Busting the Myths of Digital Publishing (Again)

Hi Folks,

Well, this is yet one more updated version of a post I’ve published before. Busting the Myths of Digital Publishing doesn’t really become dated because the myths persist. There seem always to be new writers who have the wrong information about digital (ebook) publishing.

And frankly, unfortunately, a lot of writers who’ve been at it awhile also have wrong information about digital publishing. As I write this, I just met with a bunch of them yesterday. This will help you understand and clear away some misconceptions and outright myths.

You won’t be surprised to learn that much of the misinformation about digital publishing comes from traditional publishers. That’s even understandable to some degree.

But unfortunately a lot of the misinformation comes from other writers, especially those who continue to insist on pursuing an agent and a traditional publishing contract. That’s very sad.

Consider, hiring an agent, especially today in this bright new world of indie publishing, is exactly like giving the kid down the block 15% (or more) ownership in your home for mowing your lawn every now and then.

You’re giving an agent 15% of your property (your royalties) for the life of your copyright, which is your lifetime plus 70 years. And you’re giving a traditional publisher 80% plus of your royalties for the same amount of time. It’s a bad deal, folks.

Especially when you could be keeping 70% to 80% of the royalties to yourself, where they belong.

Here are the more prevalent myths about digital publishing.

  • I have to format my work as a .mobi or .epub file before I can send it to Amazon or Barnes & Noble (or Smashwords or Draft2Digital).
    • Wrong. You can send your properly formatted Word .doc to Draft2Digital and Smashwords and Amazon and Barnes & Noble.
    • I recommend allowing Draft2Digital to distribute your work to everyone except Amazon, but that’s up to you.
    • Amazon converts your Word .doc into a Kindle (.mobi) file, and Draft2Digital and Smashwords both convert your Word .doc into several eformats and then distribute it to several bookstores.
    • If you’d like to try to do it yourself, you can download my ebook, The Essentials of Digital Publishing, free on the dowloads tab on my website or by clicking the title link. Note that some parts of it are out of date. Nonetheless, most of the information is valid. If you’d rather write and let someone else do the formatting for you, email me for recommendations.
  • Amazon is the best place to sell ebooks.
    • Maybe, but it isn’t the ONLY place to sell ebooks. If your book were available only in paper, would you want it in only one bookstore to the exclusion of all others? Not me.
    • My titles are available in over 100 markets worldwide, and most of them are not Amazon.
  • My electronic book has to have an ISBN.
    • In some venues, yes, it does. In others (notably, Amazon and B&N) no, it doesn’t.
    • Either way, YOU don’t have to buy an ISBN or a list of them. Both Draft2Digital and Smashwords provides an ISBN free of charge for your book.
  • Ebooks are a passing fad.
    • Uhhh, no. When I first published this post back in 2011, over 20% of American households had at least one dedicated ereader. Dedicated ereaders are actual Kindle or Nook readers, iPads, and the various tablets.
    • As of January 2014 according to the Pew Research Center, fully HALF of American adults (not households) owned a tablet or dedicated e-reader.
    • That doesn’t include Kindle- or Nook- or Apple-enabled telephones or computers that can read PDF files through Adobe Acrobat Reader, and it doesn’t include the free ereaders you can download to your PC or Mac. (See the left column on my website, scroll down to Free.)
    • Way back in 2011 Amazon announced that ebook sales had surpassed paper book sales for the first time in its history.
    • My own work has been published in three ways: traditionally, through POD, and now in ebooks. I have sold more copies and made a lot more money since January 2011 than I made on all of my paper book sales since the mid-’90s.
  • I have to wait for my publisher to publish my book first, or my publisher doesn’t publish ebooks.
    • Wrong. Simply retain all ebook rights (all electronic rights) and publish the ebook version yourself. (If you do allow your publisher to publish the digital version as well, I recommend you negotiate for at least 50% of the royalties on ebook sales, and be sure it’s in your contract.)
    • What’s much better is to self-publish (indie publish) and keep the net royalties to yourself.
  • I’ll have to do all the marketing myself.
    • Okay, yes. But you have to do all the marketing yourself even with a traditional publisher unless you’re Stephen King. And you aren’t.
  • I can’t get my ebooks into brick & mortar bookstores, and I can’t sign my ebooks or sell them at book fairs.
    • Wrong. For details, see Dean Wesley Smith’s website. In fact, I recommend you buy his Think Like a Publisher book. It’s available in all ebook venues, and in print as well.
  • Ebook selling prices are low compared with paper books.
    • This is just ludicrous. Yes, ebooks usually cost less than paper books, but there’s a lot less overhead involved in creating them.
    • PLUS the royalty rate is much higher for ebooks.
    • Even if you get a whopping 10% royalty on your print book, for every $14.95 sale you’ll make only $1.49. On the other hand, for every $5.99 ebook sale, you’ll make $4.67 (78%) royalty. (Those are the actual prices and royalty rates of my book, Writing Realistic Dialogue & Flash Fiction, in paper and in eformat.)
    • Look, when I sold 100 paper copies, I earned $149. Then I had to deduct the cost of gas and the hours of standing around at book fairs, etc. trying to sell them. When I sold 100 ebook copies, I earned $467. Then I had to deduct the cost of about two hours per week online in the comfort of my own desk chair. Get the point?
  • You have to have a dedicated ereader to read ebooks from Amazon or Barnes & Noble.
    • Wrong. You can download a free ereader for your PC or Mac so you can read .mobi (Amazon Kindle) files and .epub (Apple and B&N Nook) files right on your computer.
    • Again, see the left column on my website, and scroll down to Free.
    • Oh, and if you shop at Smashwords, you can download your purchases as Kindle, Nook or even PDF files.
  • But I like “real” books. I like the feel of the paper, the smell of the ink.
    • Shrug. Okay. So do I. But I’m not talking to you right now as a reader. I’m talking to you as a writer and publisher.
    • As a Reader, if you want to read only “real” paper books, pay more for them and lug them around, that’s fine. I have books out there in paper. I hope you’ll buy them and enjoy them.
    • But as a Writer, if you want to reach a much larger audience and provide your books in the format those readers are looking for, you need to get with the digital publishing revolution.
    • I personally love the smell and feel of a paper book in my hands, but I probably won’t ever buy another paper or hardback book. I’ve become addicted to my ereader, and I’ve become especially addicted to having literally thousands of books in my hand. I can open and read any of them at any time, yet the whole device weighs less than a standard paperback novel.

and the biggest myth of all is an outright lie perpetrated by Big Publishing…

  • Ebooks are not nearly as good quality as print books.
    • Wrong. This is an outright lie.
    • As is most often the case, the truth is simple: Poor writing leads to a bad book, whether it’s traditionally or independently published as an ebook. Quality writing plus quality layout and design leads to a quality book, whether it’s traditionally or independently published.

For more about epublishing, visit my Free Downloads page and get the Quick Guide to Self-Publishing and FAQs.

‘Til next time, happy writing,


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2 thoughts on “Busting the Myths of Digital Publishing (Again)”

  1. Thanks for clarifying and busting the myths, Harvey. I will pass this on to one of my PWP friends who has started looking for a publisher for her first book.

    • Good idea, Ronny, but don’t expect those you tell to listen. The myths run deep. I also recommend the website of Dean Wesley Smith. He has over 17 million books in print through traditional publishing and HE speaks out against traditional publishing and in favor of indie publishing as well. But most writers don’t listen to him either. Somehow they think their English teacher knows more about writing and publishing fiction, despite the fact that person has published little or no fiction. Shrug. Go figure.

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