Are Ebooks REAL Books?

Sometimes I wonder where I got the snobbery to believe that books published electronically aren’t “real” books.

If ebooks were real books, I’d already be the best-selling author I dreamed of being.

After all, my ebooks on dating and relationships are read all over the world. They’ve sold thousands of copies.

So why don’t I consider myself a “published author”? Sad to say, I think the answer is snobbery.

For me, picking up a book is as habitual as flipping on the television. I usually have three books on the go at once. I adore good writing. In the style of a true connoisseur, I refuse to read anything that doesn’t prove itself by the first page.

And, unfortunately, most of the e-books published on the net are, well, NOT publishable.

It’s a danger of the genre. Neil Strauss, New York Times bestselling author of The Game, told me that people EXPECT ebooks to be crap. People buy them for one or two good ideas, not for the quality of the writing.

Point well taken. But I’m an e-book author, and I don’t think I write crap. Anything worth doing is worth doing well, right?

I should be grateful that I found an internet publisher for my writing at all, as my previous efforts to get published through traditional channels fell short.

Originally, I dreamed of publishing a book on sheep farming. A rough manuscript sits on my laptop on that very topic. Riveting.

Then I had another brainstorm. I spent two years as a Peace Corps volunteer. That would be an easy genre to fill, I thought. I’d write the ultimate Peace Corps book. (For those of you unfamiliar with the genre, the current winner of the “ultimate Peace Corps book” is Moritz Thomsen’s Living Poor.)

A manuscript sits on my laptop on that very topic.

Obviously, I wasn’t getting anywhere. Manuscripts need to jump off the laptop and into the hands of a publisher if they are to do any good.

I needed to develop some publishing credentials first. In the writing world, you do that by publishing short pieces in literary magazines and winning awards. The snobbier the magazine, the snobbier the award, the better.

I managed to win a student writing competition and publish some stories in a student literary magazine, but I knew that such minor accomplishments weren’t going to help.

Then an internet company materialized like a genie out of a bottle, offering me my dearest wish: to write books. I accepted.

As with all wishes granted as if by magic, there were conditions and consequences that I didn’t see until after I’d already accepted.

First of all, the sort of books that I was expected to write were ebooks.

Ebooks don’t have editors. Writing quality is irrelevant; content is king.

Everything has to be written in a simple question-answer or problem-solution style, with lots of headings and lists and exercises to follow.

No one was going to offer me suggestions on how to improve my writing style or proofread my books for me.  I was on my own.

Second, speed was of the essence. This was a business, after all. I’d spent half a year on a 10,000-word thesis for my master’s degree in writing. Here, I’d spend two weeks on a full-length book for internet publication.

Was it good for me? YES! I got paid for the ebook. I paid a university for permission to write my thesis.

And who reads theses? No one. Who reads ebooks? Lots of people.

Too, it was nice to know that my audience was other human beings like myself, as opposed to intimidating English lecturers who jolt you with a cattle prod if you make a spelling mistake.

The final catch was that my ebooks would have NO advantage in the market against similar but poorly written ebooks.

That’s because customers can’t flip through ebooks to see if they like the writing. Customers buy ebooks based on the sales pitch and the free newsletters. Some unscrupulous businesses use this fact to their advantage by lavishing effort on the sales pitch and newsletters and stitching the actual product together out of leavenings.

The only thing that matters about ebooks is the content, or ideas. THAT is what’s marketable.

So here I was, writing ebooks, when really it wasn’t the writing that mattered.

I invested nearly five years in the ebook industry, and in the end I realized that it didn’t matter WHAT I was writing or HOW it was being published.

What mattered was that I was writing and being paid for it.

Sometimes, writers can have bigger egos than their talent deserves. They won’t be published by “just anyone”; they have to be published by the best. They won’t peddle their skills to trade magazines, believing that “real writers” don’t prostitute their talent.

An ego is a writer’s worst enemy. As long as you get to write, BE HAPPY.

Sure, you may not have the readership you want, get paid what you want, or get the prestige you want, but if you’re in writing for those things, you’ll NEVER be satisfied.

Write for the sake of writing. Do it because you love it. Don’t get caught up in chasing fame and awards and the prestige of being “published” or having a “bestseller.”

And if you’re like me and are lucky enough to get a job writing for a company, take it. Don’t worry about your reputation.

Precious few writers make a living from their writing. Being among their hallowed company is prestige enough.

Category : Writing


Got a comment?