Tuesday, July 10, 2012

This ebook thing

Hopefully, you enjoy reading.  Perhaps you have a favourite book.  Now picture immersing yourself in it on a sunny day, under a large tree, cold drink to hand.  Did I say that it has to be the print version?  Detect a shiver up the spine, there?  Perhaps you're in publishing.  It's okay, try to relax.  Nothing, but nothing, will quite replace the experience of a book in a person's hands ... but ebooks are coming close. 
My wife reads more than I do.  Ever since I have known her, she has gone to the library every two to three weeks and come back with an armful of books.  Last Christmas she received a Kindle.  If she has been to the library more than three times this year I would be surprised.  Apart from what impact this has on library loans, I suspect there has been more than one investigation by the mainstream publishers into what other people's experiences have been with ebooks.  And, far more importantly, what it has ben like for authors who have joined the revolution and found out how easy it is to upload a book.  I expect the results have concerned them.
Yes, the rumours you have heard about quality are true.  Yesterday, I checked Amazon to see if anyone had used a possible title for my next book.  Having discovered they had, I idly glanced at the first page.  I quote the third sentence: 'Solara was dressed in her slender white outfit, clipboard in hand, pen dangling nervously as she studied the numbers.' I suspect most decent editors would be asking the writer if the pen was meant to have such anthropomorphic qualities and, if so, what was giving it such a fright, but at least there weren't any typos that I could see on the first page.  (I can't cast stones here – the original version of Spandau Charlie I uploaded as an experiment had been through several proof-readings by three people and yet there were still enough errors, pointed out to me by someone who had purchased the book, that I felt obliged to revise it.)
But the ability of an author to self-publish with such ease must be of a major concern to publishers.  For someone prepared to go down the professional route, it is relatively cheap to get an edit by someone who knows what they are doing and a cover by a graphic artist with the necessary skills.  Just doing this will set you way above the crowd of hopefuls.  (My wife can detect a do-it-yourself Photoshop cover in a heartbeat and has grown to be cautious about the quality within.)  And then, apart from some relentless promotion on the internet, it is done.  This may go some way to explaining why authors – particularly in America – are beginning to question the standard contract offered by publishers.  I, for one, would feel uneasy about signing away electronic rights without a fixed time limit, and I believe if I am looking more closely at what the Big Six have to offer, then everyone else striving to be a professional author should be doing the same.
Keep reading, keep writing, and enjoy the ride.
In the meantime: Try not to do the stupid things that stupid people do.

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