02/08/2011 06:58 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Ebooks: Why Go Digital-Original?

I read with great interest Jason Pinter's essay about why he chose to do his novel, Faking Life, as a Digital-Original. The book sounds very entertaining, and well worth the read.

And I recognize the story surrounding it and his choice to go Digital-Original.

Back in 2006 I got the idea for a novel. It was a flash on the title In Hero Years... I'm Dead. I happened to have been standing in a room full of young podcasters, seeing their enthusiasm, and remembering back when I'd been in the gaming industry with that same fire for a new phenomenon. The sense I got of the story was of a man who'd been away for a time, coming back home, seeing what the new generation was up to.

In Hero Years... I'm Dead. A Digital Original novel.

Within a year I started working on the book. It became a superhero-noir story which, despite the tights and fights trappings, really was a story about a man returning home, trying to recapture a sense of who he had been. I could easily have written it about a prisoner-of-war returning from a long captivity, or someone who had gone away to make his fortune, returning to a town he'd left behind. That would have been literature. Instead I opted for the world of comics because I enjoy it, and it is just full of delicious tropes to play with.

When I sent it to my agent, I got a call. He liked it, but had no idea what to do with it. Not an easy sell since it defied all the market categories. I sat on it for a while, then had friends (professional editors) do an edit on it, and put it out as a Digital-Original (available for the KINDLE or in EPUB for every other reader). I even did it in two editions: the basic which is just the novel; and a deluxe edition for $1 more, which includes a long essay about how the book came to be written. (The Deluxe edition outsells the basic 2.5 to 1 across all platforms.)

The real important thing about Digital-Original publication goes beyond the fact that authors make more money off each sale than through traditional publishing. It's that we get to bypass a system of gatekeepers who have more than quality as criteria for what they choose. I know a lot of authors and, like Jason, they all seem to have one or more novels which they wrote because the story called to them, and yet no one in traditional publishing wanted to take a chance of publishing. Not because the books were bad, but because their chimeric nature made them inconvenient for marketing purposes.

Digital-Original publishing embraces the non-conventional and genre-busting story. It allows me to share good stories with readers who will enjoy them, and at a reasonable price. This democratization of publishing is not the end of literature or letters as we know it; it's the opening of a treasure trove of entertainment for all of us -- win-win.

And don't feel sorry for traditional publishers. As they have done forever, they will snap up the success stories and bring them out in paper. Digital-Original just shifts the R&D costs for publishing to the authors, and affords us the chance to write the stories we want to write, and the stories our patrons want to read.