Growing Pains in a Digital Age

So in my last post on the Edge of Print Conference that took place in Edmonton May 6-7th, I mentioned the keynote set the stage for a day of debating the pros and cons of e-publishing, social media, and other 21st century writerly dilemmas.

The first panel discussion I attended only fueled the fire. Made up of Jerome Martin (Spotted Cow Press), Sarah Ivany (Freehand Books), and Todd Anderson (U of Alberta Bookstore), this was a panel with a lot of collective experience in the relatively new field of e-books, on-demand publishing, and online marketing.

Jerome Martin, Spotted Cow Press

Sarah Ivany, Freehand Books

Todd Anderson, U of A Bookstore

My main take-aways about e-publishing:

    • One of the biggest challenges in e-books at the moment is figuring out a way to get your book (whether you’re a publisher or a self-publishing author) into the right format (EPUB, App) for the right eReader (Ipad, Kobo, Kindle, etc).
  • Image-heavy works and poetry are especially tricky to get into e-book form. Some publishers are simply creating PDFs on their website for these works, or using PDF versions to send to academics and reviewers to save on postage and the cost of review copies.


  • There is an idea that e-books are for the young and tech-savvy, but several 40+ folks suggested it’s actually most useful for those with aging eyes who can easily increase font-size.


  • E-books are great for impulse buys. If someone hears about your book on the radio while driving around town, they can go online and buy an e-copy at the next red light or while stuck in traffic.


  • Electronic versions of chapters/excerpts in PDF form on your website are a great way to stimulate interest in the print copy, or in your other skills. Martin, for example, says that his online book, Capuccino U, is like an electronic business card that has led to many opportunties for paid speaking engagements, and so on.


  • There are so many more options for multi-media book creations online: audio, photographs, interactive maps, keyword searches (no more indexing!), videos, etc.


  • Apparently it takes about 2 months to convert a book into an electronic format through major companies.


  • Can you provide electronic support to customers if they have trouble with your e-books? If you can’t, be prepared to give it away for free or to offer a money-back guarantee.


Promotion in a Digital Age:

  • There is unlimited bookshelf space in the online world, and no friendly neighbourhood bookstore owner to guide readers to your amazing book. So discoverability and visibility are key. Are you and your titles easily found through Google searches, Amazon, Chapters, Abebooks, etc?


  • Google yourself and your works. That first page of results is a digital collage of your online brand. Is it what you want it to be? If not, it’s time to look into search engine optimization and making sure your online persona is in keeping with your brand.


  • Find and create the online communities that will talk about your book in the blogosphere (like me!), Twitterverse, and on Facebook. Get people to write reviews of your book on Amazon and other major online booksellers, if you can.


From what I heard during the conference, 90% of books sold are still in hard copy format, but a recent stat suggests there are 5-8 million Kindles being used, not to mention the Kobos, Ipads, and Tabs that are flooding the market.

I don’t think paper books are going out of fashion anytime soon, but the ability to transmit books around the world and create multi-media experiences is pretty exciting. So while we might be feeling twinges of what Anderson calls “paradigm collapse trauma,” how about we accept them as growing pains?

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