Print Publishing vs Electronic Publishing
edited: Wednesday, April 10, 2002
By Michael A LaRocca
Posted: Wednesday, April 10, 2002
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A comparison of the two mediums, the reasons I want to be published in both, and how I'm going to do that
Print Publishing vs Electronic Publishing
Copyright 2001, Michael LaRocca
(1410 words. This article may be freely published or distributed
as long as the author's information at the bottom remains intact.
If you use it, please notify michaellarocca.lycos.com.)
Actually, "versus" isn't the best word. The two mediums are
different, but they're not mutually exclusive. Meaning, you can
publish the same book in both mediums. In fact, that's my goal.
Each attracts a different group of readers and I want all the
readers I can get.
If you're not familiar with electronic publishing (epublishing),
visit http://www.closetohome.org/about%20e-books.htm for a quick
But the best way to learn about epublishing is to buy some
ebooks. If, like me, you don't want to read a book on your
computer, print it. It's still cheaper than a paperback, and you
can recycle paper and ink cartridge when you're done. And, by the
way, print on both sides. It's better for the environment.
Breaking into the traditional print market is my ultimate goal,
because it has so many more readers. However, it is also more
difficult. They prefer the safe bets. This means, something like
what they've done before. What they can easily place in the
bookstore chains. They invest an advertising budget, and the cost
of carrying a print inventory, in every new author they accept.
In four out of every five cases, they lose money. Thus they are
cautious. That is simply good business sense. Remember, writing
is a calling, but publishing is a business.
When I write, I write for me. An idea grabs me and won't leave me
alone until I write about it, so I do. Later, I think of "target
audience" and such. I presume most of us do that. I don't believe
it's possible to write "for the market" because you'll fail, or
it'll be bad writing, or both. That simple reality can make
"marketing" a challenge.
With epublishing, the business model is different. They don't
carry a physical inventory. Their advertising doesn't cost much
money, but rather time. Also, they will invest editing time.
Print publishers won't do that for a new author.
The epublishers will edit because they have a credibility
problem. They're new. A print publisher wants to receive a
manuscript from a new author that is "ready to read." Meaning, no
editing. If you work with a respectable epublisher first, your
manuscript will be ready to read.
Fringe benefits of epublishing include publication within six
months of acceptance, as opposed to the usual two years of print
publishing, and the fact that you'll get instant feedback from
readers. That's good for your ego.
It's always in an epublisher's best interest to publish as many
manuscripts as possible. Quality manuscripts, of the type that
bring a reader back to buy more. As an author, your goal is to
find an epublisher who publishes something along the lines of
what you write.
How to find such a place? How to find an epublisher that is
reputable, not just some glorified vanity press that accepts
anything and everything and doesn't have enough pride to edit
worth a damn?
As I say, it's a new medium. You'll find the new and the
different, the books that should be in print but aren't. As the
market tries to sort itself out, you'll also find a bunch of
losers publishing garbage who are wholly unworthy of the name
Just like Mercedes still thrives but Yugo is a distant memory, so
will the epublisher market sort itself out into winners and
losers. There are no voodoo economics on the Internet, no
mystical unfathomable reason for dotcom crashes. Those who are
set up on a sound business model -- deliver a quality product and
ensure that revenue exceeds expenses -- always survive. As for
the rest, their collapses are no big loss to any of us.
I can recommend two websites to help you find the quality
epublishers. The first is by sci-fi legend Piers Anthony, and
it's at http://www.hipiers.com/publishing.html. He's gone out of
his way to identify and analyze the good, the bad and the ugly.
http://free_reads.tripod.com/onlinefictionbooks.html is my site.
Basically, it's where I keep a list of the ones I believe are
good, to refer to whenever I finish writing a new book. At the
bottom of this article I will list my criteria.
The selection process for epublishers is the same as for print
publishers. Look at the services they provide. Make sure they're
all free -- authors don't pay to be published. Look at what
they're publishing. Read a book or two and be sure you approve of
their presentation, editing, price, customer service, etc.
Some otherwise fantastic epublishers may have a clause in their
contract saying you can't submit the "edited" manuscript to
anyone else. That, of course, defeats the whole purpose of my
"stepping stone" approach, so look out for that.
It's possible you've written a fantastic manuscript that, for
some reason, will never make it to a traditional print publisher.
Be honest. One of mine, an EPPIE 2002 finalist, is simply too
short. Another is an acclaimed short story collection, but it's
utterly impossible for an unknown to sell a short story
collection. If you find yourself in a similar situation, you may
be thinking Print-On-Demand. I am.
If you're not familiar with Print-On-Demand (POD), a quick visit
to http://free_reads.tripod.com/printondemand.html will fix that.
If you choose to go that route, epublishing becomes crucial, for
the editing. POD publishers never provide editing, and they
really will publish anything. Think of a POD publisher not as a
publisher, but as a print shop.
Ideally, you can find an epublisher who will simultaneously
publish your book in a POD format with no setup fees. This will
allow you to direct all your marketing efforts after the sale at
bringing people to the same URL. Several such epublisher/POD
operations are on my list at the website mentioned above.
Regardless of how you choose to ultimately publish - traditional
print or POD -- I recommend epublishing first. You'll work with
professional editors, free of charge, and you'll sell a few dozen
or a few hundred copies of your book. Then, with a renewed sense
of confidence and some idea of what to expect, you can approach a
print publisher with the magic words "professionally edited
MY CRITERIA FOR EPUBLISHERS
* Authors do not pay to get published. They are paid for the
* The only thing the epublishers sells is books. No editorial
services, no packaging fees, no marketing fees, no artwork fees.
(Selling eBook readers is okay, however, so long as the books
themselves don't require one to read them. Meaning, HTML and/or
PDF must be available formats.)
* Free editorial service is a must. If the publisher's going to
put his name on my book, and he's not proud enough of his name to
make sure the e-book is done right, screw him. He won't last very
long as a bookseller anyway.
* The web site must look professional. Meaning? I have to like
it. Fast, good-looking, professional, designed so the reader can
see the titles or the appropriate menu option right there on the
first screen of the home page. No busted links. No missing
artwork. No pop-ups. No big hype about their publishing services
plastered all over the front page, while the potential reader has
to hunt for what he wants.
* There can be no typos. Not a damn one. I saw one site with
typos in their ad for "editorial services for a reasonable fee."
You know what they can kiss.
* Hit counters can lie. But if they have one, I'd better see more
than 47 hits. Trust me -- there is such a place. But they aren't
listed on my website.
* If their site spends a great deal of effort advertising some
contest that closed in April 2000, screw em. Keep the place
* They must accept e-mail submissions. I live in Hong Kong. I'm
not mailing anything to the US except a signed contract and
possibly a disk along with it. Furthermore, this shows they're
serious about using the Internet. What kind of epublisher wants
you to use paper?
* Promoting your book. Okay, now you're published. Great! But
what will this publisher do after it's all said and done to make
sure your potential readers know you exist? If the epub promotes
itself and you promote yourself, that's fine. If the epub
promotes both itself and you, that's even better. An epub with
distribution channels such as Amazon, B&N, Gemstar is also
excellent, as odds are you can't afford to do that part yourself.
Michael LaRocca is the author of four published novels and an
EPPIE 2002 Award finalist. He's been working as a full-time
author and editor since December 1999. For a complete list of
his articles, all available via autoresponder, send a blank email