"E-Publishing: Wave of the Future?" with Diane Kirkle

Thursday, April 4, 2002

Moderator is Kristi Holl, web editor of this site and author of 24 books for children and teens, plus l50+ articles for adults and children. Kristi also taught writing courses for fifteen years.

Diane is award-winning Diane Kirkle. Her books include A CADUCEUS IS FOR KILLING (EPPIE 2000 Award for Best Thriller Novel), SONG OF ISIS (2000 Spectrum Winner), and SEX, LIES AND RODEO GAMES (with Wings ePress).

Names in blue are viewers who had questions.

Interviews in the Professional Connection room begin at 9 Atlantic/Canada, 8 Eastern, 7 Central, 6 Mountain, and 5 Pacific.

Moderator: Good evening, everyone! I'm Kristi Holl, your moderator for this evening, and tonight I'm pleased to have with me Diane Kirkle, who is going to speak on the topic of "E-Publishing: Wave of the Future?" Since e-books sold better last year than expected, authors are taking a renewed interest in publishing online, but the world of e-publishing is vastly different from traditional print publishing. Diane has experience with e-publishing and is willing to share her expertise with us tonight. Welcome, Diane!

Diane: Thanks, Kristi, I'm happy to be here!

Moderator: First, to start us off, what is e-publishing?

Diane: To put it loosely, e-publishing is publication in digital format either on the Internet, on disk, downloads, CDs, or paperback and audio.

Moderator: Is e-publishing the same as vanity or subsidy publishing?

Diane: No. It is often confused with vanity or subsidy publishing. E-publishing is the act of publishing a book or article electronically. Subsidy or Vanity publishing is where the author pays a third party to act as publisher.

Moderator: Since you can self-publish an e-book, how do you know which e-publishers are subsidy ones?

Diane: That's easy. If the publisher in question charges you for any of the services of publishing or editing your book, then it is considered vanity or subsidy published.

Moderator: Can you give a couple names of e-publishers and where to find them online?

Diane: Of course, I'll mention my publisher, Hard Shell Word Factory This is a well respected publisher with the highest standards and it's books--including mine :-)--have won many awards including the EPPIE. Due to the vast number of submissions, however (Hard Shell receives several hundred queries per month), the response time is not as fast as the beginning. About three to six months.

Kevin: Are there other e-publishers you can recommend?

Diane: Yes, Disc-US Books is another one at

dickman: How do customers access materials that have been e-published?

Diane: These materials can be accessed via web bookstores, barnes &,, online bookstores and from the publisher sites. You can actually get the best deal purchasing books from the publisher sites. The Trade Paperbacks can be ordered and purchased at any bookstore in the United States.

dickman: I do not understand; do the web bookstores then send you a hard copy of the material or what?

Diane: It depends upon what you order. If you have one of the hand-held readers i.e., Rocket e-book, palm pilot, Gemstar reader, Compaq IPaq, then the materials can be downloaded from the publisher's site to the reader's computer or in the case of the Gemstar, right into the reader via a telephone modem--no computer is needed. Paperbacks are sent via snail mail.

Kevin: Why do people give away so many e-books? Doesn't that defeat the purpose of making money at it?

Diane: Most of the books that are given away are usually the self-published ones. Or an author may decide to give away a book to garner future sales. When an author is unknown, the only way you can get a reader following is to sometimes lure a reader in by giving away books. However, most of the books that are given away are self-published.

gt: What's in it for the e-publisher if the writer isn't paying for the service?

Diane: The e-publisher sells books just like a brick and mortar store. They get the profits, the author gets a royalty just like paper published authors. There is one difference however: Royalties are paid to authors each quarter instead of 18 months after publication like paper publishers do.

Moderator: How does e-publishing differ from traditional publishing?

Diane: There are really only a few differences and this surprises many people. Books are purchased after submission via e-mail rather than snail mail. After acceptance, the book is edited (by an editor and copy editor) just like paper publications, and then it is formatted by the publisher (for the many different formats that e-books come in) and a cover is designed and drawn by an artist paid by the publisher and the final product is made available for publication only when it is ready.

Moderator: Is it difficult to format an e-book to submit? Do you format in PDF format, or with the imbedded links you find in many nonfiction e-books?

Diane: I don't really know anything about the formatting because I simply write the book using my word processing program, i.e., Word Perfect or Microsoft Word. The publisher formats the books in whatever formats are made available for sale. From .prc for palm to gemstar editions, to paper, to disc i.e., rich text format. All this is done (and the expense paid) by the publisher, not the author, exactly the same way New York traditional publishers do it.

zoie: What does PDF stand for?

Diane: I think it is Portable Document Format. PDF is usually what you will need to have an Adobe reader (free) to read it.

Moderator: Do you ever design your own cover too, or do e-publishers have artists they use, like the print publishers do?

Diane: Not unless you are an artist and want to. My publisher designed all my covers with the exception of my horror anthology. I wanted to take a stab at that. The cover of my book Don't Close Your Eyes won #8 on the Preditor and Editors' best artist reader's poll of 2002. But it's entirely up to the publisher if they will allow you to do your art.

Moderator: To clear up some confusion, do you submit online in an e-mail (an attachment) or send them a disk or what?

Diane: Most of the time, you would query with an e-mail. Then, if they respond favorably to the query, you would send the entire manuscript by e-mail attachment. It's so easy, I'm too spoiled to submit via snail mail.

Moderator: Is it safe to be submitting whole manuscripts through e-mail? Is theft of your manuscript a concern?

Diane: No. This is the same fear that many amateurs have when joining a critique group. They are afraid that someone in the group will steal their work. This truly only happens in the movies and yes, there are exceptions. But, most of the time, pirates are looking for numbers to steal i.e., credit cards, not words.

tugboat_44: Would you suggest the new author go with e-publishing first? Is it a better place to start?

Diane: Not necessarily. You should research submitting to an electronic publisher exactly the same way you would research submitting to a paper publisher. Read what they have to sell. See if your writing is a good fit. If you like what you read and think you would be happy with that particular publisher, then go for it. The electronic market is beginning to become just as tight as the paper market is. It's still easier to get published electronically, but not as easy as it was in the mid-nineties. I have two good resources for you if you're interested in e-publishing. These books are paper books. 2002 Edition Electronic Publishing: the Definitive Guide by Karen S. Wiesner. I think it costs $12.95 and is available from Avid Press Then there is the Writer's Digest Book Club book, How to Get Your E-book Published by Richard Curtis. I think the first book by Karen Weisner is more realistic than the second. Karen has been e-published for several years, and Richard Curtis is an agent who saw a new medium and was actually a detractor in the beginning.

Moderator: Good resources! Diane, what is the response time from e-publishers? You said Hardshell was 3-6 months. How about the others?

Diane: Many of the more established publishers, like Fiction Works, New Concepts, Awe Struck, have slow turn around times similar to Hard Shell. There are quite a few new startups out there, and the response time will be less, but so will the sales. Oh, I need to mention my other publisher who has downloads and paperbacks, Wings ePress, They are fairly new, but have an excellent staff of editors and copyeditors and the turn around time is shorter.

Moderator: Are e-publishing contracts "standard," or do they differ from e-publisher to e-publisher?

Diane: They do differ from publisher to publisher, however, the EPIC organization (Electronically Published Internet Connection) has a sample model contract available for anyone to see. It's at their website and I think it is

58:02 Moderator: Great! Are publishers' contracts posted online so you can study them before submitting to them?

Diane: Most reputable e-publishers have sample contracts online where you can view them. Karen Weisner's book has a complete compendium of current publishers (I think it's over 100) and lots of other fantastic information about e-publishing. Anyone interested should read her book first before going further to publish. I don't get a kickback (I wish I did) it's just good information.

Moderator: Do e-publishers buy all rights, or just e-rights, or no rights at all?

Diane: Rights are another area that authors should learn about. Reputable electronic publishers only buy the right to sell the book electronically. All other rights are retained by the author. In my case, I have Murder in Musicland published electronically in different formats, published in audio by another publisher, and soon to be in paperback by another publisher. My Diana Hart Wyoming Books are published in paper by an English publisher and in paper by an American publisher. I also had Samuel Goldwyn Films ask to read the novel, Murder in Musicland, with possible film options. I have an agent handling that one.

Moderator: How long is the contract period for with an e-publisher?

Diane: Usually, it is for one year, with automatic renewal each year thereafter unless one or the other party wants to be released. The trade paperback contract is usually for three years because of the vast costs involved.

Moderator: Is there an advance? (Or any advance payment YOU make to THEM?)

Diane: No advance, but payment (via author royalty) is received three months after publication whereas print publishers offer royalty payment 18 months after publication (that's why there is an advance) because writers can't wait that long and live on air. So, because of the shortness in time to receive electronic royalties, there is no advance. Remember, the author doesn't pay anything up front to a royalty paying publisher.

Moderator: What percentage royalties are paid?

Diane: Percentages are also higher with electronic publishers, anywhere from 25 to 50% depending upon the contract.

gt: Is e-publishing gaining in popularity? Do people truly like to sit in front of a computer to read a book? (I don't like it.)

Diane: No, people do not like sitting in front of a computer. But reading from a hand-held reader is heaven. With my Rocket e-book, I can read large clear back-lit type at night without a reading light and I don't disturb my husband. For vision impaired people, a reader is a godsend because they can adjust the typeface to large print and also make the back-lighting brighter. Even with my palm pilot I can adjust the typeface.

PaulPlqn: Is there a problem with theft? I can copy & paste lots of text off the Internet into a word processing program.

Diane: No, theft isn't a problem because the book isn't read online. Samples can be read online, but for the most part the book is sent digitally through the airwaves to the computer and then downloaded into the respective hand-held readers. Now, if you mean can I send copies of an e-book to my friends...that depends. It depends upon the encryption (yes, some e-books are encrypted). If it isn't encrypted then you can send it as an attachment to your friend. But I say what's the difference (although it isn't right) in that and handing a copy of your paper book to a friend to read it. At my last book-signing two women bought two different copies (paper) of my books and told me they planned to swap them after they read them, thus cheating me out of two royalties. :-) So it's all in how you look at things. But to tell you the truth, I don't know of anyone who has had that happen. When my medical thriller was published electronically it sold over 1000 copies the first year and that was 6 years ago. So, I really don't worry about theft.

zoie: If you have been published electronically, do other publishers take it as serious as being published on paper?

Diane: Some do, some don't. As with everything, it depends upon who the electronic publisher is. Hard Shell has a very good reputation with New York and has had books reviewed in Publisher's Weekly.

PaulPlqn: How does an e-publisher calculate royalties? By the number of editions downloaded?

Diane: Yes, but each publisher has a different method of accounting. Hard Shell pays authors on copies that have been paid for by reader, other bookstores like barnes and noble, amazon, gemstar, and peanutpress. Peanut Press only pays twice a year, so we wait for the roaylties, but the check is bigger.

PaulPlqn: Is the pay commensurate with a "paper" publisher?

Diane: Yes, but the volume is smaller. So, you won't sell 80,000 copies the first year. Sales are growing and I can't retire yet, but each check is bigger than the last. And my books stay up for sale longer.

Nora Sloan: What is the difference in price between the paperback book and the e-book?

Diane: It depends. If you order an e-book from Gemstar or Peanut Press, you will be spending the same (with a small discount) as a hardback copy. They just don't get it yet. But that's New York. If you order a book from Hard Shell, the electronic copy is anywhere from $3.50 to $5.50 and the paperback can be from $10.95 to $15.95.

dickman: If a book is published in the electronic format, is it possible to also publish it in regular format at some time?

Diane: Yes, you have only sold the electronic rights (make sure you check that contract) and you still own the paperback rights, hardback rights, large print rights, audio rights, book club rights, and a myriad of other rights that you retain as the author.

Kevin: Which do you think is better for e-publishing, fiction or nonfiction?

Diane: Actually, I think nonfiction does better because it is already an accepted form among textbook and medical publishers. Fiction has found a great new home for science fiction authors and romance authors. Mystery does pretty well, but not as good as the above two. Children's books can be particularly engaging. I also have a children's book that is available in download or paper.

dickman: After a book is sent to an e-publisher and published, do paper copies ever go to brick and mortar stores for sale?

Diane: Yes, any store in the United States can handle the paper books. All they have to do is order them. Every book in each format receives a separate ISBN for each format. So books are ordered by the ISBN numbers, and all the bookstore has to do is order the paper ISBN for your book.

janp: I do my book shopping at secondhand bookstores; is there an equivalent in the e-book market?

Diane: No. Not really. But the publishers often have dollar sales and double sales that drop the price of an e-book to almost what you'd pay for used books. And there is some really great fiction and nonfiction out there. You just have to find it. :-)

Moderator: Diane, are e-books ever reviewed? If so, by whom?

Diane: Ebooks are reviewed by many review sites and also by magazines like Publishers Weekly, Romantic Times, Isaac Asimov Sci-Fi Magazine, Omni, Affaire de Coeur and so many others I can't remember them all.

Moderator: How do you get your e-book reviewed?

Diane: Sometimes the publisher will send them to review sites, and other times the author makes the request. Paper magazines usually want the book in paperback (which is entirely possible) and online review sites usually want the book in HTML format so they can load it on their reader.

PaulPlqn: For review purposes, who prints the paper version if the e-publisher is paperless?

Diane: The author does. In the days before Trade Paperback, authors went to the local Kinkos and they managed to do a pretty good job of putting it on paper. But it is quite expensive for the author to do that, so now it's much easier to send a copy of the paperback.

Moderator: What about copyright? Who applies for it and whose name is it in?

Diane: In the early days, the publisher applied and paid for the copyright. But that has gone by the wayside. The author is now responsible for the copyright. The reason is that the electronic publisher is only leasing one single right and the author is free to sell all the other rights. The publisher feels that since the author can continue to break up the rights and receive the sole profit, then it is his or her responsibility to get the copyright. This is pretty much a universally held idea among the e-publishers.

Moderator: How much does a copyright cost?

Diane: They used to be $25, now I believe they are $50 and since September 11, the Library of Congress is only accepting mail sent via overnight or UPS, but not U.S. mail.

dickman: How would a writer obtain a copyright on a work?

Diane: You go to the library of congress website and download the form. Then you would have to send two hard copies of the finished work with your application and check. Most of the time, don't worry about the copyright until the work is published because if it is changed substantially in the editing phase, then you will have to reapply for the copyright.

Moderator: What about the ISBN number you mentioned? Do you have to buy your own?

Diane: No. Only if you self-publish (and that's an entirely different story than subsidy publishing) would you purchase the ISBN numbers. These can be quite expensive, and the cost is the publisher's to bear.

zoie: What is an ISBN number?

Diane: An ISBN number is a universal identification number that is unique to your particular book and format. Each book or download or paperback or audio book has it's own ISBN number. Once an ISBN number is obtained then your book is identified by distributors and bookstores via its ISBN number.

Moderator: We hear a lot about POD books. What is POD?

Diane: POD is a term for print on demand. This means that the order is obtained from the bookstore FIRST, and then the books are printed, rather than the reverse for paper publishers who print a finite number of books and when those are gone, the book is out of print. POD virtually eliminates the need to warehouse stacks of books that will end up stripped and thrown away if not sold. This is where the book business will end up, but the publishers (because they are the old standard) are fighting it right now. But this is my prediction: POD will be the wave of the future and will outsell electronic books (even though a POD is an electronic book put to paper).

Moderator: Then how does POD differ from trade paperback books?

Diane: They don't at all. The only difference is that trade paperbacks are usually short print run books (only a few hundred to several thousand printed altogether), and POD books are ordered before they get printed. The problem is that the distributors don't want to sell POD because they are unreturnable. In other words, unsold mass market paperbacks are stripped and returned by bookstores to New York publishers for a full refund of book price. POD books cannot be returned through the distributor Ingrams, but can be returned through the publisher itself, as long as the books are in good condition and can be resold at a later date.

Moderator: Do any trade book stores have POD books for sale where you can print them there at the store?

Diane: I think there are some on the East and West coasts, in either a Borders or Barnes and Noble, but they haven't spread to the Midwest yet. It's just a matter of time. Economics will dictate that. There is too much waste in the publishing industry.

dickman: Must a consumer have access to an e-book reader or can an e-book be viewed on a PC?

Diane: Yes, all e-books are able to be read on a PC.

writer_of_books: Are the various kinds of hand-held readers all the same? Or are there differences, including prices?

Diane: Oh, yes, there are sooo many differences. For instance, I have an original Rocket e-book, a Gemstar e-book, an IPaq and two Palm pilots in different versions. And I read books on all of them. And here is the problem with e-books to date...all of these books are formatted differently (by the publisher, not the author) and have to be read on the particular hand-held device that is made for that particular format. Microsoft is one of the leaders in e-book publishing (just having decided that they'd better jump in) and has developed the reading program that goes with the IPaq. You can download the Microsoft e-reader program (for free) from Barnes and ( and purchase and read books on your computer to your heart's content.

Moderator: Does an e-publisher actually market your books for you, or is it the author's job?

Diane: Mainly it's the author's job, whether published by an e-book or a New York paper publisher; only the biggies get the promotion So, the author with the help of the e-publisher does the promoting. Many times, the e-publisher will go in on a group ad with the authors, and/or send copies of the books to reviewers (for the author). But bottom line, the award winners and the best-selling authors (in whatever medium) get the publicity.

Moderator: How do you market electronic books?

Diane: You spread yourself all over the web. MJ Rose spend $20,000 marketing herself on the web to promote her self-published book, Lip Service. She posted everywhere, wrote articles, sent her book to every review site, and landed a spot on the "Today Show" when her book got picked up by Pocket Books.

Moderator: Is that kind of promotional money necessary?

Diane: No, time is what is necessary to promote on the web.

Moderator: Why did it cost her so much money, do you know?

Diane: She didn't say, but I think it was for phone calls, travel -- she lives in New York, so I'm assuming anything costs a lot. Ads are astronomical, and it's the biggest expense an author can have.

dickman: How and where do you promote on the web?

Diane: Press releases to book club type websites. Writing articles for many of the literary web sites. Becoming a reviewer is a fantastic way to market your own books. Join EPIC, the electronically published Internet connection -- a writer's organization for published authors. Entering contests for published authors. Sending your books to as many electronic review sites as possible.

PaulPlqn: The promoting is done via regular mail to submit press releases & articles to Internet sites?

Diane: No, all the promoting is done via e-mail. The Internet is an electronic world, so everything is done electronically. Press releases are send via e-mail. Articles are sent via e-mail attachment, etc. Create your own website where you give away things. I give away mystery lessons. I used to teach mystery writing at other places until I became a Long Ridge Instructor. So, I offer them as a free download for visiting my site. And with the lesson is also a blurb or two about each of my books. Great marketing and it cost me nothing but a click or two.

Moderator: If you had it to do over, would you e-publish?

Diane: Yes, I would. It opened doors that would have never been opened to me before. I've met some of the most wonderful authors and even got my job as a writing instructor at Long Ridge because I had started out in e-pubbing. I got my agent because of my body of published work, my paper publisher in England because they recognized e-pubbing as the same as paper publishing. An e-book won the English equivalent of the Pulitzer last year. I am now writing a mystery series with a Dell author whom I respect and I'm sure it will be a blockbuster book. So, yes, I would do it again in a heartbeat.

Moderator: If a person is just starting the process of e-publishing today, what tips can you give him? Is there anything you would have done differently?

Diane: Yes, read the books that the publisher is selling. Make sure that you like the books that the publisher is selling. Then, once you've done that, read the contract (usually posted on the website) very carefully.

Moderator: I'm sorry to interrupt here, but we're out of time already. Diane, thank you so much for coming tonight and sharing your experiences with e-publishing and clearing up the confusion for many of us!

Diane: Thank you. I really enjoyed this. Boy, did the time go fast. Thank you, everyone.

Moderator: Do come back in two weeks on April 18 when Evelyn Kelly will be speaking on the subject "Breaking into the Nonfiction Market." Evelyn has had over 400 articles published on a variety of subjects, from health and fitness to agriculture and entries for encyclopedias. Her credits have appeared in such publications as PARENTING, MODERN MATURITY, HOME LIFE, DELTA SKY, LIVING WITH CHILDREN, and over 100 other magazines.She also has eight nonfiction books to her credit. In addition, she writes for trade magazines in the medical field and has written the book HOW TO BREAK INTO MEDICAL WRITING. Come to this interview and hear Evelyn Kelly talk about developing an awareness for stories, angles and ideas; knowing when to stop in your research and begin writing; and marketing your nonfiction. And now, good night, everyone!

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