Keith Gascoigne

Writer’s Blog


The trials and tribulations of epublishing

I have written most of my life, and tried to get published for many years with very little success. I tried epublishing my typescripts as ebooks but soon discovered that epublishing is an unbalanced mess where most of the resellers dictate the terms to the writers and make large profits out of them but as usual, the ones who produce the work, the writers, get very little except more and more things to attend to such as advertising, publicity, social-networking and more.

After much consideration over the last several months, I decided to remove my ebooks from Smashwords. My ebooks are no longer available to buy from them or Apple ibooks. There is little wrong with Smashwords that couldn’t be put right quickly (their website interface could be improved and in my experience, their responses to emails can be dismissive and abrupt) but I chose Smashwords because they were the best of the bunch. Mark Coker is helpful with all the information he provides but there are far too many other hoops to jump through before I get any reward for all my work. Smashwords have only one payment option and that is Paypal so I have to join and pay PayPal a percentage to get my money from America to my bank account in England. I have no choice. There must be a good reason for this lack of choice?

The american IRS (tax system) - want us to jump through too many hoops before they stop taking 30% in tax from the writers who, like myself, already pay taxes in their country of residence (England in my case) while, at the same time, the american IRS appear to be very relaxed about how huge american corporations get away without paying fair taxes in other parts of our world. I have to register with the american IRS, filling in a long form about my personal details, send them my passport and other proofs, they want too much personal information from me, such as all details of my ‘world-wide income’; I wish I had some but I’m neither Amazon nor Starbucks. American-based global companies get away with not paying any taxes on their zillions of profit so normal people, like me, have to contribute more in taxes.

I chose Apple ibooks only, as resellers because, unlike the others, Apple still allow the writer some choice in setting the selling price of their ebooks.

I am disillusioned by the confusion and chaos of epublishing as it is now and governments who also see epublishing as another cash cow to be milked.

To make things worse for the struggling writer, another huge, bureaucratic, political, unshakeable monolith, called ‘The European Government’, now grab VAT on ebooks sold or passed on or whatever in or through Europe even though it is only electrons with pass through Europe. In other words; the european government is taxing electrons now. I think that this spurious money-grabbing tax is an immoral tax on the education of mainly young people (epublishing is a young technology) - but this is what those with power over us want. Governments do not want educated people who can think for themselves and then see how rotten, corrupted and corrupting their own government really is. As Carlo Suares says:

‘Our leaders, businessmen and politicians, whose daily actions contribute to disaster, will not understand the fundamental truth because it condemns them.’  (Carlo Suares, 1892 - 1976)

At the moment my books are in limbo but you can read free samples of the first three while I work out a saner method of getting my books in front of the few interested and thoughtful people who might want to read them.

I, like others, think that the ebooks system is broken. Writers get very little for their work, the sellers dictate what they are going to pay the writer, many of them demand enormous amounts of money, some ebook resellers are racist; demanding more from writers living in the UK than from american-based writers and (as Kurt Vonnegut said) so it goes...

Many of the ebooks being published now are low quality with bad grammar, bad syntax, bad writing, often worse than ‘O’ level student essays and yet they are still published and this junk gives the whole ebook publishing industry a bad name, which is certainly justified. Quantity seems to be the main aim and quality is neither wanted nor encouraged. Why should quality be a major factor when aggregaters and resellers make more money on massive sales of popular fiction? I had thought that an aggregate was a graded mixture and therefore it is implicit in the word ‘aggregater’ that some form of grading, some separation of the good from the garbage, might occur but no; they let anything and everything through.

I downloaded a sample of a published ebook which should never have seen the light of another person’s computer screen (I won’t show it to save the ‘author’ any embarrassment - if the ‘author’ knows what that is). It was a first draft, written for the ‘author’ as all first drafts are and had never been edited. The syntax was offensively repetitious.

Trying to get epublished simply isn’t worth the hassle unless you are writing what most readers apparently want to read and that appears to be romantic fiction. Serious writers with something valuable or even helpful to say to readers are, in the main, ignored.

My main complaint is that the writers have lost control of their work. I’m not talking of the junk writers who have difficulty in constructing a grammatically correct sentence of more than six words and believe that syntax is another acceptable government tax; I am talking about the many good writers who accept this bad treatment from the major sellers. In the main, writers are treated like cattle, like servants who work for nothing except to make their masters, the resellers, rich.

I have always thought of myself as a writer but changed this to ‘author’ when I allowed myself to get drawn into the ‘magic whirlpool’ of epublishing. I think that an author has authority and authority is earned by readers liking and respecting what the well-informed and eloquent writer has written. I revert back to ‘writer’ and wait - with some anticipation.

I am considering self-publishing print books in England to have more control and more satisfaction. It would be difficult for me to get less satisfaction than I have had from attempting to sell my epub ebooks in the corporate jungle that is the new ‘norm’ in ebook reselling.

In my experience (and quite a few others who have made their observations known on the internet) ebook publishing is a shark-infested, greed-fired, corporate-controlled midden and totally dismissive of authors and writers, seeing them simply as producers of a product to be sold like packs of cornflakes instead of producers and broadcasters of ideas. It is time that the more sensible writers have a voice in how the epublishing trade works.




Please note that all of the above has been learned, discovered, experienced by me over the last two years and more. As epublishing is a fairly recent development things could change fast so some of the above might be out of date. I hope epublishing has improved for writers but I doubt that.