• Welcome to the Fantasy Writing Forums. Register Now to join us!

Status of e-publishing and POD?

I have recently joined goodreads, had a photo book for myself put together on Lulu, joined up to Figment, and a couple other writing forums. I've picked up e-books from Amazon, some so bad I wouldn't have even pirated them. I'm sure I've got something in my email about publishing with Barnes & Noble as well.

The e-publishing landscape looks interesting, filled with junk, as the low bar of entry allows, but do you think it is worth going down this route of self-publishing, even if I do hire an editor? Is it still better to try to get my serial-izable stuff into a sci-fi magazine, and hitting the sci-fi/fantasy publishers?

What about small e-publishing firms with POD? They seem to be the most clued-in, but may be prone to easily folding, or not able to drum up enough buzz. What are your thoughts on this whole e-publishing malarkey?

Personally, I want to get in it, I just haven't got anything ready except for one story that comes in bite sized sized serial bits.


First, if you haven't, please review this thread: http://mythicscribes.com/forums/publishing/220-thoughts-self-publishing.html

It is true that the bar is set pretty low with respect to self-publishing via ebook. That doesn't mean you cannot be successful, but it'll be hard.

Why not attempt trying to find a major publisher for your work? Then go to the smaller publishers that do POD/Ebook if that does not work out. Getting something serialized by a major magazine/ezine is possible, but definitely an uphill battle. Just like major publishing houses (and smaller ones), slots for stories is limited with a lot of competition for those slots. For a magazine to set aside a series of slots over a year (or whatever) would mean the work has to be darn pretty awesome--not saying yours isn't, but trying to make a point.

It is true that some ebook/POD publishers disappear quickly--poorly planned and inadequately financed. Beyond that, all are not created equal. Some are setup by someone(s) who has little to no experience with publishing, editing, cover design, marketing, etc. These houses, I believe an author would want to watch out for and avoid--what do they offer that a writer couldn't manage themselves by self-publishing. The product they put out is substandard. This is where research comes in.

I would recommend against a subsidy publisher (one the author pays to put the book together, get the ISBN, cover art, etc.). The books are often overpriced and poorly marketed. Some are poorly edited with far substandard cover art. The publisher makes money off of the author, not selling books, and authors rarely earn their investment back.

If the big publisher/small publisher doesn't work out, then I'd suggest self-publishing. But, it depends on the writer's goals.
I have been pondering the same question since last May, after my agent retired before finding a home for my book. Since it is a cardinal point, and studying it carefully takes time and effort, I have opened a blog about epublishing so that any research would find some use other than for myself.
Also, it enabled me to interview successful self-published writers about what brought them success.
Seems that successful self-publishing implies a lot of additional self-marketing work or a stroke of luck in the form of a review from a respected source.
Am still pondering. In the meantime, am having fun with my blog :). At least, if I finally decide to self-publish, I'll have a platform to start from...
Any sort of writing success is hard. It takes skill, which requires practice to acquire. It requires perseverance, which most people lack. Self publishing is no different. If you approach it thinking it's a quick road to riches for that first book you wrote...you're probably wrong. You might be right - but then, you might win the lottery tomorrow, too. ;)

That said, watch how you define success. I know of one book, published at $2.99 as an experiment, by a writer with almost no previous credentials. ZERO marketing (an experiment, remember). No sales to friends or family. Consistently selling at a rate of about one copy per day on Amazon alone. The book cost zero dollars (author's time only) to produce and publish.

OK, that's $730 per year.
Or $7300 over the next decade, maybe.
Which is more than the average first advance in that genre.

Remember, that's with no marketing. Not even a whisper. Not one tweet. Not one friend buying the book.

Proof of something I've been saying for a while: Write Good Books. The rest will follow, regardless how you publish.
Hi, Kevin! Good to see you.

sash, I self-published my first novel last month, and it's been doing very well for an indie fantasy novel, with nearly 500 sales the first month and a good amount of buzz. For that, I've worked my tail off for over a year, promoted a preview novella for a year, and invested around $2K in the book (not including advertising). At least I managed to make half of that money back the first month. It's much more normal to hear of people selling around 10-50 books in their first month, so I'm a strange one.

Most of the people doing really well with indie publishing write quickly and release multiple books a year. I wouldn't expect any significant success (not from a financial pov, anyway) until you've released at least three novels--and even then it can still be a crapshoot. And in general, if you don't think you can write at least two novels a year (whether indie or trad.), I'd probably suggest turning back now. That's a hard lesson I'm facing now, because I took two years to write my first one and now I feel I need to write two novels in a year if I want to have any chance of making a decent living at writing fiction.

At this time, both traditional publishing and self-publishing are longshots and fairly equal options (depending on your temperament). But if you're cut out for self-publishing, I'd suggest that route because there is still some real financial potential in it (if you stick with it for years and work you tail off). Being cut out for self-publishing means that you're a control freak, that you can wear all of the hats in the publishing operation, that you have good business sense with things like marketing and promotion, that you enjoy being stressed out and needing to do ten things at once, and that you have some money to invest in the project.
Good comments, and I don't plan on living off my writing, just supplimenting my income. I think that is what it will come to, doing other work and writing for most of us to get by.


Moses has a great point! (Hi Moses...)

I think the key word to any self publishing whether it's POD, ebook, or another form is - perseverance. As Moses pointed out you will need to get a good body of work out there before you might have that breakout book or event. If you look at the big self published authors who've broken out - Locke, Hocking, or Merz they all had a few novels under their belt before they really hit it.

For myself I don't predict I will make a "sizable profit" until the 3rd book of my first series. Though maybe I will get lucky like Moses but I doubt it, I'm more inclined to think I'll sell 2 or 300 a month of each book which is fine by me. 1 book a year is quite doable. 2 I think is pushing it with a family and job.
Hi Moses! Congrats on the great start! You're doing much better than I did - think I got 24 sales in the first month. No paid ads, and I haven't begun a big review blitz (yet?) though. I actually did something a little different and, for an experiment, put the book up with no marketing, no announcement, nothing - not even family and friends. I sorta referred to it above - that was my book.

And sold a solid book a day avg over the first two weeks, without even telling friends and family it was up. That was interesting to me, since it implies that good books will tend to find an audience even without any work on the writer's part. One can probably push that harder, faster - but I'm feeling more and more that ultimately the quality of the writing and quantity of work available matter more than any other marketing one can do.

The two unsolicited five star reviews were a nice confidence booster, too. ;)

I've since announced it a little, and haven't seen sales go up yet - but I'm pretty confident they will in time. Not stressing it in themeantime, though! I have two sequels in the pipeline, a couple of related short stories, two other completed novels to revise and get up to my current writing standards, and the start on a set of SF serial novelettes. Lots to do. =)

My gut feeling agrees with the above. eBooks just make everything...faster. The days when a new novelist could put out a book, and then put out book two a year later, might be ending. I mean, you can still do it - but you're going to have to redo all your marketing all over again. Readers will have forgotten you by a year later, and the won't see your new book without some work on your part. Writing more, publishing often, and collecting mailing lists of fans are going to be gold.

Writers today could do worse than to study the pulp era fiction writers. Today's publishing more closely resembles the 1930s than it does the 1990s, I think.
I am trying to find the link but it contained an interesting bit about the decline of dead tree books, with I think about the was paperback sales falling by sixty percent from the same time last year.

All other physical book sales were down by about thirty percent, while ebooks were more than taking up the slack.

Print on demand I didn't see, but I should imagine it stands a distant third to paperback sales.
Kevin, I think you make a lot of good points. The statement about the 30s vs 90s rings true, too. I'm just a throwback to the 90s, I guess. I think I might've done all right in that era. I'm working on writing faster (I'd like to work up to 2 good-sized novels a year, but I don't know yet if that's realistic for me), but I think my game will be about developing a reputation over time. Fewer works at higher quality (relative to what I would be able to do if I were writing at a pulp-like speed). My goal is to write one of the best epic fantasy series out there and hope that it pays off in the end.

It's really interesting what you've done with your experiment. Kudos for doing that. If you'd released the book under a pen name, then it would be really interesting. I wonder how many people recognized your name, because you do a good job of blogging, etc. That's great about your reviews, though.

You're right about everything being faster. For better or worse. :)


In reading this thread, there is some great discussion.

The thing about E-Books that I have found is that while the books the formats themselves are not new, the convenience of a person just getting one and getting reading without much hassle is a recent development.

That being said, 2010 & 2011 have been a sort of "Wild West" for the electronic book market. It's been relatively easy for independent authors to get work out and gather some attention. People are still exploring this new world.

The struggle will be in the coming years as the initial wave of independent interest starts to wane, and the industry begins to make some subtle changes to start to try and restrict access for self publishers, and do more cherry picking of authors that they feel they can turn a dollar on. Which, again, depending on where you fall, could be good or a struggle…

I/We have done 26 titles since 2010, and initially sales were not bad with no promotion, but as time has gone by, and more titles have come out, capturing that attention is starting to get harder. It's just like anything else, we'll get out of it what we put into it, and if we are willing to do the work to separate ourselves from the louder chorus, I think it'll be OK.
On some level though, isn't that true of most books? ;) One of the largest complaints from trade published writers today is the lack of promotion done by major publishers.

Seems to me like most writers are going to have to learn to do their own promotion, regardless how they publish... "To promote, or not to promote" is not a relevant reason to choose one publishing route over the other, in most cases.


I would completely agree with that. The changes of these last few years have made it easier to make your work available, but just like anything else, you'll only get out of it what you put into it. That being said, you have to like the fact that the amount of surrounding work has been reduced, and you can focus on doing the best promotion you can.

I think in the e-book ascension, there have been some authors that got the benefit of being the first few out of the gate looking at a field of 4-6 million ipads our there and thinking they had struck gold because the field was relatively small. I think those days are about over.