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There be e-Dragons

My friend Steven Saus and I were chatting earlier this month about the pros and cons of (and rampant rumors and misconceptions surrounding) e-Publishing. I asked him if he wouldn’t mid writing up some of his thoughts for a guest blog. (When a Princess asks for something, she usually gets it.)

Steven has listed for us some unromantic realities of e-Publishing, and why he and his partner-in-crime, Paul Genesse, decided to travel down this road. There be Dragons here.

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I am publishing my first digital book on the 20th, and I’m here to tell you … think twice about venturing into this yourself. Especially if you’re looking to self-publish your own book. The book is “The Crimson Pact: Volume I”. It’s an anthology, and I really am just the publisher – I don’t have a story in the anthology. Paul Genesse is the editor of the series. While I still firmly believe that digital publishing is more important than ever, I’m skeptical of digitally self-publishing as a simple shortcut to success.

You see, it’s all a matter of time.

No overnight successes

There are no overnight successes in digital publishing. None. Everyone who has succeeded with it so far has worked hard at promotion, produced a lot of material, or both. Purely digital sales grew over time, while the author kept producing more work. Sometimes it’s paid off, sometimes it hasn’t. Simply putting a story up for sale on Amazon leads to commercial success about as frequently as putting your stuff up on a web page led to a book deal. The exceptions are notable because they’re exceptions.

More hurdles and hoops than you think.

There are a lot of hurdles and hoops you don’t have to worry about when you publish traditionally. Contracts, taxes, payments, other people being late – heck, just this week I had to call the IRS because I misunderstood something about my EIN, or business tax ID. That was thirty minutes on the phone I really didn’t want to spend – it’s been a busy three months for me. Which leads to…

More knowledge and skill than you think

You don’t know everything that goes into this stuff. I don’t – and I’ve finished publishing a book! While we’ve been pooling the talent and knowledge of the authors in the anthology – and sharing the knowledge we have – there’s a definite learning curve. What’s the differences between format requirements for B&N, Kobo, and the iBookstore? They all use ePub… but each one has different specifications. I have yet to see an automatic eBook conversion work exactly right – even when you follow all the requirements. Whether we mean Smashword’s “Meatgrinder” or Adobe InDesign, they all create and introduce errors. Some might not show up on one eReader, but will on another. How do you get an ISBN? Why should you buy one instead of letting someone else assign you a “free” one? Some of the “distributing partners” for both Apple and Sony’s bookstore are listed on Writer Beware (and others probably should be). How do you make a non-cheesy looking cover? How do you make a press release, or animated avatar icon? All of these were things I had to learn or teach others.

More time than you think

Everything takes more time than you think it will – and that applies here. All of the above contributes to that, along with snafus and the typical gremlins. For example, I convert documents to eBook formats professionally and I spend a good quarter of the time of each conversion fixing my own mistakes. Paul Genesse, the editor, spent a lot of time working with authors and getting the book together. All this time leads to one big problem…

Less time for writing

Every moment you spend doing something other than writing, you’re spending doing something other than writing. Both Paul and I have had to cut back on our commitments – and even then I’ve fallen further behind than I intended.

Here’s the thing – if you’re using digital publishing as a shortcut to being famous, you’re doing it wrong. Submit, and then write something else. If the first thing comes back, send it out again. If it comes back more than five times, put it to the side for a week, then re-evaluate if it needs rewritten or trunked. Meanwhile, you’ve already got something else in the works (or several something elses) and you’re improving your writing. Remember where I said that success was through volume and/or promotion? If you’re busy doing all the ancillary publishing work, then how are you writing more material? You can only get so far promoting the same thing over and over again.

Digital Publishers

You’re probably wondering, given all this, why I’m still doing this. There are five big reasons:

1. Paul and I were already professionals. Paul has several novels under his belt as well as editing experience. I have several short story and flash publishing credits, as well as the eBook conversion experience and some business know-how. Things went best when we stayed with what we were best at…and by that I mean, when I stuck with what I was best at.
1. I’ve already set up the structures to do it. I have the knowledge and expertise now, so I might as well use it.
2. I’m not interested in using this as a vanity press. With this venture, I’m a publisher, not an author. I’m still submitting my short stories the same way I was before. When the rights revert, then I’ll put them up – but not before. I think it would be a conflict of interest for me to submit my own stories to an anthology I’m publishing. It would risk the chance of one of my stories not being the best they possibly could be.
3. Part of my purpose is to provide an alternative to the scammers and to illustrate what is good – and bad – about digital publishing. I want to make sure anthologies are able to survive – and this is one way to do all those things. So success for me is not measured solely in financial gain. That said, I saw a niche, assessed my options, and went for it.
4. I like doing it. I liked economics class. I like figuring things out. I like all this stuff. I like it better than my day job – which is always a good thing.

So I’m proud of The Crimson Pact, glad I’ve worked on it, and I’m looking forward to the next anthologies. I want to outcompete the scammers and provide more viable markets for short fiction. The authors who have stories in this anthology have proved they deserve it.

Yes, you can hire me to convert your story or novel to an eBook for you. I will help you get your self-published work online.

But I’d rather that you’d sell it to a publisher first.

And just maybe, that publisher will be me.


The Crimson Pact vowed to stop the demons of the Rusted Vale – but something went wrong. The demons invaded dozens of world across dimensions. These are the stories of the men and women who refuse to let the demons win. The Crimson Pact comes out 20 March 2011, with 26 stories in major eBook formats. You can read more about the anthology and buy your own copy at http://thecrimsonpact.com .

You can find out more about Steven Saus and his publishing ventures at his personal website http://stevesaus.com or at his business website Alliteration Ink.

One Response to “There be e-Dragons”

  1. Steven Saus Says:

    You can tell I need editing – my pronoun references are atrocious! 🙂

    Thanks for posting this, Princess Diva Extraordinaire!

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