What is digital publishing?

Updated: Jan 15

Getting more stories from the margins means understanding the huge variety of publishing options in the world. Today we take a look at digital publishing, so that you can decide if it's the path that helps you meet your writing goals.


First, a little background:

Digital publishing typically means a book will not be printed but will be available through digital means, like an e-Book (although some digital publishers, like Bookouture, give readers an option for print-on-demand; learn more here).


Some publishing companies are digital-first, meaning they will publish digitally before they make any decisions about putting out print copies. They may decide at some point it is a good idea to do so, however there is not a guarantee of printing copies.


Digital publishing is right for some writers, but it is not for everyone. It’s up to each writer to decide what their goals are and what best fits their life and career. Then again, there are plenty of authors who do both! I’m thinking of one romance author in particular who has books that are traditionally published (e-books, too) and self-publishes some of her other work digitally—she is quite prolific!


There are also traditional publishers who have imprints that are digital-only.


Some of the differences between digital and traditional:


  • While many traditional publishers require submissions to be represented/agented, many digital publishers will review unagented submissions.


  • Another difference comes in the amount of royalties the author will receive if the digital publisher accepts and publishes their book. These vary from publisher to publisher.


  • While we’re talking about variations, some digital publishers are similar to traditional publishers and provide editing and marketing services. Others do not (like platforms that allow you to self-publish) or may do so but for a fee. It’s up to you to do your homework on if digital publishing might be the right fit for you, and if it is, which publisher or platform will best suit your needs.


  • One of the downsides of digital publishing? Authors do not receive an advance for their work. The flip side? Your book may be available more quickly than with a traditional publisher.


So, is digital publishing a good fit for you?

Maybe your book is super-niche and has a more limited audience than a traditional publisher is willing to take a chance on. Digital publishing might be a better fit. A wider variety of books and lower costs of operation are some of the perks of a digital operation.


Many digital readers are more voracious than their print counterparts (so genres like suspense and romance—whose readers are more likely to devour a higher number of books to begin with—do well digitally). And it’s easier to own a larger number of digital books in a small space than traditional hardcovers and paperbacks. Plus, there is a convenience to being able to have so many books wherever you and your reading device are; again, it’s a lot easier to take a phone or Kindle on a vacation than 10 physical books.


Digital publishers may not get your book into bookstores, but they do provide a way for almost anyone to be able to purchase your book online. So even when readers can’t get to a store or don't want to wait for a delivery, they can still get easy access to your book and can do so immediately.

Thinking of self-publishing? Digital publishing is usually a better move than paying a vanity press to print your books. Just remember, when it comes to self-publishing, you are the quality control.


Happy writing all! Here's to finding the path that's best for you.

Helpful articles for further reading:


https://www.writersandartists.co.uk/writers/advice/1280/preparing-for-submission/what-does-a-publisher-do/


https://phoebemorganauthor.com/2017/12/17/digital-first-vs-paperback-publishing/