E-books and self-publishing are NOT THE SAME THING!

I am currently working on a blog post tentatively entitled, “Why do We Even Need Publishers?” which I hope to have posted by Sunday night, but in the meantime I want to clear up a rampant misconception that I’ve noticed among writers AND readers.

Yesterday I was discussing the issue of self-publishing (or “independent publishing”) with another widely published writer, explaining how I felt that the writers’ organizations to which we both belong were not doing justice to the dramatic way in which the new opportunities for publishing were affecting our industry and improving opportunities for writers in the future. The friend said, “Well, [one organization] did have a few really good sessions on e-books last year.”

And that reminded me of a problem I have noticed over and over again in writers’ and readers’ forums and even in articles from some established media outlets. For some unknown reason, there seems to be a confusion among many people between electronic publishing and self-publishing. They are not the same thing at all, and aside from being co-incidental in that they are both arising in the past few years, and that they are part of the same transformation, they are entirely unrelated.

Electronic publishing refers to the production of an electronic version of your book. That is all it refers to. It doesn’t matter if you are self-publishing or if you are being published by Simon & Schuster (are they still in business?), there can be a print version of your book and there can be an electronic version of your book. There can also be softcover and hardcover versions of the print edition, and there can be an audio-book version. These are merely different formats: they do not indicate different publishing paradigms.

The confusion has arisen because many of those who self-publish choose to publish ONLY in an e-book version, which is short-sighted on their parts as I will explain later. But that doesn’t mean that e-book publishing and self-publishing are synonymous in any way.

If you are publishing with ANY established press, you must make sure that they are going to make an e-book version available at almost at the same time as the print version appears, that the e-book will be available to the different reader platforms that are now available: Kindle, Kobe, iBooks, Sony Reader, Nook, etc.

There is a big argument going on about how much writers should get in royalties on e-books, which is an issue I intend to explore as soon as I finish this series on the death of the traditional books industry. But in the meantime, don’t get locked into any particular royalty for e-books in your contracts with established presses for the time being. The Writers’ Union of Canada recommends that you allow for renegotiation of the clause in your contract that relates your e-book rights/income in two years or so when this issue has settled down a bit, and I agree.

More soon .  . . .