Talk about ebooks is everywhere at the moment, but to writers and readers, the discussion can seem somewhat polarized. Either the book is dead and we’ll only be served up generic fiction sanctioned by the biggest companies, or we’re facing a deluge of self-published rubbish. However, it’s a much bigger picture – and one that’s looking rosy for some independent publishers, who may not be hitting the headlines so frequently but sure are getting on with quietly revolutionising the way they work.
One such publisher is Edinburgh’s Fledging Press. I met with Paul Cain, the Digital Director of the company, the other week, and his enthusiasm for ebooks and the opportunities they’d bring shone through. He explained that the press had been considering digital books long before the Kindle explosion of last Christmas, and therefore were probably keener and better placed than many small presses to take advantage of the sudden boom in interest.
Fledgling has a number of ebooks already out and a number of plans in the pipeline, so I asked Paul how difficult it was for them to add this facet to their business. Not too difficult at all it seems. With the conversion of proofs into ePub formats taking less than a day in-house and costing somewhere between £50-100 to outsource, Paul gave the impression he couldn’t understand why anyone would chose not to expand into the arena.
Of course, it’s one thing to have created an ebook and another to get it in front of readers, a problem facing all big, independent and self publishers these days. Fledgling make use of Faber Factory when it comes to distribution, and possibly would have gone with them for the formatting on their ebook files if they hadn’t found doing it themselves to be entirely possible.
But, as Paul pointed out, converting the book is only one part of a very long process, and when we discussed the ways books – and their low overheads – could provide encouragement for those considering self-publishing, he talked about all of the things you can expect a publisher to do for you before you make it to actual publication, such as editing and proofing, as well as all the things it will do afterwards, such as promotion and advertising.
I asked him how authors felt about the idea of having their work in ebook form, and he said their response has been overwhelmingly positive. However, I wasn’t at all surprised when he confirmed that yes, the majority of writers wanted to see their book in physical form too. The publisher does have one client they are currently working for in ebook form only, and that’s R. J. Mitchell, whose book was out in print in the US but was looking for a way to distribute locally. His contract meant that ebooks were an option, and Parallel Lines ended up being the company’s bestseller this year.
Paul is looking forward to the experiments Fledging Press will be able to conduct thanks to ebooks – such as tweaking prices, changing marketing plans to suit different demographics and choosing which books are best suited to which mediums. Such is the reasoning behind the specifics of their latest release – Chin’s Sex, Love and Sweet Suicide, which they publicized with help of Twitter and a recorded reading.
As far as Paul is concerned, digital publishing is all about releasing potential – and that’s exactly the ethos behind Fledgling Press.
Margaret Irvine, another Fledging Author, is scheduled to speak at Portobello Book Festival this Saturday.