Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Towards An Ebook Future

by Gurmeet Mattu (writer), Glasgow, January 11, 2010

ebooks may provide a valid outlet for the new writer who is finding it difficult to get published using traditional methods.

So what does the writer set out to achieve?

Well, the novelist wants to be read, the poet and radio writer wants to be heard and the screenwriter wants his stuff to be seen. Otherwise it's a waste of time. I don't believe in writing for yourself. Oh, and for those that didn't know, poetry is written to be heard not read. But the best prose should read like poetry.
So, whither writing and whither the writer?

The writer will always exist because humanity will always require information and entertainment. It is the delivery methods that are changing. Digital and broadcast will continue to thrive but to my mind the printing press and publishers are obsolete.
So what does that leave? You're sitting there with the manuscript of your novel and nowhere to go? Or are new opportunities opening up before you?
Now I'm no eco-warrior but anything that helps save the planet sounds sensible. A lot was made of the digital revolution and how it would lead to the paper-less office. Didn't happen. Our generation, brought up on books made of paper aren't going to see the death of books.
Being born, however, are two technologies that might increase access to markets for the writer. Firstly, there's Print On Demand (POD) which is the younger brother of self-publishing, which is the off-spring of vanity publishing. To explain, some writers who couldn't find a publisher would pay for the printing of their work themselves. This cost big bucks and left you with a warehouse full of books and looking for a sales team and a marketing strategy. Never very popular, it became somewhat of a leper colony and vanity publishing seemed akin to masturbation. Sensing a bad rap vanity publishing became self publishing and was just as popular till the technology caught up. Now, using computer printing technology publishers don't have huge printing bills. They store a script on computer and don't print till the orders come in. And the POD people can print as little as one copy at a time.

There are companies on the internet who will allow you to self publish with POD but they charge you an arm and a leg and you're still cutting down forests for the paper, even if the remainders bins are abolished.

Secondly there are ebooks, which again haven't really taken off because we're tied to the concept of a book we can hold in our hand. But rapidly gaining acceptance are dedicated ebook readers, which take the reading experience away from the computer screen. Creating an ebook from your material is still self-publishing, but you are in total control of the process.
The ebook has also been hijacked by writers of what aren't really books at all. To call 10 pages a book is laughable, it is hardly a pamphlet. Yet the internet is swamped with so-called ebooks telling you how to become an overnight millionaire or build a bird table. These how-to 'ebooks' with their associated Master Resale Rights, Private Label Rights and similar marketing techniques have soured what could have been a worthy outlet for the creative writer. Information is useful, but when only basic is useless. The strategy with these ebooks is to get them onto the market in numbers, selling them very cheaply or even giving them away with the hope that, as they are branded with the original creator's web link, someone along the line will actually go to their site and be pitched some other dream, completing the horror of viral marketing.

But these clowns do prove one thing, that production of an ebook is easy. The joy for the writer is that he can write, format, design and publish an ebook all by himself, thereby bypassing an entire industry. Write in a word processor, format, convert to pdf, design a cover and you're in business. All the software to do this is available for free on the net. Anybody with a PC can create an ebook. And pdf, though an industry standard, is not the only option. Other file formats offer greater flexibility and security.

No forests are cut down for paper and the books themselves don't need to be shipped across the world. It seems the perfect publishing solution. If writing specifically for ebook publication remember that they do tend to be much shorter than regular novels and written in easily readable chunks. Of course the reader could always print them off, but that would defeat the point.

The other flaw is in maintaining some level of control of your material. A digital file is easily copied and transferred to third parties with the original author gaining no benefits. But Digital Rights Management (DRM) systems do exist which default to Pay Now when an attempt is made to open them if the file is transferred to another computer.
Also, with your ebook sitting in the bowels of your PC you still need to deal with marketing and selling it, and that employs a whole new set of skills. The options are to sell through an auction or other sales site, with an inevitable split of commission, or set up your own website. Setting up your own site isn't difficult and needn't be expensive, till you then face the problem of getting visitors to your site, hopefully to purchase your masterpiece. Again, an exercise in advertising and marketing. You can pay for ads, via Google Adwords with Pay Per Click, or for visitors, via Stumbleupon, or the free method of article marketing. That is, writing articles on a given subject, which are free to blog or website owners on the condition that they retain the link to your own website where, hopefully, you can make a sale.

So, don’t despair when the rejection slips start piling up. Waste half an hour cursing traditional publishers and then get on with bringing your masterpiece to market.

About the Writer

Gurmeet Mattu is a writer for BrooWaha. For more information, visit the writer's website.
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