Having made the transition from writing for traditional, bricks-and-mortar publishers to writing for e-publishers, I feel somewhat qualified to answer this question and can state unequivocally that here are several differences that should inform what you write and how you write it. The differences that come to mind immediately are:
- Word count. When writing for traditional print publishers, word count is crucial because they mostly plan for a given number of words to fill a pre-planned number of pages that they know in advance the cost to print and how to market. E-books don’t have pages so word count becomes less important. That doesn’t mean it’s not important at all because people still like to read in different lengths. Some people like long, complex plots with convoluted twists. Others (like me) like their story line straight and simple. And so on. But the importance of word count is waaaaaay less!
- Shelf life. Print material takes up space in stores and must be removed in a timely manner to make room for new material. E-books can sit on an author’s or publisher’s website forever so readers who have enjoyed one story by an author can go back and purchase everything that author has written. This is huge! It’s one of the biggest ways for authors and publishers to make money while getting their stories out there to be read by eager readers.
- Fame of the writer. Print publishers normally only make a profit publishing works by famous people. The rest of their books and magazine articles either lose money or break even. So they concentrate on famous people. Of course they do! But e-publishers know that, because every writer’s works can stay on their site and in the public eye forever, that writer may become famous or may simply gain a cult following over time that will bring in just as much money and result in just as many books/magazines being sold as if they were famous. So mid-list and beginner writers are welcome, even eagerly sought.
- Cost of publishing. This is the basic reason for both numbers 2 and 3. The cost of e-publishing is minimal. Very minimal! So something can be published that the publisher knows in advance won’t sell a lot of copies. Because recouping the cost of a minimal-priced book is just that — minimal.
- What is published. Think about number 4. If publishing costs are minimal, not only can publishers put works out that are by people who aren’t famous (yet) they can also venture into nooks and crannies of the publishing world that will only find a limited number of readers. Because the cost of publishing will be recouped in just a few sales so even if the sales are so few that a traditional print publisher would lose money publishing it, an e-publisher can make a profit.
- Marketing. I believe this is a response to more books/articles being published than ever before. Marketing for such a huge number of works would be such a monumental task that they’d forego publishing rather than tackle the work involved. Whatever the reason, publishers now require the writer to do the bulk of the marketing. In fact, when a publisher, either print or e-pub, starts the negotiation process with a writer whose work they find interesting, one question that’s invariably asked is ‘how do you intend to market your book?’ Because, make no mistake about it, the writer will do the marketing. (Unless you are Steven King or someone just as famous. Then the publisher will do the work. For the rest of us, it’s not happening!) What most publishers will do is teach you how to market your specific book and connect you to an on-line group of their other writers to help you learn how to market and to let their writers give each other tips on what works and what doesn’t. Since publishers tend to specialize, this group zeroes in on how to market that specific genre instead of being generic info on marketing in general. Often they will give lists of the best places online and in the real world that are interested in what they publish.