Monday, January 7, 2013

"Very nice, but not for us" The New Yorker Staff

(I began this blog two years ago partly to document my journey into e-publishing. Back then I was stunned by the freedom and the benefits. The landscape has changed partly because traditional publishers have finally come down off their high horse and are trying to muscle their way to dominate this cash cow.  The Amazon ebook review process, once simple and innocent, has deteriorated and many have found a way to game the system.  The tsunami of free books makes it harder to get traction and build sales. Last year I gave a talk at the East Hampton Library on this subject and they have asked me to do so again.  I re-read some of my remarks and thought it was a good idea to remind myself and others, too, of how thrilling e-publishing was and still remains.)  Below is part of my original talk.

I never thought I’d be the one reporting a miracle.  This is not miracle like or miracle-ish.  It is an out and out miracle.  Think of it like this. Suppose you had a manuscript that you had kept in a drawer for several years without any hope of having it published.  Suppose you had been traditionally published but your book or books had gone out of print and the publisher had simply abandoned you.  Suppose you had a college thesis or a really good short story that The New Yorker had seen fit to reject but scrawled - “very nice but not for us” at the bottom.  (What does that mean, by the way?)  Now suppose I told you that there was a way for you to get that story or that thesis or those backlist books in front of millions of people in several countries at no cost to you and that customers could sample your work and then buy it by clicking an icon and that you would instantly see that sale go through in your accounts just as if you ran your own store and rang sales on a register.  And suppose this went on twenty-four hours a day seven days a week, year after year without anyone (not Random House, not Simon and Schuster, not even the government) interfering?

That is the reality of e-publishing.  It is as monumental as the printing press and anyone can do it. Anyone who has a manuscript they believe in and a couple of hours to spare and can follow some fairly straightforward directions.  Are there awful ebooks? Yes, and some of them sell really well but good ones sell well, too.

Here’s where human nature steps in and tries to thwart you.  Especially senior human nature. The brain seizes up, the will refutes ability.  I can’t.  I can’t. Too hard. Too complicated.  Too technological.  I’m afraid of the remote, how can I possibly format a manuscript.   What does digital mean anyway?  What’s a platform?  I know what a loading platform is in a shipping plant. It’s where the boxes wait to go onto the trucks.

There’s a time of day when the mind works best.  Mine is between 7 am and 9 a.m.  Find which time is best for you and venture in.  Since I began this journey two and a half years ago, information on how to accomplish e-publishing is abundant. Put your question into Google and many, many answers will come up.  Getting your manuscript up on the Amazon platform is not the end of the journey but it is an excellent beginning. 


  1. I've only been at this ebook thing for a year and a half, and you're right - there are definite changes already. (The review thing is no picnic anymore, that's for sure!) But it's still a miracle in my eyes, too. A year ago this month, I quit my full-time job so I could write. I've been floating around in a sense of grateful awe this month. Who would ever have guessed that my childhood dream would be fulfilled through things called "Amazon" and "ebooks"?