Sunday, August 14, 2005

"Real books"

While I was in Virginia Beach last week, I visited a couple of Waldenbooks. Neither had my books in stock, so I introduced myself to the manager as a Virginian author and asked if they'd be willing to stock my books. One, whose store was larger, was enthusiastic and ordered some right away (he wanted my bookmarks, too). He had a very large selection of EC books and said that they and the NCP books were selling very well. The other manager, whose small romance section already looked pretty crowded, asked me to leave my name and the book titles and said she'd look them up later and consider stocking them.

Later, DH's brother called, and my mother-in-law told him I'd been out getting bookstores to stock my book. My BIL asked to talk to me.

He said excitedly, "I didn't know you had any books out!!!"

I blinked at the phone. "What?"

"I didn't know you had published any books!!"

I frowned, confused. "I just published my tenth book. Check my website."

"I mean, I know you had one back a long time ago."

"Riiiiight," I answered slowly. "And I've published a bunch since then."

"Well, I know you have a bunch of e-published books. But do you have some real books now too?"

A light began to dawn in my brain as I finally figured out what he was thinking. Now that my books were becoming available in paperback, they were real books. It never fails to amaze me that the very same book that was issued in ebook format a year ago is now a real book in many people's eyes because it's available in paperback.

I said, as gently as possible, "Ebooks are real books too, you know."

"Oh, I know that," he said in a tone that said, Uh-huh, sure. "But I didn't know you had anything out in paperback."

I explained (still very politely) that these books were for the very same publisher (and two of the very same books) that had been released in e-format previously. I'm still not sure he was inclined to think of my books as "real" until they hit paperback format, though. He's not alone-- a lot of people think this way. I'm not dissing my BIL... just using this as an example of the sort of thing ebook authors tend to run into on a regular basis.

Of course, back when I was published in paperback by Bantam, I had virtually the same conversation with a friend. "That's great you had a romance published," she said. "But you're too good a writer to write this kind of stuff. When are you going to write a real book?"


  1. My first book is coming out this year--as an E-Book. It will come out in trade paperback about six months later. When people ask, "So when is your book coming out?" I find myself going into the whole E-book-to-trade litany. Am I trying to inform them, or validate myself? Even though I read and buy e-books (including yours) I fear that I may not actually "feel" published until I can hold my trade in my hands and rub the shiny cover against my cheek! And sniff it. Ummmmmm.

    There will probably come a time when e-books and e-readers are more common than print. Progress? Maybe. But libraries won't smell remotely as cool.

  2. Yes, Toni, you're right-- this is an issue for authors, too. I've been published in ebook format since November 2003, but I was still really thrilled to walk into my local Barnes and Noble today and see my paperbacks sitting! there! on! the! shelf!!! Which is silly, and yet... maybe it isn't. The book industry still revolves around paper, so it's not surprising that the release of a paperback is a milestone in a writer's career. I do feel that I was published as an ebook author, and that my books were "real books," but there's no denying that I now have the potential of reaching a whole different audience, one that perhaps has never even heard of e-publishing.

    So I guess I'm saying I kind of understand where my BIL is coming from, at the same time it really raises my hackles to know that a lot of people don't consider my romances "real books." Sigh... it's a conundrum, all right.