Wednesday, January 29, 2014

A New Player in the E-Book Publishing World

Back in 2010 I wrote a piece for this blog on The Evolution of E-Books, and it amazes me how much has changed since. New publishers. New technology. New outlets for sales.


I was an early pioneer in the e-book evolution. My first e-book was published in 1997 with The Fiction Works, just one of a handful of companies doing e-books at the time. The publisher was sure that there would soon be kiosks in shopping malls where people would be able to buy electronic or print-on-demand copies of books and we would all get rich.

That did not happen. There wasn't even a dedicated reading device until a year later when The Rocket eBook came out in 1998, so orders were fulfilled by sending disks to customers so they could read the book on a computer. Not a convenient or pleasant way to read a book.

Now that handful of publishers has grown to hundreds, and I have had good business relationships with  Books We Love, Uncial Press, Venture Galleries, and now Untreed Reads.  I don't recall how I first heard of Untreed Reads, but I was intrigued by the company name. It is clever, memorable, and definitely says what the company is about. It has been in business for a number of years, but the largest growth has been in the last couple of years. It was founded by Jay A. Hartman, who agreed to a brief interview.

Q. Why did you start Untreed Reads?

A. I had been an active part of the ebook world for about fifteen years, working on a website with my friend Kelly Ford that was named Knowbetter.com. In fact, that website is still up! I stopped writing and reporting about the industry for a while, but with the release of the Kindle came a lot of misinformation in the marketplace about what ebooks could and couldn't do. So, I started up my own blog to help deliver information and that was the genesis of Untreed Reads. Eventually, I found that I couldn't find the types of works I wanted to read in the various ebook retailers, so I thought it was time to take my knowledge and put it to good use. Luckily for me, I met K.D. Sullivan who comes from the print world and shares my vision. Ultimately, we took everything we disliked about the print and ebook worlds and said "ok, we can make a better publishing company for authors by not doing these things." I think we've done a great job so far of achieving that goal.

Q. What is your vision for five years from now?

A. I'd love to see Untreed Reads recognized on the same scale as some of the big New York publishers. We have incredible talent in our house, we have the biggest distribution of pretty much any ebook publisher and we have readers on every continent (including Antarctica). I'd love to see that global presence become more widely known, so I could tell someone in a coffee shop in Oslo or Budapest or Tokyo "I'm the Editor-in-Chief of Untreed Reads" and they know exactly what I'm talking about. With our expansion in 2014 into print-on-demand and audiobook for our own titles, plus distribution, editorial services and cover design for other publishers and authors, I think we're getting even closer to that reality.

Q. What one thing would you like to say to readers?

A. Without readers, there isn't much point to having authors or publishers. The key thing is to give us feedback. Tell us what you like and don't like or what you want to see more of.

Jay recognizes the importance of treating readers and authors well. Like other successful small publishers that plan to grow into successful large publishers, he offers fair contracts with authors - authors are given full-service editing, conversion, and cover art for no fees, and they receive a 50% royalty on the titles. Jay is always accessible to answer questions and deal with issues, and he is an enthusiastic supporter of all the books they publish and distribute. He is constantly looking for new markets for the authors, whether in-house clients or distribution clients, and does a tremendous amount of marketing and promotion through special sales.

In fact, there is one going on right now, through Valentines Day. All romance titles are on sale for 30% off through February 14th, from sweet to hot and sexy. My romance, Play it Again, Sam, is just one of the many titles offered for the discount.

That novel is published by Uncial Press, who uses Untreed Reads for wider distribution. As an indie-author, I have several other books in distribution with them as well and have been very satisfied. Distribution clients do not have to pay, but if you are as technically challenged as I am, you might want to pay the reasonable fee to have your Word document converted to all the different file types for all the different e-book markets. I know we all long for a simple one-size-fits-all format, but until then, we have to format for each outlet individually.

What I like most about Untreed Reads is the scope of their distribution, and that is the reason that I did not go back to one of the other publishers with more recent releases. Some only distribute to Amazon, and others to only a few more outlets. I want my work to be available to everyone, no matter what device they use to read, and I like how aggressively Untreed Reads is going after the library market.

Authors have lots of choices now when it comes to releasing a new book, and there is no right or wrong approach, unless you go with one of those vanity publishers that charge huge fees upfront. Many writers still take the traditional approach, while others are going the indie route. I have great respect for them all. The important thing is that there are choices, and there are new publishers that offer good things to their authors.

What do you think of the new advances in publishing? Are you going indie? Would you go with a third-party distributor?

Posted by Maryann Miller - novelist, editor and sometimes actress. Her most recent release is Boxes For Beds, an historical mystery available as an e-book. Stalking Season is the second book in the Seasons Mystery Series. The first book, Open Season, is available as an e-book for all devices. To check out her editing rates visit her website. When not working, Maryann likes to take her dog for a walk and work outside on her little ranch in East Texas. She believes in the value of a good walk.

19 comments :

  1. I love that there are choices. I started with an e-publisher when people read ebooks on computers or PDAs. (If I told people I was an author, and told them my books were digitally published, they'd say, "Oh, tell me when you write a REAL book and I'll buy it. Now, they say, "Is it available in digital?") Then, dedicated e-readers starting showing up. My first e-reader was the eBookwise (which I still own). Then came the Indie Revolution, and I started publishing my back list/remaindered titles. I started with Smashwords when it was just about the only game in town for Indies, then branched out as more an more distribution channels became available to authors. But you're right--having to format for each outlet can be a pain, especially when you want to update or make minor changes. Thanks for the look at Untreed Reads.

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    1. Terry, I love that dichotomy between then and now. I remember people asking me when I was going to have a "real" book when my first ebook came out.

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    2. Terry: I still have my Rocket eReader. I always take it with me when I'm invited somewhere to give a talk. And to think we thought it was amazing because it could hold around ten books!

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  2. I've been an indie from the beginning. Marketing, however, presents a multitude of problems from distribution to name recognition, to developing a fan base that's champing at the bit for my next book. So far, all that hasn't happened; however, I've not been proactive in making it happen either.

    I like the sound of Untreed Reads, and experience has proven that I need some pros to handle distribution. Even if I had the time and means, I would not likely get out there and pound the pavement all the way (hopefully) to the NY Times bestseller list. It simply wouldn't happen for this introvert whose comfort zone is by herself in front of her computer, writing away.

    Bottom line: Competition is beyond huge, and the chance for an indie book (or any book for that matter if your name isn't Nora Roberts or John Grisham or Stephen King, etc.) to rise to the top of the publishing mountain and into the hearts and homes of myriad readers is almost nonexistent. Untreed Reads is worth looking into — at least for me. Thank you for sharing this info, Maryann. :-)

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    1. Linda, I am so glad you found this helpful, and if you do work with Untreed Reads, I know you will be happy with them. You will still have to do promoting, just like you would have to do with any other publisher or distributor, but Jay offers help with that and most of it it done from home.

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    2. The good news, as Maryann said, is that you don't necessarily have to go it alone. If you pick the right distributor, they'll usually give you a hand. We don't treat our distribution clients any differently than our own authors. We want all of our authors to have a chance to succeed, so offer the same opportunities to all.

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  3. I've already made the leap to indie. It's challenging, but satisfying. At first I used someone to format my book, but now I've figured that out. I do have an editor, and at times I used a cover illustrator, other times I use Amazon Cover Creator.

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    1. Morgan, you might want to consider Untreed Reads for distribution. They are great to work with and you would not have to upload to all the different retail outlets yourself. Unless you like doing that. LOL

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    2. One very important suggestion is to NOT use Calibre for your conversions. You might be ok with that if you're uploading to Amazon, but when folks come to us for distribution we find that nearly all files created with Calibre fail the necessary checks at our distributors. I'd check out Jutoh if you're going it alone. It's not free, but it produces top-quality EPUBs and MOBI files.

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  4. Maryann, the good news is that ebook technology has leveled the playing field for indies ... the bad news is that ebook technology has leveled the playing field for indies. Now, instead of just a few thousand indie authors starving to death, there are millions of us.

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    1. You are so right about the sheer numbers of books being released having an impact on overall sales, and that makes it harder and harder for us to get our books noticed. At this point we only have two choices. Do we quit? or do we find a creative way to get more attention for our books. I HATE, HATE, HATE the fact that we have to be marketing and promoting all the time - Don't tell Dani Greer I said that. LOL But that is the truth of the matter. I don't do as much promoting as others, as I can only do what I am comfortable with, but I do try to get the books and my name out in the cyberworld as much as possible. Anfd even some in the real world.

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    2. I hear ya (don't worry, I won't tell Dani) ... I can only do what I am comfortable with, too ... which is dang little. I may be the world's worst self-promoter.

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  5. I think it is an option for people who want to go "indie" but don't have the skills to do the formatting and cover design themselves. Just get everything in writing and investigate the business before you sign on the dotted line. At least the stigma of Indie is fading.

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    1. You are right in cautioning about reading the contracts carefully. I know there are lots of folks who have the ability to make their own covers and do the formatting, but that is all still a time-suck. For some the choice to pay a modest fee for someone else to do it is very appealing.

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  6. All my books are distributed by UnTreed Reads. Jay is always evolving the company, searching for ways to get his authors and his distribution clients more exposure. I knew when I switched over from Amazon exclusivity that I was in the business for the long haul, ready to build an international readership and a library presence. He's hard working and efficient. I predict good things for his company.

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    1. I agree, Polly. In fact, I have moved most of my indie titles from KDP and taken them to Untreed Reads. One I am working on now will go to them, as well.

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    2. Thanks so much, Polly! I can tell all of you that Polly really understands that writing is a business, and that the actual creation of the book is only 50% of the job. She and Maryann are always out there getting their name and titles seen however they can. And it shows in their royalties!

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    3. It's a slippery slope, though. Too much, and it's a turnoff. Not enough, and you get buried under the glut of books in the marketplace. First and foremost, write a good book, get a good editor and cover designer, then hope you're lucky enough to benefit from word of mouth.

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    4. So true, Polly. Taking the time to do the book right makes all the difference. That's one reason the two books I plan to bring out are delayed. We are making sure we get great covers as I work with a graphic artist.

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The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog focusing on editing and writing advice. Some of our contributors are editors, some are authors, and some are writing sheep. Yes, sheep.

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