Monday, November 14, 2011

What I Saw at the E-Pub Revolution

You say you want a revolution? Well, you know…writers are in the midst of one. It's the e-pub revolution and it's changing the publishing landscape like a glacier traveling at Mach 1. Get with it or get out of the way.

Because I'm a writer, and not a publisher or a literary agent, I think this brave new world looks promising, if not actually the Promised Land. We have stormed the gates and the gatekeepers are retreating. A rout may be coming.

Here's why. A recent writers' conference featured a literary agent named Anita. A blogger reported this: "Anita said her agency receives 100 queries a day (minus holidays), 35,000 queries a year. Only 952 sample page sets went to the next round. 85 full manuscripts were requested and six new clients were signed – these are 2010 numbers."

Let's recap: That's thirty-five thousand hopeful book authors winnowed to six. Six. Those are some daunting odds. I have one chance in 10,000 of being struck by lightning sometime in my life, according to the National Weather Service. What are my odds of getting an agent?

And that's just to get an agent. That agent still has to convince a publishing house to buy the manuscript, and it is entirely possible that some of those six lucky authors will not actually sell their book.

That once was the end of the story. A manuscript begun with hope and finished with innumerable hours of hard work ends up in a drawer. Come the revolution, and those other 34,994 authors head over to or or any of a number of other sites, format their manuscript for the varying e-book readers and, voilà, they're published. Calloo, callay!

That's the good news, and it is really wonderful, luminous, joyous news. The thorn in this particular rosebush is DIY marketing. I don't know how many writers could be labeled "introverted," but I'm pretty sure it's not a small percentage. I remember the terror of selling Girl Scout cookies. I don't look forward to peddling my humble novel.

Then there's the real snake in the e-pub Garden of Eden. Remember those gatekeepers we defeated to usher in the dawn of publishing freedom? Well, their main function may have been to trample the hopes and dreams of writers, but on the side they did some good. Some of those manuscripts they rejected should have gone straight from the printer to the shredder, for the good of the reading public and the author, too.

I recently bought an e-book for not much money (I'm cheap) and found that I had bought a book that needed an editor in the worst way. It was written by a retired homicide detective, which was enough for me to click "Buy." The inside scoop on murder investigations—that's a must-read for me.

Here's the first sentence: "The apartment building stood quietly on a small knoll where a clove of trees sauntered with the cool spring breeze stirring the night’s air."

Oh, my. Whatever a clove of trees is, I really doubt it saunters. And that was this guy's all-important, this-is-my-very-best-writing first sentence. Someday I may get beyond the sauntering clove of trees and find out if there is a story in there somewhere. But not yet.

I'm busy reviewing my manuscript for sauntering tree cloves. When I take the e-pub plunge, I don't want to end up in someone else's cranky language blog.


  1. What's the going per-word rate these days for a free-lance editor to work on a manuscript? I have two ideas for non-fiction that I'm willing to self-publish.

  2. I'm not there yet, so I don't have an answer pinned down, except that it's expensive. What I've seen is all over the map (and depending on if they're proofreading or line editing). Some quote hourly rates and others a page rate that can be as much as $10-15.

    Writer's Digest has a service that is $3 a page, but I don't know what that covers. Check it out:

  3. Lucy, frightening, isn't it? Love those sauntering trees. Back in my younger days I enjoyed escaping with Danielle Steele until she had a turkey happily baking in the oven. :) I still can't figure out what that turkey was so happy about.

    Anita clarified that the manuscripts are rejected for a good number of reasons: might be the wrong genre, and they reject if the query reads like a text message. Second time I've heard THAT complaint at a conference so it must be true.

    Epublishing scares me. Makes me feel incredibly vulnerable--I guess because I don't have NY standing behind me (or in front of me) but I'm considering it too.

  4. In some ways, if HE got someone to buy his book, there's hope for those that actually CAN write.

    Right? At any rate, I love the hopeful tone of this post. I've much to learn about getting content out there in epub and other e-formats.