Print versus Online Publishing

I always say that it’s about the story, not about making money. And when writing, yes, that’s absolutely true. But once the piece is written, I do want to make money out of it. There are three general ways to get your book to make money. One: self-publish and sell it yourself, whether vanity or POD or any other method. Perhaps we’ll talk about that some other day; it’s not a route I plan to go. Two: online publishing through e-books, with or without handheld reader format, with an online publisher, which usually pays in royalty cuts only. Three: traditional print publication, with advance and then royalties if you sell enough.

Okay, I’m soooo not qualified to speak on this topic. But here’s what I’ve seen and thought and heard in my very small range of experience with it.

I seem to have this strong feeling that I won’t make any money with online publishing (ironic, since that’s the only place I’m published) and that my future is with traditional publishing. I am really beginning to think that this is a problem with my attitude, not with online publishing. It’s true, a large advance is probably better than a larger cut of the royalties, in terms of concentrating the money in one place. But in the long run, it may well come out the same.

Many say there’s no substitute for paper books. I agree—there’s no substitute yet, anyway. I want to read while I eat, in the bath, or lying down, and need to hold the book in one hand. The Amazon Kindle is probably the best substitute on the market so far (disagree at will) but it will not let me do that. However, it may very well serve as an addition to paper books. Especially since many, many books are now being published that don’t expect to ever BE paper books.

When I got published online, I was startled to discover that I was expected to support the book like a mad thing, promoting like crazy, expending way more time on sales activities than I ever did to write the thing. I thought, gee, you don’t have to do that for a print book. But I have since learned that, again, that’s a problem with my attitude. In fact, print books need just as much post-publication care and promotion on the part of the author (or at least, that seems to be the general consensus, although some professional authors disagree).

So what is best? I think, in the long run, I’m going to try for both. And someday, maybe, writing will allow me to afford a Kindle. 🙂

Here are some people who really DO know what they’re talking about, on this subject.

Orson Scott Card – a very cogent viewpoint
Holly Lisle – from a longterm professional
Eleanor Wood – the state of publishing 10 years ago
Jim Farris – for a really depressing picture of both sides of this argument
Lida Quillen – a look from the publisher’s side


4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Mike Cane
    Oct 08, 2008 @ 09:52:12

  2. asherose
    Oct 08, 2008 @ 15:23:03

    Yeah, I’ve heard good things about that one too… well, it’s a bit early for me to start shopping, alas. 🙂

  3. Tracy Cooper-Posey
    Oct 09, 2008 @ 09:27:04

    Hi Kathleen:

    The delineation between print, POD and e-books as not quite as cut and dried as you’ve painted it. And these are not your only options, either. For instance, I just sold two books to a publisher that will distribute them as cellphone books.

    And you don’t have to settle for just one publishing strategy, either.

    However, *what* you write will have a major influence on where and how you publish it.

    On one thing, you are correct: No matter how your story is published, you will be responsible for marketing it and yourself, and building your own platform. And if you want any sort of longevity in the fiction publishing industry, you’ll learn how to marketing yourself well.

    I have posted a (very long!) article on the different styles of publication on my blog, Anchored Authors. The article, “Publishing Terms, POD, and the Amazon ‘Thing’” can be found here:



  4. asherose
    Oct 09, 2008 @ 13:29:01

    Thanks, Tracy. I appreciate the information. I tended to lump all the different forms of e-books in together, it’s true. I understand a lot of them really are available on your cell phone! Congratulations on your publications, too. 🙂

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