With all of the online publishers that have sprung up in the last few years—some legit and some not—the publishing world is filled with controversial theories on whether online publishing is “real publishing.” Should writers publish their work in this medium? As I am an author recently published in print and electronic format by an online publisher, more than one writer has asked me about the advantages and disadvantages of traditional versus print publishers, and ultimately whether writers should submit their works to online publishers. My advice to these writers can go either way, dependent upon the individual situation.
Writers who have established a publishing reputation with one or more traditional brick-and-mortar publishers should stick with that medium for publishing, particularly if they are in the field primarily or solely to make a living or big money. In online publishing, advances are virtually unheard of—all of a writer’s income is based upon royalties and self-marketing. Online publishers simply do not have as much money or clout to market their authors as extensively as traditional publishers do—if the online publishers market them at all. According to staff members and veteran writers of online publishers with whom I’ve spoken—including those at Amber Quill Press (AQP), the online publisher of my novel Sacrifice
--no one makes a living solely as a writer from online publishing. One of the few exceptions seems to be among some of those who have part or full ownership in the online publishing companies themselves. For instance, I know that one of the entrepreneurs of AQP works for the company and writes fulltime—and makes a living doing both. He was formerly a musician but gave that up to solely pursue the writing business. Before he became a full-time online publisher and writer, however, he had some money in savings, stocks, etc., to fall back on. This enabled him to take the time off he needed from working day jobs to jumpstart his career.
On the other hand, for writers who are not established with a traditional publisher, who have endured massive manuscript rejections from traditional publishers and agents, and who wish to gain exposure, resume material, and, a bigger break later on, I recommend online publishing in a heartbeat. That is, of course, only if the contract looks legit and the publisher isn’t asking the writer for money, as do some scam artists in the guise of online publishers. Most traditional publishers list their rejection rates as high as 90-99 percent in The Writer’s Market, and many of them refuse to look at a manuscript unless it is agency-represented. Meeting the prerequisites of an agent—one who is reputable—can be even tougher. Agents who are either shysters or money sharks litter the marketplace, charging reading fees or copying fees, even if they find no publisher for you. Among reputable agents who do not charge, the rejection rate is as high as the traditional publishers’. Against such phenomenal odds, sometimes online publishing is the only way writers can get their work out there without the expense of vanity publishing. I cannot emphasize this enough: To gain exposure and profit in the online venue, writers should be prepared to spend time and money doing some or all of their own marketing.
My situation matches the latter, which is why I went with online publisher AQP. My manuscript Sacrifice was published at the beginning of July in electronic form and at the end of July in print form. Since then, by marketing, I’ve managed to glean enough money to file a tax return for last year. (People who make under $600 within a given year aren’t required to file.) Virtually none of that income was from the e-book version; every reader I know still clings to traditional print books, so I’ve sold only seven downloads of e-books. I’ve made the majority of my profit through sales of the print version. In fac, at the time of the writing of this article, Sacrifice is number three on AQP’s list of in-house bestsellers.
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