Vulpes Libris

A collective of bibliophiles talking about books. Book Fox (vulpes libris): small bibliovorous mammal of overactive imagination and uncommonly large bookshop expenses. Habitat: anywhere the rustle of pages can be heard.

Ebooks saved my life and other virtual musings

Ok, I admit it – the title above is just a tad exaggerated (for poetic effect, you know), but it’s perfectly true to say ebooks have, if not saved my writing career (I don’t have one: it’s my vocation. My career is as a University PA) then at least given it a thoroughly delightful and much needed shot in the arm.

I’ve been a jobbing fiction writer for about twelve years now. When I started out in Y2K, I did what I was told to do: I won or was shortlisted in a good mix of mainstream competitions and then spent a long time hunting down elusive agents and publishers in order to get that supposedly desirable paperback book deal. I came close a couple of times, and once even had an agent for a while but it never happened for me. What paperback deals I did get were with very small publishers who didn’t sell much, and I also self-published a couple of other novels with Lulu, including Thorn in the Flesh, which was longlisted in the 2006 CWA Debut Dagger Awards. Ah, happy memories.

When I started writing seriously I promised myself ten years to make some kind of success of it so about two or three years ago, I gave careful consideration to not writing any more as it was becoming too much effort for very little reward. Then, slowly but surely, I began to get more ebook deals with commercial e-publishers, and actually began to sell my books regularly, if not in large numbers.

What I find very interesting indeed is that now most of my best-selling work is short stories. I think the rise of the e-reader has given a whole new lease of life to writers, such as myself, who happily write short stories as well as novels as we can sell our work individually to a variety of publishers without having to spend years getting a collection together for paperback publication. Readers enjoy short stories more than the mainstream press would have us believe, and they’re getting these stories via e-readers. These days, my stories are published by Amber Allure Press (gay erotic romance), Untreed Reads (literary, lesbian and biblical fiction), Riptide Publishing (gay erotic/literary) and Musa Publishing (gay romance).

Later this year, my first children’s book, The Origami Nun, is being epublished by Karabeth Publishing under my pseudonym Lori Olding, and I’ve just been commissioned to write a gay short story for a specific line at Amber Allure Press which I’m currently working on. So, because of ebooks there are at last other perfectly viable outlets for the overlooked writers amongst us.

And, as you can see, a large part of the joy of being an ebook writer for me is the astonishing opportunity to write for publication in a wide variety of genres. I really hate the thought of sticking to just one type of fiction. I don’t read just one type and never have, so why should I be constrained to write it? I love romance, thrillers, historical fiction, literary fiction, comedy, fantasy and everything I can think of really, except I’m not that keen on graphic horror. On my “now reading” shelf is a gay erotic short story, a Christian book, a romantic comedy, a poetry collection and an historical biography. This is the kind of literary freedom ebooks have given me which I don’t think I’d ever have found in the mainstream paperback press.

In addition, as a super-keen reader, I also welcome the rise of the ebook. Not as a replacement for the paperback, but as a marvellous addition to the family. After all, TV hasn’t replaced cinema, and computers don’t mean people no longer need pens – there’s a place for all these riches in our lives, and paperbacks and ebooks are no different. They’re not in competition with each other, but are instead complementary to each other – long live them both! That said, I must admit that my eyesight rejoices in the fact that I can make the font of an ebook larger (thank goodness) and my bank balance rejoices in the relative cheapness of ebooks. My husband is also very happy indeed that my holiday book packing is now only one Kindle, and he no longer has to pay extra for taking my huge numbers of paperbacks abroad in a stuffed-to-the-brim suitcase …

So for me, and speaking both as a writer and a reader, ebooks are a blessing and a delight. Anything that gives more opportunities to hard-working good quality writers and widens the choices of book formats available to readers gets my vote. Happy e-reading to all.

[Anne is a part-time writer and full-time reader, originally from Essex and now living in Surrey. Her latest ebook is literary paranormal short story, The Gift of the Snow, published by Untreed Reads.]

About annebrooke

Anne Brooke lives in Surrey, UK, and writes in a variety of genres, including gay erotic romance, fantasy, comedy, thrillers, biblical fiction and the occasional chicklit novel. When not writing, she spends time in the garden attempting to differentiate between flowers and weeds, and in the allotment attempting to grow vegetables. Occasionally, she can also be found in the kitchen making cakes. Every now and again, they are edible. Her websites can be found at: www.annebrooke.com, www.gayreads.co.uk, www.biblicalfiction.co.uk and www.gathandria.com (for fantasy fiction).

11 comments on “Ebooks saved my life and other virtual musings

  1. Hilary
    May 22, 2012

    Anne, it’s fascinating to read your response to eBooks as a writer – thank you. You’ve hit on something that really interests me about epublishing – the way in which it has widened choice and added to the range of reading experiences. Rather as online music has liberated the track from the album, epublishing has liberated the short story from the collection (which, as you point out, doesn’t get published anyway, as the publishers tell us we don’t want it). The option to download a quick read for a train ride or a waiting room – or for the experience of sitting down on the sofa and reading something from start to finish – is a brilliant addition, and it is reminding me of the particular pleasures of the short form (rather like rediscovering childhood pleasure in the fairy tale).

    It is inspiring to read about the impetus that epublishing has given you to continue writing, and I wish you the greatest of success.

  2. annebrooke
    May 22, 2012

    Thank you so much, Hilary – really appreciate that! And yes, as a longtime lover of the short story form, this last couple of years has been like heaven for me :)

    Anne
    xxx

  3. kateinbrussels
    May 22, 2012

    this is very inspiring, both on epublishing as a new route for writers, and for giving good reasons why epublishing is actually OK. I hadn’t really thought about the issues before! But I still think Kindles and their ilk are ugly, clumsy hideous lumps of plastic, compared to the elegance of a printed book …. that’s probably a different debate!

  4. annebrooke
    May 22, 2012

    Thanks for the comments, Kate! :) I find my Kindle rather attractive, but then I do love installation art, so maybe that’s why :)

  5. Mark Wagstaff
    May 23, 2012

    Anne – the thought that you once gave consideration to not writing any more is shocking! You’ve achieved way more over the last twelve years than most of us and, career or vocation, your progress is inspirational. There was a neat cartoon in The New Yorker a couple of weeks back – a medieval cove looking at a book saying ‘Nice, but as long as there are readers there will be scrolls’. That’s the ebook debate exactly, and the big point which mainstream publishers seem only just to be waking to is that what happened to the music industry is now happening to them. Hilary and others are right – individual short stories are increasingly finding their market, a point also made by Anthony Howcroft at InkTears. There is some substance to the argument that epublishing is sometimes light on editorial rigor. Though I think that could also be said of some of the corporate print publishers these days, who seem to have given up on the traditional role of the editor. The real bonus to epublishing is that whether the product is good or bad, readers have a chance to find it and make that judgement for themselves. The best work in any field will always find its audience – the liberating factor to digital media is that writers and readers can discourse directly, unmediated by the often opaque and outdated whims of publishers. Look forward to the next great post!

  6. annebrooke
    May 23, 2012

    Thanks so much, Mark – that’s really kind of you! (Cheque’s in the post, naturally … ) :) Love that cartoon – perfect indeed. And I also entirely agree about the lack of editorial input across the board, whether paperback or ebook. Bring back the power of the editor is what I say – we need ‘em!

    Anne
    xxx

  7. Jackie
    May 23, 2012

    Anne, I think you’ve pointed out a benefit of eboks that most people never think of, though undoubtably they’ve benefitted from. I think it’s terrifically liberating for authors to have all these new opportunities & the ability to publish work geared to niche audiences. The more the merrier, I say.
    And, as Mr. Wagstaff said, you are quite inspirational in the amount & quality of your output. It’s an encouragement to all of us, even if, like me, one works in a completely different arm of the arts.

  8. annebrooke
    May 24, 2012

    Thanks so much, Jackie – really appreciate that!! :) We arts people must definitely stick together and encourage each other. It adds so much more richness to life. :)

    Anne
    xxx

  9. kirstyjane
    May 24, 2012

    Thanks very much for this frank and thoughtful piece. As one hoping to have to consider publication routes at some point, it’s really good to read about the experiences of a successful e-book author. (PS: As a kindle owner, Colin and my spine are both thanking God that I no longer have to pack a dozen paperbacks for every trip.)

  10. annebrooke
    May 24, 2012

    Thanks, Kirsty! Ereaders are certainly easier on the back :)

  11. Pingback: Publishing an Ebook – quick tips and pointers « Vulpes Libris

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This entry was posted on May 22, 2012 by in Articles, Entries by Anne and tagged , , , , , .

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  • (The header image is from Aesop's Fables, illustrated by Francis Barlow (1666), and appears courtesy of the Digital and Multimedia Center at the Michigan State University Libraries.)
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