© Eric Stone 2011 all rights reserved
My books have been electrified. They’re now available for pretty much any and every electronic gizmo you might care to read them on. The money is now, well, if not exactly rolling in, it’s begun creeping in. I’m glad for that. A little sad, too. I have high hopes, and some real fears. Getting to this point has been a lesson.
First I had to get the rights back to my backlist. You can’t publish your books as ebooks unless you have the right to do so and can prove it.
That was no problem for my first book, WRONG SIDE OF THE WALL. It had been remaindered a while ago and I had the rights reversion letter in hand.
Then the books needed formatting to become ebooks. Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Lulu (an ebook publisher/distributor who can get your ebook out to a wide variety of places) all have ways on their websites of formatting your own ebook. Unless you really know what you’re doing – don’t do it. I’ve seen too many badly formatted ebooks. Farm the job out if, like me, you aren’t so hot at HTML. It’s worth the money. I paid $150 per book for two files each – a mobi file for Amazon and an epub file for everything else.
You’re probably going to need new covers, too. I don’t own the rights to the covers of my previously published books.
But that’s not all. While Amazon doesn’t require you to come up with a new ISBN for your ebooks, Barnes & Noble, SONY, iBooks and several others do. Lulu, which will publish to iBooks and SONY and others for you, will happily assign you an ISBN if you request it, but then it becomes the publisher of record. (Lulu also requires a different ISBN than the one you used for B&N.) Do yourself a favor, go to Bowker https://www.myidentifiers.com/index.php?page=home and buy your own. (It’s cheaper in blocks of 10. I have five ebooks in two different formats each and have used up all 10.)
Price your ebooks to sell. Mine are all priced at $2.99. And because I am the sole publisher of them, my royalties are all higher per book than they ever were on any of the paperback editions of my books, and nearly the same as they were on the hardbacks.
If, on the other hand, your traditional publisher is publishing your ebooks, the standard contract these days calls for the publisher to get 75% of the royalty and the author to get 25%. That is a really crappy deal for you, the author. You might, however, have no choice if you want any form of traditional publishing deal. Do yourself and all the authors who follow in your footsteps a favor and ask your agent to battle hard for better terms – at least a 50-50 split, ideally better than that. You probably won’t get it – publishers are as aware of the fact that ebooks are the wave of the future as you are. But if we all put up a fight, sooner or later we might begin to get somewhere.
The sad part of all this for me is, of course, the impact it’s having on bookstores. (How can any bookstore compete with my cheap ebooks?) I recently spent a teary-eyed evening at the closing party for the Mystery Bookstore in Westwood here in Los Angeles. The rise of ebooks is part of what shut the place down. But I don’t feel guilty about my ebooks. As an author trying to make a living from my writing I have no choice but to change with the times.
Bookstores, too, are going to have to change. Maybe we will see the rise of “book galleries” – places where people go to hang out, browse at books (one copy of each), drink coffee, quaff cocktails and download what they’ve seen in the store. Or something else might develop. The future is, as always, unknown. That can be scary, but it can also be filled with electric opportunity.
About the author:
Eric Stone worked for many years as a writer, reporter, photographer, editor and publisher in the U.S. and Asia, covering everything from economics to crime; politics to sex, drugs and rock & roll. He has traveled the world for both work and play, and lives in Los Angeles.
He is the author of the four Ray Sharp novels: SHANGHAIED, FLIGHT OF THE HORNBILL, GRAVE IMPORTS and THE LIVING ROOM OF THE DEAD. The books are set in Asia and based on stories that Eric covered as a journalist. He is also the author of the true crime / sports biography, WRONG SIDE OF THE WALL