CrimeSquad’s Chris Simmons on the relationship between publishers and e-books

CrimeSquad's Chris Simmons

Ian Rankin spoke at the 20th anniversary party of Orion Publishers at the Natural History Museum. During his speech Rankin stated that writers would always need publishers. I agree with the man that publishers do have their rightful place in the world of literature.

Over a quarter of the books ‘published’ last year were self-published e-books. Now, let’s get something straight. E-books are here to stay. They are part of the future in literature. I feel, like many other staunch readers that the printed word can never be replaced. The e-reader can be used for ease, especially when travelling abroad.

What worries me is that publishers appear to fear the e-book rather than embracing it. What publishers need to do is scout for fresh talent that can be found within the e-book universe. Regardless of new writers now having a new format to bring their books to the masses, secretly all of us ‘wannabe’ writers crave to see their work in print, to hold their novel in their hands. A writer will always get that buzz seeing their book sitting on a shelf in a bookshop. And I can’t see that changing.

But what publishers and literary agents need to do is to find the talent that can be found in the e-book universe. How that is going to be done – I will let them figure that out. Already we hear of amazing stories like Amanda Hocking who was rejected by one literary agent after another and then found fame and fortune when she published her novel in e-book format. Having been a huge seller with sales over a million, Hocking now has her first book, ‘Switched’ in the printed word. Hocking will hopefully be the first of a long line of new authors that are found in this way.

I totally agree with Rankin that writers will always need publishers – but then again looking at it from the other perspective, publishers will always need writers, too – and good ones that have already proved their selling capacity online has to show that readers are interested in their book(s) and are just as likely to buy it again in print. Another point made that night was the varying degrees of professionalism within the e-book system. My only piece of advice to any writer considering putting their book on in e-book format is to get it properly edited. Not by your best friend, not by your Gran, but by an editor. If you are paying money, check their credentials. I can’t understand why anyone would put themselves in the firing line of the paying public with bad grammar and/or spelling mistakes or even worse, glaring mistakes about timelines, names, etc. You’d never make a cake and then take it out of the oven before it was fully cooked and ready for the eating. So why do it with your book that you have nurtured for months, if not years? No matter how many times you read your manuscript, you will miss the obvious. A fresh pair of professional eyes will highlight the obvious. As has been proven, Amazon critics are fearless and think of nothing about shooting down a budding author due to a simple spelling mistake.

So, in a nutshell, publishers can get in the game by throwing a few hooks in to the e-book pond and going for a fishing expedition. In The Guardian today (27-02-12) it is reported that a 72% rise through e-book revenue growth will push Pearson’s pre-tax profit of £1bn for 2011. Regardless what people think of the future, the one thing I am certain of is that as long as there are good stories being written, then there will always be the readers to enjoy them – whatever the format.

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Check out more from Chris Simmons on the CrimeSquad site, including in depth reviews, Fresh Blood and Classic Crime features and discover some great reads with his round up of the top ten crime books of the past year.

2 comments to CrimeSquad’s Chris Simmons on the relationship between publishers and e-books

  • Lin Hutton

    I agree that nothing can compare to holding a real book in your hand, and Chris is right, publishers do need to start scouting for talent within the e-book community. Speaking from experience, the reason I am going down the route of self-publishing through Smashwords and Kindle is totally driven by finances. I simply can’t afford to pay agent after agent the kind of money they want just to read my books, and that with no guarantee that it will come to anything. And without an agent, trying to get a publisher to look at an unsolicited manuscript is a trial of Herculean proportions, and I surely can’t be the only one who looks at the process this way. I’d love to have someone professional take an interest in my work, but I cannot (not – will not try to) take their established routes into publishing. So if publishers want new talent then they need to see that e-books have much to offer them aside from using it as a second-best platform for their established authors. Unfortunately, though, I’m not optimistic that the big players will change their attitude any time soon.

  • I’m not so sure that writers of e-books will always need publishers. I’ve done it both ways traditionally and independently, and a publisher would need to offer me more than the 20% my traditional publisher offered for electronic rights, despite my contract stating 50%. With Indie publishing I can get 70% and even 85% in some cases. Even after paying for editing and book covers, I’m still quids in. So why would I want to return to the fold for the 20% on offer?

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