Cindy's novel, The Scottish Thistle, will be released April 8, 2002 by NovelBooks,Inc -
Factor - Would you consider e-publishing to be a viable
stepping stone into the publishing world?
Cindy Vallar - I'm not sure everyone would agree that it is, but I became an e-author with the hope that eventually the sales of my novel would show agents and print publishers
that I had a following and a market for historical
fiction. Some authors, like MJ Rose and Leta Nolan
Childers, have successfully stepped from e-publishing
into traditional publishing.
Even if it's not a viable stepping stone, e-publishing
provides a great opportunity for authors whose works are considered unmarketable by print publishing houses. E-publishers take chances with cross-genres and less high-selling
genres such as historical fiction. Also, my books are
available sooner and for much longer time periods than
they if they were in print.
One thing that e-publishing allows a new author to do is
amass a following, people who are interested in the type
of books that he/she writes, and to acquire a positive or
negative reputation as a writer and marketer. New
authors may not be aware of how much work the author must
to do to make his/her book a success. If you can
show that you're willing to promote your book, you
increase your chances of making good sales. This
provides statistical ammunition to present to an agent or
publisher to show them what you're willing to do to sell
Has e-publishing helped or hindered your career?
CV - Both. On the
one hand, e-publishing has allowed me to establish a
professional persona in the writing world. The
reviews I write of other authors' books - print and
electronic - are found on a variety of web sites.
They show I can write concisely and meet deadlines.
My maritime piracy column, Pirates & Privateers, also
demonstrates those points, but also helped me amass a
following of people with an interest in piracy. I've
also become an authority whom people contact when they
have a question. Recently, a sheriff asked for some help
on behalf on his son who had to do a school report on
pirates. University students in England contacted me for
suggestions on where to go or who to contact to locate
information for dissertations. A Hungarian needed
information on a particular Barbary corsair, and through
my contacts I provided him with information to help him.
aren't a lot of web sites where people can find quality
information on piracy, yet the need for such a site
exists and Pirates & Privateers fills that need.
Yet, I've also endured some stumbling blocks in my career.
RFI West published my first novel, THE SCOTTISH THISTLE,
in January 2001. The book received great reviews
and I did a lot of marketing. The release even got
me an invitation to attend the Clan Cameron gathering in
Scotland last August.
Two months before my plane left, though, I had to pull my
book from the publisher because they breached the
contract several times. Aside from some major
miscommunications within the company, they failed to
provide promotional copies of my book and only secured
one review of the book contrary to the terms stipulated
in the contract. The biggest problem, however, was
their failure to pay my royalties as promised.
Other authors left the company for similar reasons about
the same time. One requested the attorneys general
in two states investigate the company for fraud. I
contacted the company's lawyer three months after I
terminated my contract to request payment of my royalties.
It wasn't until I sent supporting letters for the fraud
investigations that I received my royalty check.
My intent here is not to bad-mouth the company, but I do
feel that other writers should be aware of problems that
exist before they sign a contract.
Making the decision to terminate my contract was not easy.
I worked for ten years on my novel and having it
published was a dream come true. I consider myself
a professional writer, however, and must consider more
than just my personal feelings. Business-related
concerns and my professional reputation are part of each
article or novel that I write. To continue with the
contract meant I gave tacit approval to the company's
unprofessional and unethical business practices, and that
I agreed they could make money off my hard work without
paying the royalties due me. I would also have
endangered my own reputation as a writer. If I hope
to have other publishers take me seriously, I must be
willing to protect myself and my work. The sum of
money owed me was minimal, but the potential injury to my
reputation and work was not. That's why I felt it
necessary to take the action I did.
I was lucky. When I returned home from Scotland,
there was a message from another e-publisher offering me
a contract for THE SCOTTISH THISTLE. NovelBooks, Inc. has
a good contract. They visibly market their books.
They have both a business plan and an author's handbook.
The publisher answers her e-mail and provides support to
her authors. While I'm sorry that I had to go
through this learning experience, I'm glad it happened
because I know that when NBI releases THE SCOTTISH
THISTLE in April 2002, it is being done by a reputable e-publisher
who cares about her company, her authors, and her
What pros or cons can you suggest that e-publishing
CV - I already
mentioned two pros - fast track publication and long
shelf life. One of the best pros is the worldwide
availability of e-books. People from as far away as
Japan and Thailand have corresponded with me about my
book, and I've met highly respected researchers from
around the world because of my piracy column.
The cons might include the large amount of promotion/marketing
that falls on the author's shoulders. We would do
it if published by print publishers, but e-authors not
only have to promote themselves and their books, they
also have to promote e-books. It consumes a lot of
Recently, an e-author whose book was published by a New
York publisher finally received his first royalty check.
The sales of his book took almost ten years to pay back
the advance. There are no advances in e-publishing, but
royalties are paid from the first sale - making this both
a plus and a minus.
Stability and reliability of e-publishers also qualifies
as a con. A number of e-publishers closed their
doors in the past year. A signed contract doesn't
guarantee that your book will be available, not even from
a print publisher.
The best an author can do is to research the longevity of
the e-publishing company and check with the authors of
that house as well as with other e-authors to learn what
they know about that company and its reputation.
What major differences have been most noticeable with e-pub
vs. print publishing?
CV - Having been a
librarian for twenty years, the biggest differences for
me are the wider availability of titles that better fit
my needs and tastes as well as the length of time a book
is available for purchase. E-books allow me to store them
directly on the computer and if they're interactive, I
can load them and click on hot links to get directly to
the site I want to visit. You can't do that with a
Non-fiction e-books can be updated quicker than a print
book, so their
information is more time-sensitive. Another difference is
the willingness of e-authors to respond to their readers.
Even if a print author's book is badly written or poorly
edited, they garner far greater respect from readers than
those who write e-books that are well written and edited.
Some people, including librarians, don't have respect for
e-authors and think that an e-book isn't really a book
unless it's in print. Of course, these same people
have no lack of respect for an author whose book is in
audio format. Yet at one time, books on tape were equally
Would you personally recommend e-publishing as a starting
point to new writers?
CV - The other day an
author contacted me via e-mail. Although
unpublished, her books have garnered several writing
awards, but when her agent tried to sell them to print
publishers, all she received were "nice"
rejection letters. After viewing my web site and
reading my page about e-books, she felt as if I had read
her thoughts. She asked for advice and
recommendations, which I gave and offered to answer any
other questions she has as she ventures into this new
avenue of publishing.
One print-published author I know hasn't had much luck in
recent years acquiring a publisher. He asked about e-publishing,
and I just read his latest book to review it for an on-line
review site. Another reason he followed up on my
recommendation was because he wanted his out-of-print
titles to become available to new readers.
What initial reactions did you receive from friends/family
when you announced that you would be e-publishing your
CV - Hesitancy and
surprise, but some were willing to try an e-book.
When I explained my reasons for choosing an e-publisher,
they agreed I made a sound decision. Not everyone
wants to read online, but they either print out the book
or give me support while they wait for the print version
to be released.
Would you do anything differently if given the
CV - Probably.
I'd do a lot more investigating into a publisher than I
did before signing my first book contract. I'd also
check with other authors to hear what they had to say.
I did buy an e-book and a print book from RFI West, and I
read the sample contract before submitting my query and
again when they offered me a contract.
Still, I had a bumpy ride and the elation of being a
published author didn't last long.
Every stumble I make, though, is a learning experience.
It might leave me feeling bitter, but I have to set those
personal feelings aside and try again. For each bump in
the road, there are rewards that will far surpass the bad
moments. A writer needs to acquire a hard shell to
withstand those bumps while at the same time maintain the
feeling and sensitivity that enable him/her to write a
well-crafted story. That's what I try to do, and when
something rewarding happens, I cherish it all the more.
~ Author of The Scottish Thistle, coming April 2002 from NovelBooks, Inc.
~ Contributing Editor - Pirates and Privateers at Suite101.com
~ Home Page: Thistles & Pirates at http://www.cindyvallar.com
© Copyright 2002 Lee
Masterson. All rights reserved