My E-Publishing Journey

In his post Hey, It’s Read an E-book Week, George Angus mentioned that he is starting a new series to tell the stories of e-published authors. Though I responded to George, I decided my story was so long, it would be appropriate as a post during Read an E-Book Week.

My first novel was a romance novel about a woman who had a stroke. I got rejection after rejection saying that a romance couldn’t have a handicapped heroine. Finally, I was at a conference and had the chance to pitch my book to an editor for a big New York romance publisher. At the time I was still in a wheelchair as a result of my own stroke. The editor looked at my wheelchair, then looked me in the eye and said, “No one wants to read about a cripple.” At that point, I put the manuscript away and decided it would never be published, as I described in Is an E-Book a Real Book?

A year or so later, in the fall of 1999, a writer friend emailed me that she had heard of a new e-publisher who was seeking manuscripts featuring disabled central characters. This company was looking for exactly what everyone else told me was impossible.

I knew almost nothing about e-books back then. I had listened to a presentation by one of the first authors published by one of the new e-publishing companies, but I hadn’t bothered to learn any more. I had never seen an e-book when I submitted my story to a publisher I’d never heard of.

However, I was so excited that someone was interested in a handicapped heroine that I sent an email query as soon as I read my friend’s message. I got a response within a few minutes requesting the complete manuscript. In a couple of days, I had an offer of publication. Quite a difference from the response of traditional publishers.

Now, let me insert here that I don’t advise other people to jump into a publishing deal with as little due diligence (NONE) as I did. I was very fortunate to hook up with a good company, but that usually doesn’t happen.

The first e-book reader came out around the time my book was released. A group of e-book published authors did a book tour of Hastings electronic stores. Our books came on floppy disks in jewel cases, and we signed the insert in the jewel case. Most of our time was spent explaining what the disks were and demonstrating our Rocket readers.

“Yes, these little disks are really books.”

“Yes, you can read them on your computer. Or you can read them on this nifty device called a Rocket eBook reader.”

“No, they don’t smell like print books or look like print books or feel like print books—but they are books!”

I joined EPIC, an online organization to promote the e-publishing industry, and gave talks to local writers groups about e-publishing.

And we e-authors and e-publishers looked forward to the day when we wouldn’t have to explain what an e-book was, when people would know what an e-reader was.

We talked about e-books and we wrote about e-books, including the following posts I’ve written here on this blog:

Answers to a Writer’s Questions, Part 2: Children’s Book on CD
Answers to a Writer’s Questions, Part 3: Marketing a Children’s E-Book
Dream or Destiny and the Kindle
E-Books, Part 1: I read throughout a four-hour power outage(/a>E-Books, Part 2: Short Nonfiction (How-To) E-Books
E-Books, Part 3: Books from Electronic or Traditional Publishers
E-Books, Part 4: Electronic Reading Devices
Blog Action Day: Publishing and the Environment
Free E-Books for Read an E-Book Week 2009
Free E-Books for Read an E-Book Week 2010
More Free E-Books
The Growing E-Book Market
Read an E-Book Week
Read an E-Book Week 2
Read an E-Book Week Coming Soon
Read an E-Book Week Next Week
Reminder: Read an E-Book Week
Self-Publishing Primer: Part 13 – Do I need a Web site and should I make my book available as an e-book?
Sharing E-Books
What Will the Kindle Do for the E-Publishing Industry?

In the last post in the above list in late 2007, I said:

What I really like about the Kindle is the attention it is bringing to e-books. I believe that getting involved in the industry and Jeff Bezos personally promoting the product will have a positive impact on the future of e-publishing. No, I don’t expect e-books to replace print books soon (or ever, for that matter), but I do think many people who haven’t considered e-books will take a closer look because of all the attention the Kindle is getting.

My prediction has come to pass. Today Amazon sells more Kindle editions that paperback or hardcover books. When people see me reading on my Kindle, they don’t ask what it is—instead they tell me they have one or they want one or they’re thinking about getting one or they read e-books on a iPad or an iPhone or a Nook or a <insert the name of any of a variety of devices>.

My first novel is still available electronically—although from a different publisher; I have another novel available both in print and electronic formats; and I have self-published several e-books through Smashwords.

The big New York publishers are publishing e-books along with print books. Small e-publishers are publishing print books along with e-books.

Authors and readers have choices. Some books work well in either format. Others are more appropriate for one or the other. Beautiful art books, for example, work best in print. Books that are either very short (as my how-to e-books) or very long are better suited for e-books.  

The world of publishing is a lot different than it was when my first book was published electronically in 1999. I might call myself a pioneer in e-publishing, but then I look at Project Gutenberg and realize Michael Hart had created the first “e-book” twenty-eight years before my novel was released.

Share this!