Shades of grey areas

Fifty Shades of Grey by EL James started out as an e-book, a colleague told me recently. He knows this only too well. “Can you write female erotica,” his agent had just asked him. He can’t. He writes non-fiction. His wife would never speak to him again…

Fifty Shades of Grey may not be everyone’s cup of tea and comfy dunking biscuits, but it is the latest example of how writers can take control of their careers and build up their fan base, just like local bands, through e-publishing.

Social media and along with the ease of e-publishing via websites such as Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing are changing the face of the book world. Where it used to be called vanity publishing and the industry could look down their collective nose at self-publishers, e-publishing is proving to be a force that must be taken seriously by agents, publishers and most importantly any aspiring writer.

Plus, of course, the fact that writers can earn up to 70 per cent in royalties on their e-book. The norm with a publishing deal just does not compare.

But what about the marketing? Agents and print deals are worth it for that, my writing friends with agents say to me. I disagree. As a writer, you are expected to market your own work to some degree. Another friend of mine has a book deal with a major agent in the UK, and this agent has allegedly done no marketing to date. So having an agent is no guarantee of great marketing.

Admittedly though, only a few e-writers are breaking into the mainstream and the merits of e-publishing and going it alone still occupy a grey area – or is that shades of grey areas?

May 20, 2012. Tags: , , , , , , , . Comedy, Comedy writing, Humour, Publishing.


  1. jmmcdowell replied:

    Part of me still wants to try the traditional print route when I finish my current project. But another growing part is thinking about doing it on my own. I’ll have to see what the playing field looks like when I’ve got the book finished….

  2. crubin replied:

    I agree–even with a traditional publisher, an author needs to do much of his or her own marketing. But there’s a difference between self-publishing and e-publishing. My novel will be published by an e-publisher (with a POD option), but it is not self-publishing as they will be doing all of the work, and then I’ll receive royalties on sales. They tout themselves as a traditional publisher, but I think of them more as a small, independent publisher.

    • WomanBitesDog replied:

      I’d be interested to know how it goes for you. Writers can also set up their own POD (print on demand) option – and this has also helped to change the game in favour of the individual writer.

  3. Amritorupa Kanjilal replied:

    Hi WBG,
    I am a reader first and a writer second, and I have found that, in the past two years, my reservations about reading ebooks have slowly faded away, mostly in the light of the fact that they are easy to carry around on my smartphone, and that I can often get them as freebies. Being a book reviewer, i get a lot of ebooks from new writers, as it’s cheaper and easier for them to send it.
    As a writer, however, I think I would like to live on in people’s bookshelves rather than on their computers. I would like to think that many years later, a book lover would squeal with joy if they found a book by me in a second hand store, going cheap.
    I understand that e-publishing is easier, cheaper, and actually a very good option for a new writer nobody has heard of yet, but I still dream of being published in print.

    Loved your blog, and your articles are really thought provoking. following you now!.
    please do visit my book blog, and if you like it, please do follow. thank you!

    • WomanBitesDog replied:

      Thanks for visiting my blog. You make some interesting points. I think I would love to see my book on shelves but POD gives you this option.

      There is something sad about never seeing a crusty old library with leather-backed books and a spiral stair case ever again… or does that exist only in Agatha Christie novels?

      • Amritorupa Kanjilal replied:

        🙂 you forgot the body, preferably of a garishly made up escort-lady.
        I don’t own any leather-bound books though, do you? I have quite a few hardbacks, and they stand proudly and snobbishly amidst the paperbacks.

        looking forward to your visit…

      • WomanBitesDog replied:

        No I don’t – they exist in my fantasy library!

  4. norfolknovelist replied:

    My first novel has come bouncing back from various unimpressed (or hopefully just pressed for time) agents, so I’m seriously considering the e- book route myself. You raise a good point about marketing – it does seems daunting, but as you say, having an agent isn’t a guarantee and we’ve still got to put in the spade work.

    PS I’ve tried writing erotic fiction. Result: unpublishable nonsense. But what a hoot!

    Great blog, thanks for visiting.

    • WomanBitesDog replied:

      I think if you’ve built up a fan base already via your blog, the e-book route could be a good one to take. I’m certainly looking into it.

  5. Pauline Guerin replied:

    After having dismissed the idea of e-books and kindles and the like as modern computer technology nonsense, I can, after trying to read at night without disturbing my husband (complete failure) see the sense in such things. I do think that e-publishing and self-publishing give struggling authors another platform on which to air their wares. I have always thought it odd and very impolite of agents/publishers to receive manuscripts and then file them away unread claiming lack of time or ‘being too busy’.

    However, I think that the demise of the tangible loveliness of a book will see us lacking something beautiful in life. I recently lent a really old book ‘Old Sins’ to my sister in law, upon receiving it back I thought I would read it again. It’s fab! it is falling apart slightly, but I don’t care that merely adds to its charm for me.

    I haven’t tried a publisher or an agent yet, I’m not at that stage, but I do dread it so e-publishing might well be the way forward for me. I’ll have to look into it a bit more. I’ll keep you posted on that one.

    Incidentally, I have written some erotic fiction as well, as your previous commentator says ‘what a hoot’. I entered a competition which was won by the most unerotic, boring piece of writing I have ever come across. Hey ho, each to their own!

  6. WomanBitesDog replied:

    I love books too – but I think that’s probably our demograph (dare I say the over-40s club?). Your (intentional?) pun in your last paragraph has made me LOL. Oh the joys of erotica!

  7. Hannah replied:

    There are some e-publishers out there who give authors more royalties and even offer marketing/editing services. One I came across recently was Booktango, who lets authors publish for free and, through early July, keep 100% of the royalties when the book is purchased through their bookstore. When people purchase their book through another outlet, the retailer takes their standard fee – and then the author gets the rest. Their website says they distribute to all of the leading e-readers, too – Kindle, Nook, Sony eReader, iPad, etc. They offer marketing and editing as additional services as well.

    There are lots of e-publishers out there – which to me, sound like great options for someone who’s looking to get their book(s) into the digital world with minimal risk!

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