More ebooks are coming

The question comes up from time to time as to what constitutes our ebook policy. We have about a dozen Stark House ebooks so far, and there doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason to the list. There’s a reason for that: I know that modern readers have fallen in love with virtual books, but I’m still in love with those old fashioned things with bindings and covers and printed pages.

So when it comes to formatting books into ebooks, I don’t tend to prioritize this process. Those authors who insist get top priority. That’s why Charlie Stella’s ebooks are available. And Rick Ollerman, Andrew Coburn, Robert Silverberg and Mercedes Lambert. Every other ebook is hit or miss, and trial and error.

Okay, I’m admit it: until three years ago, I didn’t even automatically include ebook rights in our contracts. It took a conversation with a local bookseller to convince me that I was missing out on a major source of revenue. I explained that I started Stark House to produce BOOKS, not computer programs. But the bookseller suggested I consider having the best of both worlds, and giving them a try. And then, of course, there was Rick Ollerman, our associate editor at the time, who also kept at me till I produced some ebooks, contributing his own efforts to make sure they happened.

Our first ebook was One for Hell by Jada M. Davis. We followed that with Secrets & Sovereigns by E. Phillips Oppenheim and Johnny Porno by Stella. Three very different books. The experiment had begun. So far, the Stella books are the biggest success. But then, Charlie’s books in general are big successes for Stark House. The Mercedes Lambert books also do very well. Oppenheim, not so much.

But we’ve also dabbled with some of our regular noir authors, offering a Gil Brewer, an A. S. Fleischman, a Douglas Sanderson, and even our Beat collection. Yesterday, a reader from Canada asked for more Brewer. Presumably, considering the cost of U.S. imports, he would accept more of everything. So the next ebook from Stark House will be our new W. R. Burnett two-fer, which has only been out for about a month.

I hate to compete with my own preferred print editions, but the arguments in favor of ebook publishing make sense. What I hear is that certain readers will always buy the print editions. But other readers only want ebook editions. And that the crossover isn’t that clear-cut anymore. By not providing the latest Stark House books in simultaneous print/ebook editions, I am killing half our sales, depriving half our readers.

I guess I’m just retro enough that I stubbornly pursue those initial print sales. But going forward, I am also going to acknowledge that if the ebook rights are available, I will offer that format as well—and not wait a year or two or three to do so.

This isn’t a solid gold promise. But it’s a statement of intent. Ebooks are here, readers seem to love their kindles and nooks and ipads and whatevers. And Stark House will, reluctantly or not, bow to the demands of the marketplace and enter the 21st century kicking and streaming.

–Greg Shepard

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