Ether Books – A Stepping Stone In A Writer’s Career?

I’ll be honest here; I’ve been writing as a hobby for years, but never ever for a profit. I’ve never been published, because I’ve honestly never tried. Since I’ve been taking writing courses ranging from technical to fiction writing, though (and as I get older and actually need money), I’ve been doing a lot of searching for a good outlet to put my name out there. Blogging and uploading material online is all well and good, but it doesn’t give you that much publicity when you’re starting from scratch. I’ve never been a particularly internet savvy person when it comes to social media. Facebook, Twitter, Google+, they’re all cogs in the machine of establishing a name for yourself when it comes to many many different skill types. In my case, it’s much better for someone to have heard of you than to have not when you’re submitting written work. And so my effort in earnest begun.

I’ve only been at it for a few weeks. Perhaps I’ve done alright, it’s very hard to tell. I have lurked around for publishing opportunities, though, and that’s something this blog was created to highlight. Early in my search, I found a fledgling little e-book company who had invented some newfangled type of literature. I won’t name any names, since my thoughts towards them now aren’t entirely kind, but I will relate my experience.

This new writing method was pretty simple. It focused on emotion, so while you might be reading one of their e-books, the writing style would have a much greater emphasis on the character’s senses, as well as his emotions as the story progresses. All the while, there would be abstract illustrations placed within the pages, drawn in mirror to the protagonist’s emotions in that particular scene. To be honest, the hype they put behind it was extremely blown up. I mean, it’s interesting, it’s cool, but it’s not exactly revolutionary. I mean, I learned awhile ago that the first noted piece of experimental literature (The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman by Laurence Sterne) written all the way back in 1759 even incorporated an entire page of black to mourn a character’s death. Expressive illustration in literature is nothing all that new, just seldom seen (undoubtedly because most people would not find it all that interesting).

Still, it’s an interesting idea and after reading all their information over I was a little excited to submit some of my work. Let’s be clear that when it comes to legalities, royalties, and pretty much anything to do with contracts and money, I’m a bit clueless. Reading over their contract, they preached the deal to be quite good. According to them, most publishers royalty numbers ranged from 6-10%. Theirs was 11.5%, and as they said, while you might publish one novel with a publisher, gaining 6-10% royalties off of it per sale, with them you could publish a novel in serial form, earning 11.5% royalties off of each purchase of $2.99. If you sold on astronomical levels, the royalty rate would slowly increase.

Um, wait a minute...

The next part of the contract discussed rights. In short, they would possess rights to your material for 5 years. You’d be completely prohibited from doing anything with it within that 5 year period. After the 5 years, you could opt out, but they would still skim 10% of your profits for the next few years. After reading this bit, I was more than a little apprehensive, but I was still interested. That’s when I hit the kicker.

Since they operate entirely on a word of mouth basis, putting no money into advertising, any writer employed by them is required to have a fairly impressive social media enterprise. 200+ friends on sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and Google+. I was fairly upset when I got to this part, and after discussing the matter with one of their editors, it was made crystal clear that if you don’t have the numbers, don’t even bother submitting your work. The entire thing was extremely strict, but from the perspective of a writer new to the publishing world, I figured that’s just how you played the game.

After this upset, I set out to obtain the social media numbers I needed. Another requirement was an active blog, and the Sundance Press was born. In the meantime, I kept up my search for other opportunities. I found a few ezines and whatnot, offering anywhere from $3-10  for short stories, but while I haven’t crossed that idea out, that’s not exactly the kind of thing I was looking for. In my search I soon came across www.Etherbooks.com.

Nice logo, right?

I had heard the name before, and it was quickly apparent that they are always open to submissions from just about anyone. I dove into the fine print right away, and was taken aback by how different the contract was. For one, the royalty rate is 20%. While the company sells only short stories through their exclusive app, they also accept short stories with a much more common word count (3000+ or so, compared to the 6500-10,000 that the other publisher wanted). Taking the smaller amount of work into account, the nearly doubled royalty rate made up for the difference.

As far as the rights went, you literally keep all rights to your work. That’s right, you can publish something on Etherbooks, and sell it to a third party ezine the next day, still completely within contract. Quite a contrast from the 5-year signing of one’s soul to the publishing Devil. It’s an understatement to say I was a bit more enthused about this publisher than the other.

As for what’s bad about it? Well, the first publisher sold their stuff for $2.99 through various ebook sites (and Kindle, etc.). Ether Books sells short stories (as well as serials, I believe) for 69 pence, which equals about a dollar in USD. Also, the other publisher was building a writers team of around a hundred. I wouldn’t be surprised if Etherbooks had upwards of a thousand writers. They seem to be very open to submitted work. Of various experiences with them, the story is usually something like “I submitted 3 short stories. Two were accepted and I haven’t been contacted about the last yet.” That leads me to believe that it might be quite easy to get lost in a sea of writers in Ether Books, meaning you might not get many sales at all.

It’s all speculation really. I haven’t been able to find anything of how well writers actually do with this publisher, but in the end it seems like a pretty risk free scenario to get your name out there. The contract is hardly a contract at all, the odds of acceptance are high, and the royalties are pretty impressive. What’s there to lose?

Since I’ve really found no negative reports about Ether Books, I’m going to write a few new short stories and submit them sometime soon. One is done so far, I’ve started on the second, and I have a good idea for a third. They promise to get back to you within 90 days concerning acceptance or rejection, and if you buy a premium membership with them (about $40) they promise to get back to you within 2 weeks. The other perk behind a premium membership is that you can publish as many pieces as you’d like, as opposed to only 5 without a membership. $40 is quite a bit when you realize that you’ll only be making about 20 cents per sale (before taxes…), but I suppose if you did become an established author through them, with a large library of pieces, you might do well enough to warrant the membership. In any case, that’s a bit far off for me.

I’ll be sure to post how my attempts with Ether Books turn out. It might be some time, but I’m not going anywhere. I invite anyone who’s had experience with Ether Books, or anyone who has published material through them to comment on what you thought about it!

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About HT Sundance

I'm 20 years old and I'm a writing student living in Hawaii. Writing is my passion, and I'm striving to break into the market doing something I really love.

Posted on December 19, 2011, in Publishing Ops and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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