Ebooks Are Real and Here To Stay


Prove yourself brave, truthful, and unselfish...

...and someday, you will be a real book, too.

Okay, assuming most everyone has seen Pinocchio, we all know that's not how the line goes. Nevertheless, that's how life as a digital first author feels.

Digital first?? What's that?? I am so glad you asked. Before the advent of the eReader, being published was HARD. Like really hard. You had to sacrifice a virgin under a purple moon naked on the third Thursday of the seventh-year kind of hard.

Then came the eReader. And digital first was born. It’s not exactly easy now, but it is POSSIBLE. And that’s delightful.

You write a book, then polish it to perfection (or your vision of perfection) and begin submitting it to… publishers.

Woo-whoo. Used to be you woo an agent, and if successful, the agent led the quest for a publisher. But with digital first publishers, in large part, you go directly to the horse.

With the dawn of digital first (no paper) came a flood of small, boutique publishers catering to a specific demographic – the electronic Reader. These houses accept non-agented submissions, largely because they don’t offer advances. And the author is expected to bear the brunt of the marketing – something that was, previously, done in large part by the publisher.

Because there are no agents, no advances, and the publisher isn’t paying for the bulk of the promotional work, the publisher sees more revenue AS DO THE ATHORS. This provides a REAL opportunity for new writers and new material to be competitive in a market that – let’s face it – wasn't. And finally, non-traditional voices, not conforming to market trends, are being published, being read, and changing perspectives.

It’s an amazing time to be an author.

And as in all things… the cream rose to the top

Some digital-first publishers failed. Others flourished. As in all endeavors, quality rises to the top. And several of the finest digital-first imprints have been acquired by a Big-5 publisher, Hachette, Harper Collins, Simon & Schuster, Penguin Random House, and Macmillan, further legitimizing the digital-first business plan.

But the ones who didn’t fold and weren’t absorbed, have developed an impressive stable of authors offering new voices and breaking down old stereotypes.

As I explained above, before e-books changed the face of publishing, you had to secure an agent if you wanted your book produced by a publisher. What I didn’t address was vanity presses. An author who couldn’t find an agent to represent them, and therefore couldn’t obtain a contract with a publisher, could, if they so wished, pay a vanity press to produce their book and sell it themselves.

The digital revolution changed that, too. Now, if an author wishes, they can self-publish their book digitally without paying for the privilege. You can do this without any editorial oversight, and can create your own cover. Or you can pay for professionals to edit, proofread, and format your text, and pay an artist to create your cover. Or any combination thereof. The author absorbs 100% of the overhead. She also maintains 100% creative control, and receives 100% of the profits.

And of course, a new animal was born – the hybrid author. Her catalog can include self-published and traditionally published works.

Did I say it’s an amazing time to be an author yet?

I often use music as an analogy when explaining my place in the publishing world to those aren’t part of it. I’m at the level between The Eras Tour and selling CDs out of the trunk of my car.

Video Didn’t Slay the Radio Star

But in the midst of all this wonder, something else, something not amazing, emerged. People, readers, critics, and so on, who don’t consider digital books to be REAL books.

Going back to the music analogy:

When your favorite band went digital, were their songs no longer music?

If John Lennon were alive, would you tell him his music wasn’t real because the song was released digitally instead of pressed into vinyl?

Obviously, I’m not the John Lennon of romantic suspense [I am pretty good, if I do say so myself]. It was allegorical. Vinyl, 8 tracks, cassettes, compact discs, and mp3s, it’s music regardless of the format. And guess what, ladies and gentlemen?

The same can, and should, be said for books.

Digital books revolutionized the publishing industry, giving life to unique, diverse, authentic voices who were lost in the traditional commercial system. Paperbacks, hardbacks, and audio, still sell, and well. Digital didn’t kill trade. The base widened as it pulled in new, and dare I say it, younger readers. Face it, younger people are quicker to embrace new technological trends.

And still, paperbacks and hardbacks, and audio, continue to flourish. We’re not competition. We’re an alternative.

My books are real books, regardless if they went digital first or not. The rights were purchased by a publisher. They were professionally edited and formatted. They are copyrighted and registered with the Library of Congress. They can be borrowed from the public library’s digital catalog. I get royalty payments. And I can sue anyone who infringes upon my intellectual property.

And the self-published authors, the ones selling CDs out of the trunk of their car as it were, have those same protections.

Is it not art if it was created with a computer instead of with paint? Tell that malarkey to Pixar. Oh, you wouldn’t? Then why would you tell an author their book doesn’t deserve that same respect?

My books are real books, but if paper is your gauge for authenticity, many digital-first publishing houses do offer Print-on-Demand. Instead of the publisher printing out thousands of copies on speculation, a book is printed as it’s ordered by the reader who then incurs the cost of printing the book. They cost the reader more than both traditionally published paperbacks and the digital versions will, but it does cut down on waste.

I’ve heard the arguments over ‘it’s not about the cost of the book, but the cost of the e-reader’. Yeah, that dog doesn’t hunt either. Every Apple device comes with iBooks on it by default. Kindle, Nook, and Kobo have apps available for all smart devices. These apps are as free and easy to download as Candy Crush. And by the way, most e-books are less expensive than a Candy Crush booster pack.

Love your local library? I do too. They’re my happy place. In fact, my bucket list of places in the world I want to visit is based entirely on libraries I want to see. Outside of the United States, libraries are treated like places of worship, as they should be. And guess what? They have digital catalogs. YES, YOU CAN BORROW DIGITAL BOOKS FROM YOUR LIBRARY.

But, but, the smell…

You got me. There’s nothing quite like picking a beloved hardback or paperback from your shelf for the hundredth time, opening it, and breathing deep. You know why it smells like that? Because it’s decomposing. Like a rotting corpse. Once a tall regal tree, it is slowly dying on your shelf.

E-books don’t do that.

Digital is green. It’s affordable (average $3-$7). It isn’t going anywhere.

And they are incredibly real.

**I believe a large part of the controversy is due to readers using BOOK and NOVEL interchangeably. They’re not synonymous. Mirriam-Webster defines a book as a set of written sheets of skin or paper or tablets of wood or ivory. This applies to fiction, poetry, instructional manuals, academic texts, and so on. They define novel as an invented prose narrative that is usually long and complex and deals especially with human experience through a usually connected sequence of events.

Did you enjoy the novel? Then who cares, really, what format it’s in?