, get the cover art done and release it on their website is roughly two to four months (again, this is an average. Some take longer to edit and release).

There are some e-publishers that don’t have their own in-house editors forcing you to seek an outside editor and pay to have your manuscript edited. There are also those ‘vanity’ presses who will gladly publish your manuscript for a nominal fee…no editing required. Believe me, EVERY manuscript needs to be edited. There is no way an author can objectively edit his/her own manuscript. They can correct the spelling, typos and grammatical errors, but then the manuscript will still be in need of objective editing for story flow, character motivation, character development, and so on.

The royalties that e-publishers pay are very much higher than in-print publishers. On average, an e-publisher will pay anywhere from 20-70%. Before you get dollar signs flashing before your eyes, realize that the average cost of an e-book download is $3 to 5.00. Again, to be a writer and retain your sanity, you’re love of writing has to outweigh your desire for money.

Here’s another plus of publishing online. There is no such thing as an e-book that’s out of print. No matter if your book has been out for 3 months or 3 years, it will always be there. There is no precious bookshelf space to contend with and your average e-book takes up little space. Barring unusual circumstances, your e-book will always be available for purchase.

Other arguments of the E-book vs. Paperbacks debate are as follows:

“Who wants to curl up in bed with their monitor to read a book?”

“I can’t stand to sit at my computer and just read. I get on the computer to surf or chat or play games.”

“You can’t take an e-book with you to the doctor’s office or the beach or on a camping trip.”

“Oh, I’ve heard of those e-book reader thingys. I just bet the screen resolution on those things is terrible. I get a headache just by thinking about reading an entire novel on one of them.”

And so forth and so on…

Distribution and the mobility of e-books has been their biggest drawback, but with the growing technologies of hand held readers such as Hiebook, Rocket, Palm Pilot and several others, those arguments are quickly loosing ground. E-book readers are making rapid technological advances. The newest models feature adjustable screen resolutions; adjustable font sizes and a plethora of other features that make it possible to take your favorite e-book title anywhere.

Formatting has been another problem with e-books. One brand of e-book reader accepts only such and such files while another brand accepts a completely different one. As luck would have it, you find several good titles from several different online publishers and each one is in a different file format. Microsoft as well as other e-book reader manufacturers are working on this problem and, as with everything else in the computer world, are making rapid advances. With very few exceptions, everyone I’ve talked to that owns an e-book reader device swears by them, wouldn’t be caught without it and some have trouble remembering when they purchased their last paperback.

For me, personally, the decision to submit “The Devenshire Chronicles” to CrossroadsPub came from my research and what I wanted to do with my work. For me, it was simply more time reasonable to publish my book in the e-book form. It would have taken years for my book to become a paperback and after 22 years of writing and battling my own insecurities, I wanted to get my work before the public as quickly as possible while striving for the best quality possible.

That brings up another interesting fact. When you publish your novel with an e-book publisher, you are still free to pursue in-print publication as well. E-book publishers retain ONLY the electronic rights to your book. If I should decide that I want to pursue an in-print version of my book, I can. But while I’m waiting for the in-print publishers to decide if they want my book or not, it’s out there, in e-book form, being purchased by readers, getting exposure, building my name as an author and I’m making a little money off of it at the same time.

In fact, there has been a growing trend of in-print publishers taking a look at some e-book titles and making offers to the authors of those titles. Now if that isn’t a very gratifying thought to any author who has gone through the gauntlet of trying to get their books published in print, I don’t know what would be. For me, it was a win-win scenario.

Consider some other facts. How many people do you know that are involved with a computer and the Internet in some way or another?

Consider the fact that more and more younger people ARE reading books online. These young people will soon be adults and the reading habits they use now will follow them into adulthood.

Consider the rapid growth of computer technology and how e-book readers will only get better and get better very, very soon.

Consider one last very important fact, especially if you are of the belief that e-books will never find a place in the publishing industry and that people will never adapt to reading something like a novel online: Are you not, at this very moment, reading an article on a computer screen?

Something to think about.


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E-BOOKS versus PAPERBACKS by Tom E. Sechrist, Jr.