TO EPUB OR NOT TO EPUB
by Geraldine Evans
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?