Why Every Writer Should Consider Going Digital-First – Jericho Writers
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Why Every Writer Should Consider Going Digital-First

Why Every Writer Should Consider Going Digital-First

Come on a journey with me back in time five years. I had just sat down to write my first novel (note – not the one I ended up getting published as my debut) and I was daydreaming, as you do, about the day I’d see my book in a bookstore.

Little did I know that publishing had other ideas for me. The book deal I would end up signing would not see my debut proudly displayed in the windows of my favourite bookstores. It wouldn’t take me on a tour across the country doing signings. It wouldn’t even involve the ability to sell my books at a launch party. That’s because I signed a digital first publishing deal.

What is digital first publishing?

There are lots of digital first publishers. In fact, more and more are springing up every month (and with good reason – but we’ll touch on that in a bit). Often, they are smaller ‘imprints’ of a larger publisher. Mine, for example, is called Embla Books, and it is a smaller imprint of the much bigger publisher Bonnier Books. What sets these smaller imprints apart is their main focus is on the digital world – eBooks and audiobooks. So, when I signed my book deal, I was entering into an agreement that, though they would produce my book in paperback via Print-On-Demand (AKA the book only gets printed when it’s ordered – there are no copies sitting in a warehouse somewhere like with a traditional publisher), the primary focus would be the eBook and the audiobook. This meant all those typical release activities I had expected from being a published author just didn’t happen.

Ugh. That sounds awful. Why would anyone want to go with a digital-first publisher?

If you’re sitting there thinking that, I wouldn’t blame you. I, too, felt a little let-down by the whole thing when I first started. I thought I was settling. Like perhaps I wasn’t good enough to get the window displays and the book tours and all of those lovely writerly things. What I didn’t realise in those early days when I felt like I was just playing pretend at being an author was that it would turn out to be the best business decision I could possibly have made.

Digital first is where the money is at.

Now, I’m not raking in millions as an author. Clearly. I’m still working full-time! However, I’ve undoubtedly earned more than I would have if I had gone down a more ‘traditional’ route of publication. The trouble with those deals is, unless you’re one of the magical unicorn lead titles who get all the publicity, you’re highly unlikely to make any decent money off of physical books. The reason for this is simple – people tend to only buy physical books from authors they already know and like. Because why? Because money.

The digital first strategy focuses on building your audience. My books were listed as 99p eBooks that were FREE for anyone with Kindle Unlimited or Amazon Prime. That’s a lot of people getting my books for free. But you know what? I still got paid. The way Kindle Unlimited and Prime Reading works is you get paid a (tiny) amount per page read. While the pay per page is tiny, the amount of people you can reach with a publisher who knows what they’re doing is not. Digital first publishers are typically much more ‘on it’ when it comes to advertising, and they have a much bigger budget for advertising because they’re not wasting it on printing costs. My debut has now been read by nearly 1 million people. How NUTS is that? 1 million x a tiny amount = a substantial paycheck.

Okay but… I still want my books in bookstores.

I know, I know. Me too. The good news is, now my books are. The reason I suggest digital-first publishing to debut authors is because it’s the perfect jumping off point. It’s a way to build your audience and your readership so that when your books do eventually get into bookstores and you do eventually move to that more traditional publishing model (it took me three books to do it, but I got there) you’ll have that audience who know you and are willing to spend the money to get a hard copy.

And you know what? My books are now in bookstores and I still don’t make nearly as much from paperbacks as I do from eBooks. Not even close. The world is changing.


If you want to know more about digital first publishing, why not watch the replay of our Ask A Publisher Anything event with Nia Beynon from Boldwood Books. They’re another digital first publisher that are absolutely storming the bestseller lists right now, so Nia is the best person hear talk about this exciting area of publishing.

This replay is available to Premium Members as part of our Masterclass library. Not a Premium Member? Join now and get access to masterclasses, events, video courses, AgentMatch and so much more.