To “E” Or Not To “E”

I’ve changed how I refer to myself several times throughout my writing career. At first I was a “Writer,” because I thought that sounded proud and intelligent. But then I realized that all I wrote were books, so I changed my title to “author.” Again, that sounded smart as if I should own a pipe and smoking jacket (I tried pipe smoking… no go). But that still didn’t seem to fit. I didn’t feel like an “author.” My books weren’t about the brilliant subjects tackled by Dostoevsky, Milton, or Poe, they were about aliens, or vampires, or blowing things up. So I downgraded my status again to “novelist.” Novelist felt right. The name invoked images of a seedy, one bedroom apartment with the wallpaper peeling off the walls and mold eating away at the corners, while a lone man sits in the corner, pecking away at his old, rusty typewriter. Yeah, Novelist seemed right to me.

My books aren’t groundbreaking, and they aren’t going to be remembered among the greats, but they are fun. At least I think so anyway. Most of my books have been called “beach reads,” which I actually find flattering (despite the fact I have never been to a beach). My novels are easy reads, and I liken them most to summer popcorn movies. There’s lots of visual effects and the boy almost always gets the girl, but there isn’t a great amount of substance beneath. And that is fine with me. And considering I’ve had several best-sellers, it seems to be fine with my readers too.

What I’ve often wondered about my title is if I should add an “E” to it. Am I an e-novelist? I have thirteen novels published with two publishers, both of which predominantly sell ebooks. There are paperback versions of a few of my novels, but the electronic versions far outsell the print copies. In the publishing industry there is a clear division between “Traditional” and”Electronic” authors. Traditional authors get fat advances, go on book tours, and snob their noses up at e-authors. We are considered “hacks,” “undisciplined,” and “wannabes,” despite the fact that we hone our skills exactly the same way they do. Are traditional authors’ books anymore polished than an e-authors’? I don’t think so. In fact, several e-authors have gone on to have successful careers with traditional publishing houses. So what’s the difference? It’s perception. Because you can’t walk into Barnes & Noble and find my book on the shelf, I am a lesser author.

How do we, as e-authors and e-publishers, change that perception? It comes with readers accepting new forms of media like iPods, iPhones, Kindles, and other eReaders. When a reader fires up their WiFi connection instead of heading to the book store the perception will change. But readers are hard to change. They love the weight of a novel in their hands, the feel of the pages under their fingers, and the smell of the ink. Books are an archaic medium that will probably never fully be replaced, but eReaders will come into dominance soon and then we will all be on level ground.

So I don’t think I’ll add an “E” to my title. I’m just a novelist. And that’s fine by me.

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