Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Ebook Revolution

Tim Hallinan prompted a raft of comments when he wrote a post for Murder is Everywhere a day or two ago, praising what the ebook has done for authors. Tim pointed out how he has put up some of his old books for the Kindle, books the publisher let go out of print, and plans to release in electronic format some new books publishers were less-than-enthusiastic about.

I'm thinking of doing the same with two or three thrillers I wrote before landing a publisher for my first Greg McKenzie mystery. At least a couple of them were spoken of favorably by publishers before being turned down.

All six of my current mysteries are now available for the Kindle at $2.99. I've put the last two on Smashwords, which makes them available in various e-book formats, and plan to upload the others soon. I get 70 percent of the sales, which gives me a little more than the standard royalty on a paperback. Of course, I don't have a following like Tim Hallinan, who sells about 1,000 ebooks a month. But half a hundred isn't bad and should add  up to more than a thousand bucks in a year. Hopefully my sales will improve, and if I get a few more on my Amazon page, it should cover the cost of attending a couple of conferences.

One of Tim's blogging partners, Stan Trollip (half of Michael Stanley), decried the long-term effect of books going electronic. He talked of fondly remembering times when he opened his grandfather's bookcase and browsed its impressive contents. I sympathize with him. A faded wooden bookcase with artfully decorated glass doors stands against one wall of my office. It opens with an old hollowed-out metal key. It contains some of my own books, plus ones handed down in the family. Pulling out one at random, I hold a thick volume titled The Mentor, Serials 73-96. A little more battered are volumes with Serials 49-72 and 97-120.

These came from my history-teacher aunt who died some years back at age ninety-six. The Mentor was a weekly publication of  The Mentor Association in New York City. Serial 73 is dated December 15, 1914. An early issue of the publication contained this statement:

"The object of The Mentor Association is to enable people to acquire useful knowledge without effort, so that they may come easily and agreeably to know the world's great men and women, the great achievements, and the permanently interesting things in art, literature, science, history. nature and travel."

Serial No. 73 is devoted to Charles Dickens. Printed on heavy stock, it contains beautifully rendered intaglio-gravure pictures illustrating Dickens' characters. The next issue covers Greek masterpieces, with full-page pictures of various sculptures, including one I saw on a visit to the Louvre, Venus of Melos. Following this came an issue devoted to Fathers of the Constitution.

I have my doubts that any e-reader will ever have the impact of turning the pages in this vintage volume. I hope our libraries will continue to provide sanctuary for bound books both old and new. But I think coming generations will depend more on electronic reproductions of books read for entertainment. I intend to contribute my share of ebook fiction to the cause.


Sheila Deeth said...

You brought back memories of sitting by the bookshelf on my aunt's floor, browsing shelf after shelf of Readers' Digest condensed books. There's many a good book I read first in condensed form as I was growing up, and probably many that I'll read in eBook form now. But there's nothing quite like the real thing.

Beth Terrell said...

I have a Kindle, and I like it well enough, but I love a real book. I'm not sure why, but I find it easier to put down a Kindle edition, even if it's a book I know I would read straight through if it were a hard copy.

And I LOVE a beautiful, leather-bound book, especially the kind with gilt edges.

Anonymous said...

Good luck with your Kindle books. Just keep the price down and get the word out and you should do very well.

Hmmm ... speaking of Tim Hallinan, his latest newsletter talks about the terrible adverb. He quotes somebody, Mark Twain I think, who advised using the word "damn" instead of "very" because an editor would strike it out with no damage done.

So, Chester, just keep the price down and get the word out, and you should do damn well.

Pat Browning