Amazon, Smashwords, Autharium, Online Originals, Bubok… these are the Ebook publishers I’ve heard of and there’s probably many more I have yet to come across. Lately, I’ve been researching Ebooks and wondering if this really is the future of publishing. Other writers I speak to have various thoughts on the future of books… that large publishers will prevail and the smaller ones will fold, or the opposite: that large publishers tend to stick to only ‘safe’ work, and won’t keep up in the face of changing trends, and therefore, smaller, edgier publishers will take over. And then there’s the role of literary agents; are they going to become less important now that authors are choosing to self-publish through kindle or kobo or any of the other Ebook options available online? In 2003, when I bought the Writers and Artists yearbook to do my research, I noticed that most of the publishers stated ‘unsolicited manuscripts welcome’, but now, the majority seem to say, ‘no unsolicited MS’, or ‘via a literary agent only’. Another interesting thing I noticed is that ten years ago, self-publishing was considered a less preferable option, whereas now it seems to be encouraged.
I’ve looked around at some Ebook samples and author profiles and it seems to me that as much as there are obvious pros to self-publishing online, there are many cons. Quality of the work for one: not many Ebook publishers seem to have submission guidelines. Traditional publishers definitely do. A benefit of Ebook publishing is the online publicity the author will get, however a downside is that since Ebook publishing is available to anyone, professionals will appear alongside hobbyists and some writers are put off by such a fact. Of course, Ebooks aren’t the only solution; I have seen ‘author-funded’ and other self-publishing packages, but they can sometimes charge a lot of money and give little or no promotion to the author, compared with free Ebook publishing options and generous royalties. In terms of online presence though, I’ve found that many self-publishing places offer services such as a sales page on their website, in addition to a nicely printed book that you can distribute at poetry reading nights or other literary events.
Writing is such an isolated occupation that the pros and cons of both need to be weighed up properly. In my humble opinion, the nature of publishing is changing and new trends have not yet been fully established. So for potential authors submitting to traditional publishers and frustrated when they get a reply slip that says ‘not taking on any new clients’, I can understand why they turn to Ebooks and other self-publishing options.