Why I’m Publishing e-Books

I said I’d never do it, but I did. I didn’t think I would enjoy it, but I did. If I sound like a middle-aged recent virgin, that’s how I feel. The IT in this case is self-publishing an e-book on Amazon. In case you’ve been considering doing the same deed, I’ll share the process that led to me going all the way.

First, I’m a writer because I love writing, I write before I get out of bed in the morning, I write last thing before I turn out the lights at night. I write because I have to. It’s as necessary as eating. I organize my ideas by writing them, and I frequently don’t know what I feel about something until I write it. Consequently, I’ve become an experienced writer. I’ve learned how to write tight, to evoke tears and laughter rather than describe them. That’s good. It makes my Dixie Hemingway Mystery Series a friend to many readers. That’s even better because I want more than anything to connect with readers.

The downside is that I have other stories in me too. Romances and thrillers and weird gothics. Children’s stories and fantasies. Metaphoric fables and oddball what-ifs. But once you’ve become known as a writer of a particular genre, that’s what people expect you to write. If you write something in a different genre, you usually have to write it under a pen name and bring it out as a “first book” — bookstores are full of first books by many-published writers, it’s just the first book under that name. Publishers don’t mind doing that, but they’re not keen on a first book that’s a stand-alone by an unknown author. If you write in another genre under a pen name, you’d better plan on making it the first book of a series if you want to get it published.

Which brings me back to my love of writing all kinds of fiction. What I hate, despise, abhor and detest is the process of getting something published. During my writing career, I’ve never had a problem getting an agent, but no matter how staunchly an agent stands behind you, he or she has other clients too. The typical agent takes home stacks of manuscripts every night, and so do acquisition editors. They rarely get through all of them in one night, and the next night they bring home another stack. They usually want an exclusive read, so you can wait for months to hear from them. I once had an agent who kept a manuscript for a year, sending me letters every few months begging me for more time, and then ultimately deciding it wasn’t for her. By that time I was deep into writing something else — something in another genre — and never sent the manuscript to another agent.

Prolific writing combined with my impatience with the way the publishing world operates caused me to acquire a closet full of unpublished manuscripts in genres that ranged from children’s stories to adult science fiction. And then one day I found myself a popular writer of cozy mysteries. I LOVE writing the Dixie Hemingway mysteries and plan on continuing to do it as long as they’ll let me, but I still feel that old need to write in other genres.

Enter Amazon’s program for self-publishing e-books for the Kindle. When I heard about it, I had the usual published writer’s faint disdain for anything to do with self-publishing. Let’s face it, self-published works got the reputation of being amateurish because so much of it was. Besides, I didn’t even like the idea of an electronic reader.

To convince myself that I didn’t want to have anything to do with Kindle’s self-published e-books, I downloaded the free Kindle for Macs, and then bought a Kindle self-published novel. It wasn’t the best book I ever read, but it kept me turning pages and was as good as a lot of print-published books.

When I finished it, I thought about all those manuscripts in my closet that would never be published by a print publisher. The stories were stories I liked, and if I liked them somebody else was bound to like them too. Even if they only found a few e-readers, they would give pleasure to somebody, which they sure as heck wouldn’t do on my closet shelves. I thought about how my real purpose in writing was to connect with readers. I thought about the number of people who prefer e-readers. It began to seem idiotic not to publish e-books.

I researched Amazon’s site and studied the instructions on how to publish an e-book. I found the instructions impossible to fully understand, but plunged on. For my first e-publication, I chose a non-fiction book that arose from text I’d written several years ago for a continuing education class I’d taught in eastern philosophy. I hadn’t been able to find a textbook I liked, so I’d essentially written my own and passed it out to the class. So many class members had sent copies of the text to friends that I thought it might be of interest to other people. An artist designed a cover for me, and I uploaded it as IN THE BEGINNING: AN INTRODUCTION TO HINDUISM, BUDDHISM, AND TAOISM. The formatting was bad, with too much white space, but in the first week eight readers bought it for their Kindle. Nobody returned it. I was amazed.

My mind went back to the manuscript an agent had kept for a year, with all those letters saying how much she loved it before she passed on it. I loved that story, and the characters in it still lived in my imagination. But it wasn’t a mystery. It was a historical romantic adventure. If I published it under my own name, people might expect a mystery and be disappointed. If I published it under a pen name, there would be no track record to assure readers that it wasn’t an amateur’s work. So I hit on using my own name as the official author but “writing as” Lee Silvey, which was my mother’s name. She would have loved seeing her name on a book jacket! The same great artist did a phenomenal cover for it, and I loaded it on Amazon for Kindle readers as DANCE OF THE MOON DAUGHTER. The formatting was awful. Lines too close together, not enough indentation for paragraphs. But people bought it and nobody complained.

Next I thought of all the short stories I had filed away. Some of them had been published, but most had never even been submitted because getting short stories published is even more exasperating and frustrating than getting books published. So I rounded up a selection, my artist did another cover, and I printed it on Amazon for e-readers as KIDS STAY FREE. Again, the formatting was awful, but people bought it and there were no returns.

That awful formatting drove me nuts. I kept looking for a solution, which turned out to be LegendMaker, which is like a magic wand. I downloaded it for my Mac (there’s also a PC version), printed out the instructions and bundled them into a manual. Then I followed the instructions exactly as they were given, which was dead easy, and in no time at all the formatting issue was resolved and all three books were available for any e-reader.

Now I’m waiting for the artist to come up with cover art for a children’s book. And I have a fantasy I’ll work on next. There will be others, too. I have a tall stack of manuscripts.

The issue for me isn’t paper-published books vs. e-books for enjoyment in reading. It isn’t the seventy percent royalty paid by Amazon vs. the fifteen percent paid by publishers, either, because seventy percent of the purchase price of a handful of books isn’t much. The tipping point for me was the idea that I’m a professional writer, I’ve written stories that I meant to be read, and publishing them as e-books allows them to be read.

Oddly, having delivered those beloved books that would never have found a traditional publisher has lifted a stone from the cave where my creative spirit hangs out and let in some fresh air. I’m now having new ideas for the next Dixie Hemingway book that I might not have had if I hadn’t shipped off my love children to e-readers.

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6 thoughts on “Why I’m Publishing e-Books

  1. Good Morning, I’m an artist/writer living in NYC and I just came across your post and it’s really intriguing. It’s making me think in a different direction about this publishing game. I’m currently writing my first book and i’m trying to sort out all of the legal ramifications along the way so I’m not facing any kind of lawsuits afterwards.

    I guess i wanted to write you and ask about selling on apple’s ipad. I work near the apple store on 5th and 59th in NYC and currently i’m watching a line of people wrapped around the FAO Schwartz building waiting to get in so they can purchase an ipad. I’m sure not everyone is buying an ipad for the sole purpose of reading books on them but there must be quite a few people that are. Have published any of your books for the ipad?

    Also, since i’m an absolute beginner I wanted to know if it’s possible to still get a book published the traditional way after first e-book publishing. For instance let’s say one of your ebooks is a true hit. In this case would it also be possible for you to find an agent and also publish the book in the traditional manner?

    From what i read in your post I think it’s a great idea that you are now ePublishing and i wish you the best with that.

    I hope my message finds you well and thanks for the post!

    Pissarro

    • Publishing on iPad is next on my list, Pissarro. Love your name! The LegendMaker has instructions for the iPad too, I just haven’t got to it yet. There’s no reason why an e-published book couldn’t be picked up by a paper publisher or a movie scout, just as popular blogs have been. I must throw in one caveat for unpublished authors, though. If you don’t already have an established track record, it will be harder to get noticed as an e-publisher, especially for fiction. If your book is an art book with images, that might be a different thing. The whole e-publishing shift is too young yet for anybody to know how it’s going to evolve, but I think we all need to be ready to use it as it suits our purposes. My purpose is to be read, and e-pub’s world-wide audience is ideal for my books. Thanks very much for your note. Good luck on your book, no matter what you decide.

  2. Thanks, Judy. I think of e-books as another option for book lovers to use when they’re handier to carry around than a bound book. Since I do most of my reading in bed, I probably won’t do much e-reading, but I would if I spent a lot of time in airports or waiting rooms.

  3. I’m so glad you’ve found a venue for your unpublished stories. I love your Dixie Hemingway books but I understand a writer has many stories to share. I’ve been reading for 60 of my 63 years and have resisted buying an eReader for quite a while. When the most recent Kindle came out at such a reasonable price I decided to buy one for myself as a late birthday present. I love it love it! I have several hundred free books loaded and I’m buying the series books I like for Kindle now. I’m living in a small apartment these days, with no room for 5 or 6 huge bookcases, so I decided the Kindle was the solution. I carry the Kindle in my purse and always have a choice of books handy wherever I am. I still get books at the library and interesting paperbacks at the used book store, the Kindle has just added to the many joys of my reading addiction. I’m mostly a mystery reader at this stage of my life, but I still read a lot of different genres, so I’ll check out your new offerings. Take care.

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