Why Self-Publish an Ebook? “Ebooks are forever.”

Here’s the latest news in the world of e-book self-publishing: Bestselling thriller author Barry Eisler turned down his traditional publishers $500,000 contract for two books and will instead self-publish his next novel. After a bit of prompting from his daughter, he self-published a short story in the e-book market with great success. Now he is convinced he can write and sell more books–and make more money–sans a legacy publisher.

That’s big news for the publishing industry, because other authors will probably follow suit.

What’s it mean to you, the nonfiction author? It means you should take note of the trend. I wrote about how other writers are making a killing as self-published e-book authors recently. I encouraged you to consider this option then; I reiterate–consider self-publishing not only in print but also in e-book formats.

(I’m still working at getting my short books formatted and ready to upload…I’ll be contacting a cover designer next. You’ll see all my forthcoming books in e-book formats.)

I encourage you to read the great interview with Eisler conducted by best selling self-published e-book author Joe Konrath here.

When you have finished reading that very long piece, go on over to Mike Shatzkin’s blog and read this.  He mentions, “As news of Eisler’s decision spreads, phones will be ringing in literary agencies all over town with authors asking agents, ‘shouldn’t I be doing this?'” Good question. I think the answer is becoming more apparent.

Shatzkin points out several flaws in Eisler and Konrath’s thinking about e-book publishing, including focusing on Amazon alone. (Using Smashwords.com as a distributor solves that problem.) Additionally, focusing only on e-books to the exclusion of print books is a mistake, he says. Little mention is made in the interview of the use of CreateSpace, Lightning Source or author services companies.

I noticed a particular comment by Konrath that Shatzkin picked up on as well: He said self-publishing gives him more time to write. Eisler then points out that this “means that a writer’s best promoting tool is once again her writing.”

Eisler went on to say: “It’s amazing: for most of the history of publishing, outside a brief book tour and maybe a few public appearances throughout the year, a writer couldn’t do much to promote. Then the Internet happened, and writers had to do a tremendous amount of online promotion–blogs, social networking, chat rooms–to be competitive. Now, with digital books, once again there’s no more profitable use of an author’s time than writing. Not to say that authors don’t need to have a strong online presence; of course they do. But anytime you’re thinking about some other promotional activity–a blog post, a trip to a convention, an hour on Facebook–you have to measure the value of that time against the value of writing and publishing a new story. The new story earns money, both for itself and your other works. The social networking stuff doesn’t.”

Here I must respectfully disagree. It’s true that new stories or books posted as e-books make money, but by self-publishing you don’t necessarily have more time to write and you don’t need to spend less time promoting on line. Unless you can hire someone to help you with your online promotional efforts or you have the type of platform (built-in readership) these two authors have, you do, indeed, have to spend time (and lots of it) on book promotion. Without a large platform a book will not sell unless promoted. Plus, most writers spend a fair amount of time on other aspects of the self-publishing process–unless they have the money to have someone do this for them. (They have to format their manuscripts, work with designers, handle the uploads to Kindle or to a POD, buy ISBNs, etc.) So, how much extra time do they have for writing by opting to self-publish? To me that’s questionable. Doing so in e-book format, of course, eliminates the need for interior book design. That’s one less thing for an indie publisher who can’t afford support to do or worry about.

That said, Konrath and Eisler both expressed frustration about living with the long schedules and limitations of traditional publishing practices, which they feel take away from their writing time. With e-books they feel they can quickly monetize their work and produce one or two books per year. That’s a persuasive argument, which Shatzkin says publishers should note. Writers who have or have not ever worked with a traditional publisher will want to make not of this as well.

Also, as you try to decide which route you want to take with your book, here’s a tidbit to consider. With an e-book you don’t have to worry about your title getting shelf space in a store nor do you have to worry about bookstore returns. As Konrath says: “First, a virtual shelf is infinite. In a bookstore, they have a limited amount of space…Second, virtual shelf life is forever. …ebooks are forever.”

If you still want more information on this topic, listen to Joanna Penn interview best-selling Kindle author L.J. Sellers.


  1. Thank-you! This is really great stuff!


  1. […] recently published several posts about indie e-book publishing here, here, and here. Seems lots of authors–mostly novelists–are making big money selling […]

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