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Blogs From Exile

Mystery Novelist Finds New Venue with Electronic Books

Not long ago, the only places to find out-of-print books were rare book stores and libraries. Luckily, that’s no longer the case.

With the growing popularity of electronic books (e-books) and the increasing number of venues that support them, many out-of-print books have found a new life. More and more authors have discovered that sites such as Amazon offer e-book production that is relatively easy to use, reaches a large audience, and offers a price that can’t be beat—in that in most cases it’s free.

Award-winning mystery novelist Vincent H. O’Neil recently began exploring various venues for keeping his three published “Frank Cole” mysteries available to the public, and was pleasantly surprised by his experience with Amazon.

“I did encounter a little difficulty at first, translating the book files into the format Kindle requires, but a little time spent on the Kindle message boards showed me a quick and simple way of doing that. I know almost no computer code, but the ‘preview’ function on the site allowed me to see every page of the e-book before it went into production, and so I just kept adjusting things until I was satisfied with how it looked.”

O’Neil’s debut mystery novel, Murder in Exile, won the St. Martin’s Press “Malice Domestic” writing competition in 2005 and received glowing reviews from The New York Times and Kirkus when it was released in 2006. Introducing the likeable amateur sleuth Frank Cole and his adopted town of Exile, Florida, it was followed by two more books in the series, Reduced Circumstances (2007) and Exile Trust (2008). All three novels, as well as the latest addition to the series, Contest of Wills (2010) are now available as e-books.

“For many years, I’ve heard that the window for finding an audience is shrinking. That’s one reason why so many well-reviewed series suddenly disappear after only a few releases. This is blamed on everything from shelf space at the bookstore to storage space at the warehouse, but neither of those issues is a problem with e-books. With more and more sites like Amazon supporting this, the length of time a series is in front of an audience keeps getting longer and longer. It can also keep out-of-print books available to whole new generations of readers.”

Alongside the Amazon Kindle, e-books are available on the Barnes & Noble Nook, the Borders eReader, and numerous other tools. Downloadable applications can turn most electronic devices, from personal computers to personal phones, into platforms on which e-books can be previewed, bought, and enjoyed. An advantage of this electronic format which is of particular important for those with difficulty seeing is the ability to increase the font size on the screen and, in many cases, to listen to the book as if it were recorded as an audio book.

In addition to the books themselves, social media, personal blogs, and author websites also contribute to increasing the longevity of books and series. Topics from “Name Your Favorite Fictional Character” to “Tell Us About a Series You Absolutely Loved” often create long discussion threads, and can introduce participants to authors and books they otherwise might never have encountered.

“The e-books are an excellent venue for getting your work in front of readers, and the immediacy of the ordering process is a big plus.” Says O’Neil, who manages his own author website and blog at www.vincenthoneil.com. “Some people are concerned that electronic books are going to take the place of print, but I don’t think that’s likely. It’s just another way of getting the story to the reader—which is probably the most important part of the whole process, if you think about it.”
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