Saturday, March 12, 2011


While the ebook versus traditional publishing debate rages on, Geraldine Evans is caught right in the middle of it.  She's an accomplished British mystery author with 18 novels under her belt and on the verge of the biggest decision of her life. Rarely will you find someone as open and honest about their dilemma.  I'll let her explain the details:


by Geraldine Evans

With all the seismic events in the world of publishing, I don’t think there’s any author more affected than the midlister. To ebook or not to ebook? Think about it. Midlisters like myself have always been the flotsam and jetsam of the publishing world, in danger from every passing wave. It could truly be said that, in many cases, we’re more printed than published, in that all those littler extras that make you feel your publisher loves you, are conspicuous by their absence.

Certainly, we get none of the supposed benefits of traditional publishing. Not for us the publisher-arranged book tours with all expenses paid. Not for us the talk shows and radio interviews, not unless we’re able to organize them ourselves. And whoever heard of a midlister guesting on Oprah, for instance? Not me, that’s for sure.

I have to make my own postcards, bookmarks and flyers. I make my own trailers and pay for the pictures I need. I write a blog and a monthly newsletter. I belong to various lists where I try to post as often as I can. I’m on facebook and twitter, linked in and goodreads. crimespace and– well, you get the picture. By the time I’ve finished doing all of that, I hardly have time to write the damn books. It’s a common problem, compounded by a chronic lack of cash. You can’t imagine – or perhaps you can – how eagerly I await my Public Lending Right income (UK) from the public libraries. After Christmas has cleaned me out, January is always a pretty grim month, with teeth gritted till we get to February and a reasonable pay day. It could all be so much better. Couldn’t it?

Midlisters stand balanced on a tightrope at the moment: should we take the plunge totally into ebooks and abandon an often unsatisfactory traditional publishing experience? When you read blogs like J A Konrath’s you think you’d be a fool not to. And yet. And yet. My esales aren’t anything like as impressive as Konrath’s. Admittedly, so far, I’ve only got two ebooks up on kindle, nook and the rest and he’s got loads, so it’s unsurprising that my numbers compare unfavourably. Though perhaps the 216 I sold in February would be regarded by a lot of people as pretty good. I expect to have a third out of print novel, Death Line, up as an ebook by the end of March, but that’s still only three. It takes time and money to make the formatting professional and the cover design perfect. And money is in short supply when you’re a midlister with no other visible means of support.

I’ve had eighteen novels published: fourteen in one mystery series, two in another mystery series, one historical and one romance. I’ve been published by Macmillan and Worldwide, by Isis Soundings and St Martin’s Press. My current publisher is… Well never mind their name. It’s irrelevant anyway.

At the moment, I’m in a bit of a cleft stick. My publisher has said he wants the rights to epublish all my books that were published on his list, including my soon-to-be out of prints. Indeed, he seems of the opinion that the rights are his for the taking. Admittedly, he’s ‘thinking’ (sic) of offering 50% royalties for the older books, but he only wants to pay 25% for the newer books, which, as JAK so rightly says, means something pretty paltry by the time my agent has taken her 15%. And the rights could be tied up forever when you consider that ebooks need never go out of print. Trouble is, because I’m otherwise unemployed, I rely on my publisher’s advances to pay the bills. What if I decide to plump all out for epublishing and the sales don’t come? I’ll have burned my bridges. I have to wonder, even if I agree to the 25% for the newer and next in my series, but retain my epub rights in the rest, whether my publisher won’t flex his stronger financial muscles and demand all or nothing.

This, at present, is my situation. Perhaps it’s yours, too? I don’t know what to do. And I’ve nearly finished the next in the series. Should I keep it or send it to my publisher? Any advice?


  1. Hi Geraldine,

    I'm completely unfamiliar with your work. I've never even heard of you until today's blog post. So, I'm exactly the kind of person who needs to discover you... or at least it seems that way to me.

    At 2.99, I hesitate to purchase your books. The way I would decide to purchase your book or not is to first read the description. If the synopsis grabbed me, then I would look at the reviews and see how many stars people have given your story. If most of the reviews seemed positive (and maybe even if they weren't), I'd download the free sample and give it a shot. Then I would decide whether to purchase it or not based off of my opinion of the sample; however, it's also possible that I might enjoy the sample, but forget to go back and actually buy it. I have lots of books already on my Kindle.

    If you lowered your price to .99, that all goes away. I'll still read the description, but if it grabs me, I'll purchase right then-- skipping all of the other steps.

    I realize that this means less money for the author per sale, but the success of John Locke shows that if you have well written books, .99 cents is the right price point. It also seems that Joe Konrath is starting to come to this conclusion as well with his latest experiments with his book The List.

    I think I'll leave your larger question about whether to become completely devoted to e-publishing, to other more experienced individuals who have faced similar questions. Regardless of your decision, I wish you every success.

  2. Or I could be wrong about the whole thing. Read Konrath's latest post:

  3. Thanks for this! I'm considering a publisher who's offering ridiculously low royalties, so I better make sure he ups them for ebook sales. I don't think the question is, should you? I think all of your books should be made available as ebooks, and because there is lower overhead, you should get more for each sale. At least, that's how my publisher has it set up. My books have always been POD/ebooks. They never go out of print. Like it or not, it's the future, and it's here.

    Monette Bebow-Reinhard

  4. If you had the finances to self-publish, I would definitely advise that you do so. You'd get 70% royalties! Over time, you'd recoup your cover, editing, and formatting costs. I just started self-pubbing last October, and I've sold over 1000 ebooks. I'm a nobody, not previous publishing, and I don't write in trendy genres (cyberpunk so far). It cost me $1500 per book to publish, but you could definitely do it for less than that. If you'd like to see my results, check out my blog: Adventures in ePublishing.

  5. John, Thanks for your advice. I have tried pricing my books at 99c for a month, but I've found, even with better sales, that I lose out financially. I find $2.99 does better for me as then the 70% royalty rate from amazon kicks in.

  6. Monette, Thanks for your advice. Yes, the ebook world is definitely here to stay, but is there any way to shift print publishers for their entrenched stance of 25% royalties for ebook authors? Something's got to give and if they're not careful it could be the publishers themselves.

  7. Derek, I'm going to check out your blog in a second. You could get your ebooks readied for a lot less than $1500. I use the services of an American lady called Kimberly Hitchens ( Altogether, including book cover, my ebook costs have been $230. Admittedly, as I started with her towards the end of last year when she was starting out, I get preferential rates. But I believe you'll still get a very reasonable deal through her. Why not ask her for a quote?

    And good lot to all of us in this Brave New World of epublishing.

  8. Gary, Thanks for the opportunity to post on your blog. It's interesting to learn the opinions of others who have also embraced epubbing. I feel a certain amount of disloyalty towards my publisher for wanting to take the indie route with my back list as they've published over ten of my books. But, at the same time, I feel to only offer me 25% royalties when epub costs are so much smaller is spitting in my eye! And I don't like that.

  9. I'm torn, too, but not as a professional. As a newbie. I should have my novel revised and ready for submission by the end of the year, and I am heavily leaning toward self-publishing it on Kindle/nook/Smashwords.

    I would love to be able to make my living writing, but as debut advances lower and recurring ones follow suit, I wonder if that's not even more of a pipe-dream than it once was. I read so much that the sales numbers it would take to replace my current salary aren't really that absurd. If i were making 100k a year, it might be diffent, but as it stands, if I get lucky and have a modicum of success, I should be able to be okay.

    In the end, it depends on quality of living and luck. I'm keeping the day job until it's as guaranteed as it can be that I can sustain making money. Hopefully, the summer or winter of this year will be the start of that process.

    If you're able to do the math and find out the sustained number of ebooks you would have to sell at .99 and 2.99 to match your current advances, I don't see a reason not to at least keep as many rights as you can. Or to write a few novels/novellas just for the ebook markets.

  10. BJ, Thanks. Yes, I think you're right and as both me and my publishers seems to be digging our heels in I think it'll definitely be an India life for me!

    Whatever you do, don't give up the day job as esales take time to kick in. I would also advise you to get your book professionally edited and formatted (see my advice re hitch to Derek). Also amazon kindle don't pay up until two months after the end of the month in which the sales were made. Good luck whatever you decide to do.

  11. Gary, I forgot to tell you that I watched the video. Excellent. Really thrillerish. Terrific choice of pix. And the music matched perfectly.

  12. Geraldine, I'm very happy to have you participate on my blog, you've definately brought a lot of interesting scenarios into consideration. We won't know the answers to a lot of these questions for a couple of years, but it's an intriguing discussion. I wish you all the best in your publishing journey.

    Oh, and thanks for the kind words about the video.

  13. I've just gone with the 99 cents at Amazon for my short story - I think the read needs to be enough to warrant the 2.99 price, and I didn't think 34 pages was - so I hope for more readers but making less per sale. If it were a novel, I would have gone to the 2.99 because yes! They give you more because they make more per sale.