Thursday, May 1, 2008

The Challenges of Being E-Pubbed

I"m very proud of my accomplishments. In 2002 I didn't know the difference between vanity publishing, e-publishing, or mainstream publishing. I only knew I wanted to put a story into words and see if people liked it. Guess what, they did.

Through internet research, I quickly found that dealing with a vanity press meant you bore the expense of turning a story into a book, and no one really cared if it was good or not. No one edited it or looked for mistakes, they simply took what you wrote and put it into print. To me, that didn't display any level of achievement. So, I queried what I learned was a e-publisher.

I wrote a letter of introduction, told about my story and was so pleased when I received a response asking to read the first three chapters and a synopsis. Wow, I had to learn how to write a synopsis, and trust me, that's almost as hard as writing the book. You have to capture the essence of your work in a concise description and make it interesting enough to make the publisher or editor want to read more. I guess I did, because my manuscript was accepted and published.

What I learned from my first editing session was that I told a wonderful story, but it wasn't even close to a novel. I'll bet most readers don't realize the difference.
Stories tell you what's happening. Novels show you, engage you, put you in the character's shoes and let you sniff the apple pie baking in the oven, feel the fabric of the hero's shirt, ache for that kiss. And if you write historical, you'd better not screw up any of the facts. *lol*

Each editing session has been a learning experience for me and has helped me grow as an author. There were times when I wanted to strangle my editor, but in the end, I realized accepting criticism and making changes only made my story better. I learned the true value of editing when I signed with a well-known press for two short humorous stories that were published without another pair of eyes and a sounder mind than mine. I was compared to Erma Bombeck in some reviews, but I'm sure she'd spin in her grave if she knew that. My books were in no way as polished and professional as hers. Although my attempt at humor worked, the editorial errors took away from my creativity. I wish I'd done things differently, but you can't change some things. You learn and move on.

I believe each published book has shown improvement. I've re-read some of my earlier stuff and cringe. If only I'd known then what I've learned since. But...even though my books keep improving there is still a stigma attached to be e-published. I find if I use that term, people roll their eyes and consider that I've not done anything special. "Oh, that kind of book." I hate that remark. If only they experienced the angst of waiting to see if your work was accepted, or chewed fingernails while waiting for a review to be posted by someone who read your book. Trust me, being an author is not for the faint of heart. Most of the burden of promotion falls on our shoulders and it's hard to sell people on a new concept.

Computer technology is amazing. It's the wave that's washing away all the old ways of doing things and exposing new ground. Unfortunately, until the 'now' generation starts buying romance novels, it's hard for those of us who offer our work in e-format to convince people to sit in front of a computer and read a book, especially when most of them have sat in front of a screen all day on a job. Computer wizards are realizing the problem and have developed ebook readers. I have one and love it. I simply download my PDF books that I purchase online (at a very reasonable price, I might add) and I can read whenever and wherever I like. A back lit screen even allows me to read a night without disturbing my husband. That made me laugh. I could read with a 2000 watt bulb over the bed and he'd still be snoring.

Okay, so ebook readers are nice, but some people want to feel a real book in their hands...turn pages, smell the ink. I can't fault them. I'm one of them. So, I've tried to find publishers who offer print along with download options. Downloads are cheaper and faster. You order a book and it's zipped by email right to your computer in one of several formats. Most people, as I mention, are still reluctant to try it.

Our paper books are called POD (Print on Demand). They don't have to be stored and this saves money for the company. E-publishing isn't a 'brick and mortar' store, it's a virtual business that fulfills your reading needs via the computer. You order a book, it's printed and sent to you. Simple? Not really, they cost double what mass market paperback books cost, ergo my dilemma.

I still have a hard time when someone asks how much my books cost. It's difficult to admit to charging $12-15.00 for one book when I know they can waltz into Walmart and get two or three written by Nora Roberts for the same amount. Let's see, Ginger Simpson...Nora Roberts. Who has the bigger name and following? It's a no-brainer. Someone really has to love me to fork out the bucks. It stuns me that people do and I'm so eternally grateful.

So, while I'm proud of my accomplishments, I have one goal left. It's not about money or getting rich. It's about pride and realization of a dream. Someday before I die, I'm determined to see one of my books next to Nora's in my local Walmart. I'm working on a manuscript now that I hope will be my ticket. I don't want to have to sneak in and put my own book up on the shelf...I want to do it the right way. My name is Ginger Simpson and I'm a legitimately-published author. Now I just have to pen the best query letter, create the most captivating synopsis, find the best day of the week to send it and hope the person who reads it is in the right frame of mind at the time. No challenge there!

Where's Oprah when I need her. I'm a candidate for the "Big Give". :)

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