Patrice Fitzgerald has taken e-publishing one step further. She has taken what she’s learned — which is a lot — from self-publishing her own e-book, Running, and started her own electronic publishing company, eFitzgerald. She has a lot to say about the process, the frustrations and satisfactions, and we caught up with her recently for an interview.
Examiner: Ok, let’s start on a positive note. How are you doing? How are your sales going?
PF: I’m having a fabulous time! It’s pretty much like a dream come true. After twenty years (really) of writing and trying to get published the traditional way — with lots of almost-deals, including meetings with the literary agency for John Grisham and serious interest from television — it is a thrill simply to have my work out there. That folks are buying it and leaving 5-star reviews is icing on the cake. My sales go up and down, but when there is an “up,” it can mean serious money.
Examiner: What skills did you have to acquire to become a successful e-publisher?
PF: Certainly I am learning as I go, but most of the skills came from years of reading, writing, and observing the book business. One has to have an entrepreneurial bent and a fairly bold sense of taste – and believe one’s own taste is of course worth following!
I am continually surprised at how reading the manuscripts that are submitted to my company, eFitzgerald Electronic Publishing, teaches me to be a better writer. I have three reader/editors working with me, but I feel it’s important to be the final arbiter about each book that comes out under our name — so it takes a lot of my time to finalize each book.
Examiner: How about the managing editor skills — preparing a manuscript for publication? Copy editing is copy editing, but what else is needed that applies specifically to e-book publishing?
PF: Covers have to be specific to what ebook searching entails — clear, easy-to-read titles (shorter titles work better) and author names. High contrast. Clean art. They will often be seen in thumbnail size, so details will be lost.
Formatting for epublishing involves learning what to put up front — not much! Because ebooks are often sampled first, with 10% of the actual pages available for free perusal, you don’t want to have a lot of clutter using up that precious first tenth of real estate. For example, acknowledgements should go in back, as well as blurbs about the author. Short reviews can go up front, but only if they’re not going to take away from the impact of actual pages a reader gets to preview.
As to other ms. issues — it’s the usual. Is there a story arc, is there conflict, how is the dialogue, are there sensory details? I guess I’ve absorbed a lot of this over the years simply by reading and writing good books — and by attending those workshops, critique sessions, etc. It all seems very clear to me now… especially in other people’s manuscripts!
Special freedoms do come with epublishing, though. You don’t have to reject a book because you don’t know where to shelve it. It can be cross-genre or unclassifiable. It can certainly be much shorter or much longer than would be economically feasible in a traditional print book.