Friday, September 10, 2010

Some thoughts on digital publishing

The decision to start my writing career in digital first/only publishing was an easy one for me. I had written a novella, I went searching online for publishers that accepted works of that length, and found one I liked. The only full length novel I'd written at that time was a big rambling mess, so it got put away. I still haven't tried to find an agent and with publishing being in such a state of flux, I don't know that I'll worry too much about getting a traditional deal with a big house anytime soon. There is a great deal of freedom in digital publishing. Freedom for publishers to take a chance on new authors, freedom for authors to stretch the boundaries of genre and convention. Freedom to learn and grow as a writer in a supportive environment, while still making a little money. (Very little, but that's okay.) It's a good fit for me right now and I'm enjoying it.

It's not perfect, though. Having to explain what an ebook is to people who still live in the twentieth century is always, um, interesting. I can't wait to get a Kindle. Seeing me read on an actual ereader may really blow some minds. It may be the thing that converts some people, too. It's both entertaining and annoying to hear people talk about physical books like they're some kind of fetish object, saying they like the feel of a book in their hands, the smell of the pages, reading in the bath. I always want to say, you and that hardback need to get a room. As much as I love to read, I've never been too particular about whether I was reading a hardback, mass market paperback, trade paperback, new or used. What mattered to me was the story, the world I was entering when I began reading. That part of the reading experience is exactly the same for me with digital books. Right now I read on my laptop, and I have no trouble becoming engrossed in a story that I'm reading on a screen. I realize it's not the same for everyone, though it's very hard for me to understand. Especially as a writer - does all this work I've done only mean something if it's on paper? Is the paper, the physical object, more important than the story being told?

There's a lot for a writer to think about when they're considering submitting to a digital publisher. You may or may not ever see your book on a shelf. Your family and friends may or may not be willing to support you by purchasing something they can't hold in their hands. You may or may not ever hold a book signing. But there is a readership for digital books, and it's growing every single day. The business model of digital first, then print on demand for full length novels, is most likely the wave of the future. Being an early adaptor can have it's advantages, and it's exciting too. I'm happy to be starting my career this way and who knows, maybe I'll bring a few converts into the twenty-first century with me.

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