Levelling the Field

Levelling the Field
by Kellie Underhill

Biff Mitchell
In the same way the Internet allows small business to compete with big business, it also levels the playing field for writers, providing more opportunity for unpublished authors.

Last month writers and poets participated in Read an eBook Week events across the nation and I was honoured to take part in a reading at the Fredericton Public Library with Biff Mitchell, Joe Blades, Nela Rio and Chris Owen.

On a day when most events in the city had been cancelled due to poor weather, a good crowd showed their interest in electronic publishing and the reading was well attended.

The international spokesperson for Read an eBook Week 2005, Biff Mitchell, shared a wealth of information about the industry.

Before hearing Biff speak my preconceived notion about eBooks was that they were excellent marketing tools to drive readers into bookstores to buy a traditional print copy. Giving away a chapter or two free in an eBook format could generate more interest in your work and increase sales.

I was aware that not all eBooks were distributed freely over the Internet, that some were being sold, but I honestly didn’t think society had progressed enough that any sort of a living could be eked out in eBook sales —

Boy, did I have a lot to learn!

The truth of the matter is that eBooks have finally found their place in society with readers on computers, PDAs, cell phones and other reading devices. There are hundreds of ePublishers who primarily publish all their titles online or offer traditional print books in electronic format also. It’s a viable industry. There’s money to be made.

Getting a book published is notoriously difficult. An aspiring author needs to hit upon just the right combination of skill, talent, persistence and luck to find a publisher willing to take a chance on an unknown and produce his or her book. A lot of great books never get published; many not so great books do get published. Simply being a good writer is not enough to ensure success.

Joe Blades
During Read an eBook Week I learned that having some success with an eBook can help a writer break into print publishing. A proven sales track record can help you sign a contract with a larger publisher or get an agent.

Digital books also take self-publishing to a whole new level. While it’s true that anyone can publish a book, printing costs can be an expensive deterrent. An eBook is very easy and inexpensive to produce. Money is no longer an obstacle. Even the most poor are able to walk into any public library or Access Centre and use their facilities to produce an eBook for distribution online.

The playing field doesn’t get any more level than this.

While I was only able to attend and participate in the reading portion of the Read an eBook Week event, many people attended the virtual tour and workshop that Biff hosted at the Fredericton Public Library later that week in partnership with Joe Blades and Broken Jaw Press. They explored websites that offer free eBooks, websites of authors and publishers, and websites for readers. Biff also demonstrated step-by-step how to create, publish, distribute and market eBooks.

If you missed this event as I did check out The Total Immersion Tour of the eBook World sponsored by Broken Jaw Press and the Fredericton Public Library on Biff’s website.

Kellie Underhill is the editor of Bread ‘n Molasses magazine as well as the Writers’ Federation of New Brunswick’s quarterly newsletter, NB Ink. Her writing has appeared in numerous newspapers and magazines including The Moncton Times-Transcript, Brunswick Business Journal and The New Brunswick Reader magazine. Email Kellie at editor@breadnmolasses.com