Straight to E-book?

I recently read a post from a writer that her next novel was going straight to e-book format. She believed this was good news for her readers and I can’t disagree. However, it was unclear to me whether this book was to be self-published or simply a strategy being used by her publishing company. This author does have an agent and has previously been traditionally published. She writes under more than one pen name and has published several cozy mystery series. While she has hinted that her publishers have expected 20,000 in sales per book, this has not always been achieved. Since then, it appears she has retained the rights to some of her older novels and has put them out there in e-book format. This is not a new story and we’ve heard it from other, former legacy published writers. However, what is confusing to me is that this new book, being released in e-book format, is part of a current series, not an old one. Although she has mentioned her publisher dropped one of her older series (see above), she doesn’t say that about this one.

Certainly, we’re all aware that many books are sold as mass market paperbacks rather than in the glossy hardback style we all admire on the B&N shelves. (The ego in all of us does harbor this dream even if it isn’t all it’s cracked up to be). The bottom line, however, is that most writers would be thrilled to have their books published in any format – hardback, paperback, whatever. But what if you were told that your first book would be marketed by a publishing company as an e-book and probably not grace the shelves of any bookstore or library? As most of us know, outside of the editing and limited marketing services the publishing company might provide (unless they think you’ve written the next blockbuster), we can produce an e-book all by ourselves and keep more of the profits. This is why, of course, so many talented writers are moving into self-publishing and bypassing the rejections, time, and effort it requires to get published.

What I really wonder is if it’s true. Could it be possible that in the future, some publishers may send books straight to e-book format and eliminate the more expensive process of printing altogether? And if it is true, is this a sign that publishing companies are still trying to play catch-up in the digital book market or are they just shooting themselves in the foot to save money?

I don’t know the answer, of course, but if anyone does, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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