Thursday, August 26, 2004

E-publishing and creative freedom

One argument in favor of e-publishing is that authors can write what they really want to write, instead of being constricted by the narrow guidelines supposedly forced upon authors by the major publishing houses. I have enjoyed the freedom of switching back and forth between subgenres myself-- my editor has generally seemed willing to accept any type of book I produce, including historicals, contemporaries, and futuristics-- and many authors for NCP switch genres on a regular basis. My fairly low sales, though, lead me to wonder if e-publishing doesn’t limit authors just as much as writing for a major publisher, but in a different direction.

I am, of course, generalizing from my experience with a single e-publisher. But I have been observing what sells well across the ebook industry for a while now, and most of it seems to be either erotic romance or futuristic/paranormal romance (or, better yet, a combination of both). Perhaps somewhere there is an e-publisher whose authors write nonerotic, mainstream historical or contemporary romance and make thousands of dollars per book, but I haven’t heard of it. In fact, the books that sell best in e-publishing may be outright weird by New York standards. The ebook reading audience seems to want something different than the New York reading audience, but that doesn’t necessarily translate into “more freedom.” An author still needs to write what her audience wants; otherwise she’s unlikely to sell many books. And selling books is a pretty major consideration for most of us.

Now, let me clarify that my editor hasn’t told me I MUST write futuristics, and in fact she wants me to write a contemporary for an upcoming Christmas anthology. E-publishers are generally more willing to work with authors with low sales than New York publishers, no doubt about it. But it’s a matter of economics. Do I want to continue writing romantic comedies when I will likely have much better sales if I write futuristics? What’s the point in turning out contemporary romances if no one is reading them? It’s really not that different from writing for New York, when you think about it. An author wants to make money off her work (otherwise we could just post our full books on our websites for anyone to read), and therefore she needs to target her books toward an audience.

Maybe e-publishing, then, doesn’t give an author any more creative freedom than writing for a major house. The successful author is still shooting at a target... it’s just a different target.


  1. Anna Carrasco BowlingAugust 27, 2004 at 8:54 AM

    Fitting I should read this at lunchtime. Definitely food for thought. Doesn't anybody love historicals anymore? ::sniff sniff:: Ah, well, it's all cycles, right? ::kicks tin can:: I've noticed the futuristic and erotic trends too, and while erotic isn't my flavour, I *could* do futuristic, but historicals have my heart.

  2. There may be an e-pub somewhere where historicals sell well, but NCP isn't it, I'm afraid:-). I do think, though, that in e-publishing the swashbuckling, old-fashioned kind of historical (pirates, Vikings, medievals) sells better than the "new" type of historicals. Same reason futuristics sell well-- because swashbuckling historicals are not something the big publishers are producing any more, generally speaking.

    I don't mind writing futuristics, but I like writing other subgenres too, so I need to find an outlet for my contemps and historicals, too. If I write one subgenre for too long my brain gets fried:-).

  3. I've always believed that e-pubbed authors garner a really loyal readership base, more so than print authors. Do you find that to be true?

  4. I do think readers who read ebooks tend to be more rabid, maybe because so many ebook authors are so prolific that readers have been "trained" to expect a new book every few months. I don't think I've developed a really solid fan base yet, however. I do hope that if STRANGER sells well people will go back and give my other books a chance, even though they're not paranormal or futuristics:-). Sometimes all it takes is one book that really reaches your readers.

  5. Anna Carrasco BowlingAugust 29, 2004 at 4:31 AM

    Old-fashioned swashbuckling, you say? Absolutely up my alley.