5.23 ePublishing

ePublishing has finally arrived, probably thanks to Amazon's Kindle and Apple's iPad. {1} eBooks are a rapidly-growing market, accounting for 8.3% of the US book market in 2010, and $441.3 million in sales. {2}

In general, epublishing follows traditional publishing models, but the drastic reduction in printing, warehousing and distribution costs has allowed more niche markets to be addressed, {3} though not always profitably. Bulk selling still requires promotion, {4} for which reviews in the mainstream press, if problematic {5} are vital, though not generally afforded ebooks.

Advantages of ePublishing

ePublishing can: {6}

1. Find niche markets: books selling under a thousand copies, uncommercial to mainstream publishers, may be profitable.
2. Keep information current: errors and out-of-date information are easily corrected:
3. Lighten library shelves and student packs: hundreds of titles can commonly be stored in ebook reader memories.
4. Provide larger author royalties.

The disadvantages:

1. eBooks can look amateur, lacking proper editing, typesetting and/or cover.
2. Author advances are not usually paid.
3. eBook publishers often go out of business, taking the author's copyright with them.
4. Do not confer the same status on the author.
5. Agents are even more difficult to find.

eBook Compilers

HTML pages can be compiled into handy ebooks that preserve links and the original page layouts. These can be read on most machines running Windows (but not the Mac) operating system. A small selection: {7}

Site

Viewing Platform

Accepts flash

plug/in

Password

protection

Trackng

facility

Activ EBook

W

yes

yes

yes

DesktopAuthor

W

no

yes

yes

Easy Ebook Creator

W

no

yes

yes

eBook Gold

W

yes

yes

no

Fast Ebook

W

yes

yes

yes

Flip Publisher

W

no

no

no

Hyper Publish

W

no

no

no

Hypermaker

W

yes

yes

no

WebEx

W

no

yes

no

WinEbook

W

no

yes

no

eBook Readers

The appearance of convenient and affordable ebook-reading hardware has made ebooks popular. eBook readers come in two varieties: tablet computers that offer color and Internet links, and the e-ink Kindle and its clones that make more comfortable reading but don't generally offer color or backscreen lighting.

ebook reader

diagonal

screen-size

(inches)

weight

(oz)

storage  

notes

iLiad 0100

8.1

13.7

64-224 MB

E-ink technology

Cybook

10.1

35.2

32-256 MB

Includes word processor

and spreadsheet

Sony eBook

Reader

PRS-700BC

6

9.0

256MB/

300 books

E-ink technology:

touch-screen: 100,000 titles

Kindle 2

6

10.2

1,500 titles

Includes text-to-speech.

285,000 titles available:

wireless download (US)

Kindle Fire

7

14.6

6,000 titles

Wi-Fi connectivity:

touch screen: 8 GB

iPad

9.7

24

16-64 GB

Includes MP3, MP4 and MOV.

Multi-language support.

Entourage Edge

9.7 e-ink +

10.1 LCD

c 3 lbs

 

200,000 titles, SD & SIM

cards, USB & WiFi.

Stylus for writing and drawing

Q pro-reader

10.7

17

8 GB

Wi-Fi connectivity.

4 GB version also available

Nook

6 + 9

11.2

3-16 GB

Originally e-ink gray

but now color LCD.

Wi-fi: books can be 'loaned'

eBook Formats

Several formats {8} are used for epublishing, but the starting point is text (.txt) files. From here the common routes are:

1. Conversion to webpages with HTML editors, the content being sold either as subscriptions to password-protected websites or webpage compilations. Many companies offer a subscription service. Webpage compilers are cheap, preserve simple HTML layouts, and come with a range of security features:

    a. password protection of whole document
    b. password protection of individual pages
    c. time expiry of ebook
    d. expiry after certain number of times used
    e. access restricted to single machine/user
    f. user tracking

2. Conversion to MS Word documents, these simply-typeset documents being:

    a. left as Word documents and password-protected.
    b. converted to the epub format with cheap/free software or online services.
    c. converted to the Kindle format with cheap/free software or online services.
    d. converted to the pdf format with Adobe Acrobat, with one of the cheaper clones or through free online services.

3. Conversion to complexly-typeset pages with InDesign etc., and thence to the Adobe Acrobat pdf format.

4. Conversion to complexly-typeset pages with commercial XML packages: companies generally offer a complete service. {9}

Traditional Publishing

Publishing is a business, and authors are usually required to send a 'proposal', a lengthy document that tells the publisher why it makes commercial sense to bring out the book. A proposal typically consists of:

1. Overview: 2-page general summary.
2. Market: 3-page description of the potential readership.
3. Competition: Similar books already published: how yours compares.
4. Authors: 1-page bio. of credentials and successes.
5. Chapter by chapter summary
6. Up to 20-page sample if fiction, otherwise chapter outlines.
7. Delivery: a 3-sentence clincher.

Traditionally, a publisher considered the author, the prestige of the publishing house and the economics. Suppose everything looked promising. The author was personable and articulate, ideal for a TV chat show or late-night arts program. She had a good thirty years of writing in her. What she produced now was phenomenally good. These were the 'back of the envelope' estimates, all in units of 1000. The book retailed for $12.95, royalties were 8%, and bookstore commissions averaged 40%: {7}

No.

Sold

Receipts

Costs

Profit

 

 

Printing &

distribution

Royalties

Bookstore

commissions

Management

& publicity

 

1

$13

$6

$1

$5

$3

-$2

2

$26

$8

$2

$10

$3

$3

10

$129

$21

$10

$52

$5

$41

100

$1,295

$135

$104

$518

$12

$526

1,000

$12,950

$1,250

$1,036

$5,180

$25

$5,459

Everything depended on the book proving a bestseller (whereas the average title sells 500 copies in America {3}). Odds can be roughly quantified: figures again in thousands:

No. Sold

% Odds

Profit

Value of author publisher  

(Odds x Profit)

1

30

-$2

-$0.6

2

50

$3

$1.5

10

17

$41

$7.0

100

2.9

$526

$15.25

1,000

0.1

$5,459

$5.46

total

100

 

$28.88

The figures are notional, but suggest the publisher has a 97% chance of making less than $7,000. That's barely worth the effort, but he is banking on the future, the author's second or tenth effort.

The author had a 80% chance of earning no more than $2,000 in royalties. For months or years of work, that does not amount to a working wage. Both author and publisher are clearly chasing a dream, but that is the nature of fiction publishing, and explains why publishers (and agents) need textbooks, self-help, cookery and gardening titles to survive.

Only some 1% of manuscripts are in fact published, and US is rumored to have one million manuscripts looking for a good home.

ePublishing

Authors still need to send a proposal, but could the economics now be radically different? List price is $8.95 and royalties are 35% of list price.

No.

Sold

Receipts

Costs

Profit

 

 

Preproduction

Royalties

ISP Charges

Management

& publicity

 

1

$9

$2

$3

$1

$3

$0

2

$18

$2

$6

$2

$3

$5

10

$90

$2

$31

$5

$5

$47

100

$895

$2

$310

$50

$12

$521

1,000

$8950

$2

$3100

$500

$25

$5,323

The odds, figures again in thousands:

No. Sold

% Odds

Profit

Value of author publisher

 (Odds x Profit)

1

30

$0

$0

2

50

$5

$1.5

10

17

$47

$7.99

100

2.9

$521

$15.11

1,000

0.1

$5,323

$5.32

total

100

 

$29.92

No, the figures come in about the same. The publisher has a 97% chance of making less than $9,500, and the author a 80% chance of earning no more than $1,500 in royalties. ePublishing has made good money for some authors and publishers, {10} but not revolutionized the publishing business. {11}

Print on Demand Model

Perhaps self-publishing is the answer, either the author doing all the work, or handing the task over to a PoD (print on demand) company. The example is a 78,000-word novel, printed as a 200-page trade paperback with a color-printed cover of laminated cover stock. Proofing is $3/page. Print run is 1,000 and all copies are sold, through bookstores, which charge a 40% commission. Cover price is $14.95. iUniverse royalties are 20% of sales receipts. {7}

Service

General range

Self publishing

PoD Service

PoD all-in

$100-2000

-

$1100

Text input

1-3 cents/word

-

-

Proof reading

1-5 cents/word


$3-5+/page


$30-100/hour

$1200

$1170

Typesetting

$0.80-20/page

$300

Included

Cover

$50-5000

$1500

Included

ISBN, bar codes, listing

$50

$50

Included

Review

$0-350

$350

$360

Printing

(1000 print run)

$3000-8000

$3500

See below

Warehousing

and distribution

10-20% of retail price

$2240

Included

Marketing

Up to author

$1000

Included

Total outgoings

-

$10,140

$2630

Sales proceeds

net commissions

-

$8970

-

Royalties

-

-

$1790

Net profit

-

-$1170

-$840

Some obvious points:
1. Big expenses are proofing, typesetting and cover design.
2. Proceeds are derisory if only 1,000 copies are sold.
3. Some 1,500 copies need to be sold to break even with the PoD route, and some 1250 by the self-publishing route.
4. Sale of 10,000 copies provides $15,000 by the PoD route, and $50,000 by the self-publishing route.

PoD Royalties

Print on Demand royalties need special attention. Suppose the book retails for $12.95, and the PoD company pays royalties at 75%. If royalties are based on the gross cover price, the author will get a handsome 0.75 x $12.95 for each book sold, i.e. $9.71/copy. In all probability, however, the royalties will be based on the net revenues. From $12.95 are first taken publishing costs, say $4.50 per copy, leaving $8.45. Then, if the book is sold on Amazon, the bookstore commission amounts to 55% of the retail price, i.e. $7.12. Take that away from $8.45 and the publisher is left with $1.33. Royalties at 75% of the net revenues are therefore 0.75 x $1.33 or $1.00/copy, a fairly typical figure. {7}

eBook Trends

eBooks are finally becoming popular, aided by selling platforms rolled out by Amazon, Apple, Sony, and Kobo, with Google expected to follow soon. US sales are now in double digits, and a similar expansion expected in Europe and Brazil. Tablets and ebook readers are the preferred platform, except in China where the mobile phone may be pressed into service. Educational books are leading the way, though piracy remains a significant problem, as do VAT and copyright differences between countries. {13} eBook prices in Germany, France, Italy, and France are fairly high, at some 80-90% of paper version prices: those in the USA and UK are lower at 55 - 60%. {13} Educational ebooks in India are generally priced in the $1-1.50 range. {14} Some country statistics: {13}

USA

1. Book (all types) market size: $27.4 billion.
2. eBook titles now available: 950,000.
3. 2010 eBook market share: 6.2% (13.6% fiction).
4. Leading eBook distributors: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Apple.
5. eTextbooks: 80,000 titles in 17 languages (Pearson, Cengage, Elsevier, and Wolters Kluwer).

UK

1. Book (all types) market size: £3.1 billion.
2. eBook titles now available: c. 1,000,000.
3. 2010 eBook market share: 6%
4. Leading eBook distributors: Taylor and Francis, Springer, Pearson and Penguin.

Brazil

1. Book (all types) market size: €1.4 billion.
2. eBook titles now available: 4,000.

China

1. Book (all types) market size: €8.2 billion.
2. eBook titles now available: 200,000.

India {15}

1. Book (all types) market size: large.
2. eBook titles now available: moderate but growing.
3. Problems: piracy, low ebook prices, lack of confidence in ecommerce, lack of affordable ereaders.

Publishing Contract Terms

Publishing contracts will be fairly similar, whether for traditional or ebook, covering such matters as: {7}

1. Details of the book: format, print run, etc.
2. Obtaining ISBN and listings in national catalogs.
3. Period the contract holds (years or copies sold).
4. What happens after contract expires.
5. Supply of galley proofs to author.
6. Copyright issues: who is responsible for checking (often author).
7. Royalties to author depending on seller (author, publisher through bookstores, bookclubs, subsidiaries, etc.)
8. When and how royalties are paid.
9. Terms applying to author for copies (no. of free copies, discounts thereafter).
10. Advances (commonly one third at contract signing, one third on submission of galley proofs and one third on return of proofs).
11. How MS is submitted to publisher.
12. Cost of unauthorized author changes to galleys ($/hour).
13. Responsibility for libel, copyright infringement (commonly author, who indemnifies publisher).
14. Any guarantees regarding copies printed or sold (generally none).
15. What the publisher will do towards marketing.
16. What the author will do towards marketing.

The publisher may wish to use the manuscript in ways other than producing ebooks. These 'subsidiary' rights may be licensed to a third party, when the author will get a share of the licensing fees.

Book Publishing Contracts: Current Trends

Being brought out by a large publishing house bestows prestige, but not necessarily financial independence or peace of mind. Authors increasingly face one-sided agreements. {7}

Many contracts now:

1. Do not ensure publication: authors consign their earning ability to another entity, and the book does not appear, even the modest advance being clawed back if the book is sold on to another publisher.
2. Stipulate that the next MS must be offered, completed, to the same publisher, who need not consider it immediately, can turn it down subsequently, and even change his mind if another publisher takes an interest.
3. Allow royalties (commonly only 8%) to be cut by half if the publisher sells through a big distributor.
4. Ditto if the publisher sells the rights to an affiliate.
5. Dispense with royalties if the publisher decides to make the book into a giveaway ebook for publicity purposes.
6. Require the author bear the costs of any libel suits, whoever is at fault, which the publisher can settle without consulting the author.
7. Allow that option to be consigned to third parties, who need not defend the action.
8. Remove last vestiges of author control.

All this turns, and must turn, authors into hard-nosed businessmen. Books of mass appeal have to be turned out regularly, and/or additional means of support found, usually reviewing and literary journalism.

Libel

Far more threatening to the writer than copyright infringement is libel, particularly in England, in whose courts so many cases end up. {12} Libel is a written form of defamation defined as a 'false or unjustified injury to someone's good reputation.' That injury may be unintentional, and libel is a lurking danger to everyone who puts pen to paper. No newspaper office is without a resident expert or their horror stories. All statements have to be double-checked, not only that the person quoted did in fact say that, but what they said was true and can be readily so demonstrated. Any doubt and the article is spiked, or the MS remains in the publisher's drawer. Disclaimers are not enough, and authors are most unwise to portray a villain who could in any way, however unwittingly, be linked to an innocent living person.

Outlook

So the current gloom. Publishing, both conventional and electronic, does not currently offer an attractive business model for authors, agents or publishing houses.

Questions

1. What are the advantages of epublishing?
2. Why aren't ebooks cheaper (compare costs of traditional and epublishing)?
3. What does a publishing contract cover?
4. Why could writers be a vanishing breed?
5. Explain copyright and libel. What measures should be taken to avoid legal actions?

Sources and Further Reading

Need the references and resources for further study? Consider our affordable (US $ 4.95)  pdf ebook. It includes extensive (3,000) references, plus text, tables and illustrations you can copy, and is formatted to provide comfortable sequential reading on screens as small as 7 inches.

   Get your eBook here.