The Definitive Guide to Electronic Publishing

Karen Wiesner on Mapping the Territory

Interview by Kassia Krozser
When she learned she was to be electronically published, Karen Wiesner vowed to learn everything she could about the field. Now, she’s taken the information and created a book for electronically published authors — and those who want to be.

Karen is the bestselling author of three ongoing romance series published by Hard Shell Word Factory, a short
story in the Mistletoe Marriages Anthology currently available from DiskUsPublishing. She also does
monthly Inkspot column titled Electronic Publishing Q & A .

Subversion: What made you decide to write this book?

Karen Wiesner: Soon after I became published, I had dozens of authors (published and unpublished) writing to me, asking me if I thought e-publishing was legitimate, for any tips I had, advice about the various e-publishers out there. I wrote some articles about e-publishing and started directing people to those (they’re currently up at Eclectics.com). The idea for a guide similar to the annual Writers Market was always there, just a kernel of an idea and a part of me was afraid to explore it. I was already too busy and something like this would be extremely time-consuming, especially when I had to figure it in yearly. But I knew I had to do it. Eventually someone would and I thought I could do it just as well.

S: How often do you plan to update the book?

KW: Yearly. Every July, it’ll come out. I don’t know if it’ll be standard, but I do plan to put together an addendum to be included with the promotional disk early 2000. This will include new e-publishers (just names and URLs), probably a short chapter about changes to things I said in the first edition, as well as some of the “new” things happening in the industry.

S: How will updates be approached?

KW: I plan to add sections as the need arises, take out others that I don’t feel are necessary. The solid chapters, I’ll re-write to include the newest information and I do plan to bring other experts in on various chapters. I’m also going to cut some of the publisher questions because I think that was part of the reason some publishers were holding off until the last minute. Those interviews were very intensive. Hopefully each publisher will respond for the update and answer the interviews so the guide can be more complete.

S: Looking back, what information would you like to include in future versions of this book?

KW: I think what I included at that time was exactly what was needed. But this industry is changing, progressing, emerging in so many ways and so rapidly that new things will open up with each update and require its own place in the guide.

S: What was the most difficult aspect of pulling a “definitive guide to electronic publishing” together?

KW: As I said before, getting the contributors (including publishers) to send in their part in a timely manner. But they’re so busy with their own work, I really can’t blame them. They were all wonderful and so incredibly helpful. I would like the process of putting the guide together to be more efficient, but I think I have to accept that it’ll take at least 3 to 4 months to complete and that the process will be rather sporadic.

S: What was the criteria for publishers included in the book?

KW: Many people have said “Well, you should include so-and-so. They’re really good.” But my criteria will stay the same: only royalty-paying, non-subsidy electronic publishers will be included. No upfront fees, no fees of any kind to the authors. I did include a small press publisher in the first edition but only because they planned to release an electronic book.

S: What was the inspiration for the “bonus chapter”?

KW: Something I’ve noticed is widespread in this medium is the lack of information on 1) how an e-author should promote, 2) the fact that traditional methods of promotion simply don’t work for an electronic author, especially one who’s never been published in another other medium. New e-authors are looking for a resource to tell them how to promote and, if this medium is to flourish, it must be through the efforts of all the authors and publishers.

S: What features in the book would you consider most useful for first-time authors? For previously published authors?

KW: Hard question because I do believe all sections in the book are extremely useful for both first-time and published authors. First-time authors will need to know what e-publishing is, so that section will be good for that. They need to know enough that they can persuade an audience to try e-books and then they can sell their own books. So the Myths & Facts section is really useful for doing that. They need to learn how to promote, as I said before. Previously published authors, if traditional, will need to know how to promote an e-book since it’s a whole different thing. I think, in this medium, that strength in numbers will come from how many books an author has out there available, so for that reason I do think most authors-especially those who write fast–should think about branching out with other e-publishers, so the publisher section will be very useful for them.

S: Any plans to issue the book in hardcopy format?

KW: Yes, my contract states that once the guide has sold 200 disk/download copies, it’ll go into hardcopy format.

S: You were very open about your journey to electronic publishing in the opening chapters of the book. What made you decide to go with a personal approach?

KW: I don’t know about most people, but I can’t stand dry textbooks. The kind where you have to keep rubbing your eyes, putting eyedrops in (or toothpicks!) to keep yourself awake and interesting. I wrote the book the way I would have told someone about this medium face to face. As for how personal I was, I believe an author should know what they’re getting into, good, bad and everything in-between. So I stated my experience and the experience of other authors I know.

S: How did the authors and publishers you approached for interviews and information receive the concept of a well-written guide to electronic publishing? Did they offer any suggestions for content?

KW: Sure, I got a lot of advice. Since I’m certainly not the ultimate expert in this field, I considered each suggestion as received. The authors and publishers were thrilled with this idea from the very first. They knew it was an idea just waiting to be fulfilled. Many of them stated they thought I was the best person to do this because I’ve managed to create a presence in this medium. Authors and publishers alike know me.

S: You’ve included a “disadvantages” chapter in the book. Looking back, what improvements do you see in this area?

KW: Actually, I just went over it recently and re-wrote it because I’m giving a speech about electronic publishing soon. The only disadvantage that stood out was still the financial aspect of it. A lot has changed in public awareness, perception and acceptance since the guide came out. Very good news indeed! : )

S: You are primarily a fiction writer. What changes did you have to make to your style in moving to non-fiction?

KW: Funny that you ask this. There is a striking difference not only between writing fiction and nonfiction but in writing nonfiction articles and books. I’d written articles about e-publishing long before I wrote the guide. I had to go back over those articles and put them in “book” form as I updated them. I don’t know how to describe this change I had to make in the styles, but I do think that I “break all the rules” for both genres. And that’s OK. It works for me and almost everyone who’s ever written to me about the guide has mentioned how much they enjoyed my writing style.

Visit Karen’s web pages at http://www.eclectics.com/karenwiesner and http://members.aol.com/kswiesner/epub.html .