Despite industry complaints about slow consumer acceptance of e-books as mass market products, Time Warner Trade Publishing's iPublish.com division continues to develop into a comprehensive e-publishing venture that not only sells and markets e-books, but solicits manuscripts and develops new writers using the Internet.
iPublish.com, which debuted this spring (E-publishing, May 7), offers e-book reprint editions of bestselling established Time Warner authors, while also creating an online community of writers, called iWrite, from which Warner Books' editors can solicit, review and test-market original book material submitted to the house via the Internet. iPublish also offers this e-book material for sale directly to the consumer.
This month, iPublish began offering for sale the first three books to be developed from the site's online writers' community, in addition to announcing the release of three forthcoming titles.
The three original e-books to be released this month are by two first-time authors and one previously published author. The books are Travels, a novel about a new television program in the near future by Jerry Davis, a Dallas computer technician; Frank, a retelling of the Frankenstein story by Fred Petrovsky, a custom magazine publisher from Phoenix; and Harmless Error, a "quirky" romantic comedy about two lawyers by Kate Donovan, a California-based attorney. Three newly published, original works by three unpublished authors are slated to go on sale in November. The books are Muzzy, a mystery by Margo Pierce Dorksen, a former proofreader; The Way of the Wolf, a vampire novel by E.E. Knight, a software developer; and Incognito, a regency romance by Suzanne Allain, a computer programmer.
Gregroy Voynow, general manager of iPublish.com, told PW the response to iWrite has been "very encouraging. Can a major publisher find good writing on the Internet? The answer is yes."
Despite a warning from the Authors Guild about the iPublish.com contract (News, May 28), Voynow said the site has attracted about 4,000 to 5,000 writers who have posted excerpts of their works. To post their work, writers must first write three reviews of other works on iWrite and sign the iPublish contract. The contract grants iPublish exclusive rights for 90 days while the work is being evaluated by site members and iPublish editors. The highest rated works, said Voynow, are examined by iPublish editors. If acquired, the work is first released as an e-book and later, if popular, as a frontlist print edition. Voynow said the site has more than 26,000 reviews of submissions. "The first titles released this month have also stimulated submissions. This will show us who has the most promise. We'll bring those books to print in 2002," said Voynow. He also said the site has registered more than 20,000 new member/consumers who have signed up to read excerpts and receive e-mail alerts about upcoming books. "It gives us an efficient way to premarket titles."
Voynow downplayed the site's direct selling feature, called iRead. It is "a showcase for new authors; there is more interest in new authors through iRead." He said e-book editions of Warner print bestsellers (about 30 every month) sell the best through the site. "Our titles sell cumulatively in the thousands of units," but "they aren't our bread and butter. IRead is really not a significant part of our sales. It's really all about our distribution network with retailers."
He dismissed questions about the Authors Guild's criticism of the iPublish contract. "We give authors a chance who don't have any other chance. Their criticism hasn't hurt us. We're happy with the response we're getting."