Publishing Trends: Traditional Vs EPublishing

Publishing Trends: Traditional vs ePublishing

You’ve done what most people only talk about. You’ve written a book, spent countless hours agonizing for just the right words only to delete many of them in the painful editing process. After many months, or perhaps, many years, you have a manuscript ready for submission. You’ve heard all about the struggles for new authors: slush piles, solicited queries only, scam artists and cons, but you know luck or fate or sheer talent will eventually deliver your precious manuscript into the right hands at the right time. I can’t say that isn’t so. After all, JK Rowling, Stephen King, Danielle Steel, Nora Roberts, Tom Clancy and every other bestselling author were once unpublished and unknown. I can tell you that the odds of receiving a lucrative contract with a traditional publisher as an unpublished author are not in your favor.

According to Associations of American Publishers (Press Release, 2003) “ U.S. book sales totaled $26,874,100,000 in 2002, a 5.5 percent increase over 2001…” While these numbers are encouraging, it is important to note that 75% (Curtis, 1995, p. 5) of books on the bestsellers lists, were written by authors with proven bestselling titles. Why is this? Well, as a reader, you are more likely to invest $15, $20, or $30 if you have some familiarity with the author’s work. Not only are readers more likely to choose known authors, so are publishers, motivated by bottom line, dollars and cents. Considering a small publisher will receive 5000 unsolicited queries a month, a junior editor earning $25,000 a year may be able to read four or five a day. You can see that the cost to evaluate some 60,000 queries can be $125,000 a year. (Curtis, 1995) If only 1% of unsolicited queries are sent to senior editors, who in turn accept 1%, the publisher has invested nearly $50,000, before any contracts are signed, any printing is done, or any marketing undertaken.

What of eBook sales? According to Jim McClellan (2004), “Open eBook Forum (OeBF) estimated overall sales for the year (of eBooks) at around $10m.” This is a small but growing percentage of the total market. “In the third quarter of 2003, e-book sales were up 37% over the same quarter in 2002, according to a new sales report from the Open eBook Forum (OeBF)…In that quarter, 2,159 new titles were published by the 30 largest publishing houses, and sales added up to $2,591,465. It was good enough to spur sales of the millionth e-book for the year by September.” (Fluckinger, 2003). Because eBook publishers incur less expense (no printing, distribution costs) royalty payments to authors is usually 40% of wholesale price versus 15% of traditional publishing. Readers also benefit from reduced production costs, saving 30%-40% per title. Therefore, previously unknown authors are more likely to be noticed.

Regardless of which path you travel, ultimately quality will count. The competition is staggering and it will take exhaustive self promotion to draw readers, but if it isn’t well written, no amount of marketing fluff will capture their attention for long. If you offer a quality product and meet or exceed your reader’s expectation, word of mouth could set you apart from the pack.


Curtis, R. (1995).
How to be Your Own Literary Agent. Houghton Mifflin Company, NY.

Fluckinger, D. (2003). E-book sales hit the million mark for 2003. Retrieved March 10, 2004 from

About the Author

Lisa Hood is the author of "Shades of Betrayal" and “Shades of Revenge”. She has been writing for over 10 years and is presently working on her third suspense novel, “Shades of Jealousy.” She is also the Talent Liaison @ Other articles by Lisa Hood can be downloaded from or mailto:[email protected]

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