Thursday, October 11, 2007

Dispelling Two E-Publishing Myths

Taking a short break from the packing of endless boxes to comment on something I read on The Rejecter's blog. It referenced (rather snidely, in my opinion) that e-publishing is sub-standard to print publishing because it's easier to get accepted by an epub and it's made up mainly of writers who could never get published any other way. She specifically referred to the romance genre as being especially easy.

Now, I'll grant you that there are a bazillion epubs out there - but to lump them all together is a gross mistake. It's also a mistake to assume that epubbed authors are somehow less skilled, less talented, and less of a writer than those who write for the big houses.

And yes, of course, there are epubs out there who will take on any and all submissions - just as there are certain "traditional" houses who will do the same **cough** PublishAmerica **cough**.

But there are also quite a few legitimate epublishers and some are as difficult to break into as the big boys in New York. Ellora's Cave, The Wild Rose Press, Samhain, and Loose Id are highly respected in the print world as well as the epublishing world. Ellora's Cave, Samhain, and Loose Id authors who were published before RWA revised their recognition guidelines were eligible for RWA's PAN membership. Those who were contracted after the guideline change are still eligible if they meet the new criteria. RWA acknowledges these publishers as legitimate publishers, making their books eligible for RWA's Rita Award - which is a big deal in the romance novel business.

Believe me, it is not necessarily easier to break into one of these houses either. They have standards that are just as tough as the print houses in NY. Submissions go through certain processes before they are either accepted or rejected. They are - in publishing terms - vetted - just as they are in NY. If a manuscript doesn't meet an epub's criteria - a legitimate epublisher, that is - it is rejected. Sometimes a personal rejection is offered, sometimes it comes as a form rejection.

I write for both Wild Rose and Samhain, and I can tell you from experience that the editing on my books has been intense. When I've finished edits, there is more red on the computer screen than I ever though possible. However, in the end, the book is that much better for it. To say that those books are substandard simply because they are published by an epublisher is an insult to me, as the writer, and to the editors who put so much work into those books. To say neither I nor my editors work as hard as the writers and editors at, say, Kensington, is an insult as well.

Epublishing has grown, expanding into print as well. Books from Ellora's Cave and their mainstream imprint, Cerridwen, are now found in the brick and mortar stores, stocked on the shelves alongside Avon, Kensington, and Dorchester books. Samhain titles are found in Waldenbooks and Borders brick-and-mortars. Yep - these substandard, easy-to-write, nothing-but-poorly-edited-and-lacking-proper-grammar books are being shelved and being sold in bookstores. Hmm... I guess someone didn't tell these stores that they were stocking second-rate books in on their shelves.

For years, probably since the first romance novel itself, people have looked down their noses as romances in general. They are dismissed as "garbage", "read only by lonely housewives," "chick porn" (this one's my personal favorite.) It's been suggested that romance novels are terrible for women because they foster unrealistic hopes and dreams where love is concerned - as if a woman isn't smart enough to figure out that it's a freakin' book. And of course, the old "anyone can write a romance novel." Really?? I know plenty of writers who've received rejections on their romance manuscripts (not that they were necessarily terrible books - but were rejected for a variety of reasons). I guess no one told them how easy it is to have a romance published.

As for those who sneer at romance, ponder this: romance has generated $1.4 billion in sales each year and makes up over a quarter of total book sales each year. That's a lot of books right there. And those who see it as the daydreams of a bored housewife should only see what goes into writing one of those "silly" romance novels. I've spent hours in the library doing research, I've emailed total strangers in order to learn about such things as the processing of sugar, I've taken page after page of notes in order to use one snippet of the information I've learned. The state of my office can attest to what goes into writing one of those trashy, trained-monkey-can-write-it romance novels. And plenty of authors are laughing all the way to the bank (pardon the cliche).

So, don't make the mistake of thinking that, just because it's an epublisher's name on the book's spine, that it's a second-rate read. Or a third rate read because it's romance. Do your research if you're submitting - there's plenty of reliable information out there on which publishers are legit and which aren't. And if you're reading, remember, it's the story that's the most important aspect, not necessarily which publisher's name is imprinted on the cover.


Anonymous said...

You tell 'em!

They won't listen, 'cause they're too busy reading their "literary" books, but you tell 'em anyway! :)

Seriously, you make a good point, especially your last comment about story being the most important part of any book. While having a recognizable publisher's name on the print spine doesn't hurt, the reality is, most readers look for the authors he or she enjoys and only a few even notice who the publisher is.

In the ebook world, that's a bit different as many of the readers purchase their books directly from the publisher's site. There, breaking into one of the "big boys" of e-publishing (or should I say "hot mamas"?) helps a GREAT deal.

Good points!

Diana Hunter (who doesn't mean to publish anonomously, but whose firewall is a pain in the...backside)

Kim said...

I absolutely agree - one of my favorite writers switched publishers and I didn't notice until I looked up one of her books! =)

john said...

I agree with you. Most of the publishers are focusing on digitization of their print publications and this is the emerging trend. Recently I saw a website provides the digitization services for print publications. Those publishers not having digital editions for their print publications can use the services of in order to increase their circulations.