Creating an Electronic Bestseller
In addition to offering a product "in unlimited quantities 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, to an estimated 50 to 70 million people who use the Internet," says Snow, publishers may consider that virtual books possess features conventional books do not: they are searchable, and they can also offer links to online resources, sound, animation, interactive graphs and charts. Other advantages, he says, include the ability to copy text and paste it into other documents without retyping, and type enlargement for readers with vision problems.
Then consider the turnaround. Most virtual books, according to Snow, can be published within 60 to 90 days of the date when the manuscript is submitted for less than $500. Remembering his days as a traditional print publisher, Snow says he wishes he could get his hands today on all the manuscripts he had rejected and publish them electronically, at a fraction of a cost. "By eliminating paper and ink and so forth, we pretty much completely avoid the huge economic risk that it takes to bring a new title to the market," he remarks.
The cost of publishing online with 1stBooks depends on how readily the manuscript can be converted to one of the three most accepted formats, says Snow, noting that 70 to 80 percent of publishers submit usable manuscripts in one of the commonly-used formats. Research his company has conducted to determine what software people use most on their computers at home, says Snow, established that accepting all files as (or converting to) Microsoft Word, Word Perfect or PDF was most cost-effective. PDF's platform-independence, he adds, proves to be especially useful.
So what happens after the manuscript is submitted?
It is the company policy, says Snow, "not to dictate what is good writing and what is not," instead letting the author decide what the public reads and the public decide if it makes good reading or not. Snow notes that less than 10 percent of submitted material is rejected as inappropriate.