A Publishers Insight Into the Wild Ride of Electronic Publishing


William R. Brennan

Publisher of Book-On-Disc.com

Have you ever road on one of those old roller coasters? On the way up it is a slow, grinding journey, but one where the excitements builds and grows until you are gripping that handle bar with all your strength for the whisssssssh down over the top, Eiahhhhhhhhhh, to the ground belowwwww! This is Electronic Publishing, only the excitement of the ride never ends!

The possibilities of publishing through an electronic medium came during my wife's efforts to be published. The more she submitted the higher the frustration level. It became apparent her work would never fit the restrictions of the publishing houses. Creativity seemed a thing of the past, an unwanted quantity. And yet, readers were crying for new voices, they didn't want to read the same thing over and over. It didn't make sense that editors were apologizing for the guidelines that forbade them from accepting her work. Worse, was realizing she wasn't the only writer facing this dilemma; change the story to fit or don't get published. Call it stubbornness if you like, but this wasn't an option. The prospect of reaching readers became a huge obstacle.

The World Wide Web proved to be the prefect opportunity to get Jewel's books to readers. For a Christmas present I developed a website. Excerpts of her novels were placed on the site and an email program was established to send out installments of her novels, for free, to readers that signed up for a book. Hundreds of readers took advantage of this program.

The experience led to actually publishing through the web. Book-On-Disc.Com developed as a way for an author, who wrote a little different than the "so called" norm, could become published. Different is not to be confused with unworthy, the writing must still be first class. Yes, there are edits, though "review process" is the preferred classification. The review is geared more from the reader's response to the book, while grammar, pacing, POV changes, scene transitions, plot and character development and more are all part of the process. Book-On-Disc.Com will work with the author to make their book the best possible story. Book-On-Disc.Com believes very strongly in recognizing the author's voice/writing style and tries not to interfere with this voice in any manner; the author always has the last say on editing suggestions. Book length and crossing genre lines are one of the freedoms an author can find in electronic publishing. But, they should keep "print guidelines" in mind if they plan on pursuing this market as well as electronic publishing.

Yes, that is right, Book-On-Disc.Com only contracts for electronic rights, not print. An author can still pursue print publishing. Just as Book-On-Disc.Com believes downloads or File Transfers through email are fine, but they aren't the where-for-all of Electronic Publishing. CD-ROMs, 3.5 Diskettes and Audio CDs are also viable mediums. The authors and readers need something to hold, touch and see, and Book-On-Disc.Com listens to their demands. CD-ROMs have become the main thrust of Book-On-Disc.Com's publishing program. In order to reach the majority of readers, all Book-On-Disc.Com's publishing methods (CD-ROMs, 3.5 Diskettes and File Transfers) come in three file formats: Adobe PDF, Internet HTML and Rich Text/RTF for word processors. This enables a novel released by Book-On-Disc.Com to be read without the purchase of any additional hardware, so anyone can read an electronic book. A reader only needs their PC or Laptop to read Book-On-Disc.Com's novels. Should a person own a hand held reader, they can convert the book files to their reader through software programs supplied by the reader's manufacture.

Another illusion concerning electronic publishing is the falsity that it doesn't cost anything to publish electronically. If this were the case the major print publishers would certainly be a prominent presence in this new publishing method. Next time you visit a large computer outlet take the time to price out the equipment necessary just to create a CD-ROM. Don't be skimpy now, be sure to buy the computer first, then add all the additional equipment and software, and materials. Oh, and don't forget to make sure you have the absolute biggest hard drive. I've filled up two computers and I'm working on the third. And I should warn you that once you take all that stuff and set it up, it will probably be out of date in a week.

The next peak to climb is marketing the novel now that it is published. This is probably the steepest of all the hills in Electronic Publishing. I spent a lot of time with R.R. Bowker's staff to implement the inclusion of electronic books in the BIP sent out to all retailers. October is the first month ISBN designations for electronic book formats have been recognized and published in R.R. Bowker's Books In Print/BIP. All retailers use this book to purchase stock to sell in their stores. Without the ISBN in BIP a publisher or author can not sell their books to retailers. In order to educate the reading public about "all" of the electronic mediums a book can come in, the books have to be available to the public off the net as well as on.

Saying is not doing, and once again Electronic Publishing must struggle against the "so called" normal way of doing things. Electronic publishing is an author driven endeavor due to the semantics of the medium and the "physical" aspects of the net. The only difference between the two publishing methods is the binding involved, one is paper the other is electronic. Authors need to promote themselves and their releases in the same manner that they would a print bound book; and more, due to the new medium of electronic binding and the public's knowledge or lack of knowledge of this new and exciting manner that they can purchase a book.

Marketing is a steep hill and takes a lot of stamina to reach the crest. It is happening, right now, just ask Carol Givner Book-On-Disc.Com's Best Selling Author for her book on CD-ROM, "Bing, Bang, Boom". Carol is a leader that authors should look to as an example of a star. She didn't receive the honor of being second Best Seller of "all" Electronic Book Sales of 1999, in eBook Connections Best Seller Listing by not promoting herself. She has worked hard for this designation and it is only the beginning.

As an Electronic Publisher the learning curve is constantly changing. A watchful eye must be kept on new software, new equipment or new ways of getting the book to the public. A new product is not always the answer; a publisher would be foolish not to weight the worth of taking on a new venture. There have been numerous changes since Book-On-Disc.Com opened the site in March 1999. Most have been news worthy but not viable. Too much bad press has occurred from some major players, which is dragging like a brake on the Electronic Publishing coaster ride. Eventually the press will see where the real publishing is taking place and recognize electronic books for their true worth because we are here to stay!

[Editor's Note]

Web sites of interest:

Inkspot Epublishing Forum

Lida Quillen's list of e-publishers


Author Bio



Copyright © 1999 William R. Brennan. All rights reserved. Published by permission of the author.
This page last updated 10-20-99.

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