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July 21, 2011

I’ve just returned from a writers’ conference and the usual things were on offer: sessions with publishers, with agents, and talks on various writerly subjects. However, it swiftly became obvious that the subject of the conference was the rise of ebooks and what it means for authors.

In the USA, which is way ahead of the UK, 25% of all sales are now in ebooks, and that’s expected to rise to 50% by 2012. Simon Petherick of Beautiful Books, a new independent publisher in the UK, said that his sale of ebooks is already 15% and he expects that to rise rapidly.

The general consensus is that long-established British publishers have been sticking their heads in the sand about this. But it’s not going to go away. As my friend Janet Gover, who is published in the UK and now lives in New York, pointed out, UK publishers are going to have to raise their game. In the States, publishers are very aware that, for the first time in thirty years, they now need authors more than authors need them. As a result, American publishers now employ digital experts whose sole job is to keep their eye on Twitter and tell authors if their name comes up, to set up blog tours, to target review sites, and so on. Authors, of course, could do this for themselves, and some do, but it take up a lot of writing time. A publisher who can offer these services will attract big name authors.

Almost all American publishers now want their authors to have a website and expect them to be prepared to do ‘blog tours’ and tweet. It will happen over here, too.

We all noticed the huge advertising campaign for Kindle in the lead up to Christmas. Fellow authors at the conference, whose work is already in ebooks, reported a spike in their sales in January and another in June. Ebook sales, it seems are going up and up. Janet also reported that Young Adult fiction is huge in the States, and reminded us that teenagers are very computer savvy. 

At the moment, sales of younger children’s books are mainly ‘proper books’, and, of course, children’s books can take quite a battering: hurled from a cot, pages scribbled on, or left out in the garden overnight. That remains a problem and technology hasn’t yet found a way to do high quality coloured illustrations. But that is only a matter of time.

I learnt a huge amount and I now have a plan of action. I’ve got back the copyright of my back list and I’ve just sent all my old Amstrad disks to be re-formatted for Word. Ebooks beckon. Wish me luck.

Elizabeth Hawksley

One Comment leave one →
  1. July 21, 2011 10:10 am

    Yes. Good Luck Elizabeth! I, too am planning to put an out-of-print title out as an ebook. Hopefuly Nightingale News (Five stories about our school) will have a new life soon.

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