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Author Scott Carney Talks eBooks

Journalist Scott Carney’s freshman book The Red Market, which is out on Harper Collins today, looks at the international network of organ brokers, bone thieves and child traffickers.

I caught up with the author for a feature interview on Media Bistro’s Avant Guild site. He spoke about reporting on the black market. In the interview called, Hey, How’d You Report on The Black Market and Live To Tell About It, Scott Carney?. “The trick is going into the interview empathizing with your subject and trying to see the world from their view,” he says in the interview. Avant Guild members can access the entire interview here.

Since his book is available as an eBook, I interviewed Carney about his thoughts on digital publishing for eBookNewser. Here is the interview.

EBN: What do you think of eBooks?

SC: Epublishing just might be the future–but maybe not. It is a very promising route forward that could change the way that we interact with media overall. There is one company that I think is particularly cutting edge called The Atavist, which was started by another Wired contributing editor named Evan Ratliff and a current New Yorker editor named Nick Thompson (who is now, officially a consultant on the project). They do feature stories, where a reader can download them like an iTunes song for like $1.99 for a really well researched story.

They invest in great stories, fact checking and layouts. The beautiful thing about it is that they don’t have a lot of overhead, so they split the revenue with the writer, and if they get 5,000 readers, you are getting paid more than you’d get to write for one of those big Condé Nast publications. It could be very lucrative and you cut out the dead-tree publishing houses, which is nice.

EBN: Do you think that this just applies for magazine articles or books as well?

SC: I think it works for books as well. You don’t need really big numbers if people are paying $1.99 for an article or a book. –A typical publishing contract– is between 10% and 15%, so if they are selling a book for $20, at most a writer is only getting $3 out of that. But if you selling your eBook for $3 and close to 100% of that, then you can sell more units and make more money. The only question is distribution and the heat that the media applies to it. The value of one of those big publishers today is that they have a wonderful distribution network. That could change with epublishing. We will see. I have my fingers in both pots.

EBN: With all of the types of media out there how do you make sure your stories get noticed?

SC: The nice thing about The Atavist is that you still go through the pitching process. You have to sell the editors there that that your idea is going to be good. So you get the same type of curation you would at a major magazine. If Amazon just lets anyone sell their eBook then the whole business strategy could collapse.  It would be the same problem of the Apple App Store. There are a bazillion applications that you can download but you are only going to look at the ones on the first search page. Most people don’t make money selling iPhone applications.

EBN: That is one of the criticisms of self-publishing.

SC: Writers need to think of themselves as a brand. You need to cultivate a reputation where people will seek your work out and try to get the your work published on as many mediums as possible. We have to keep our fingers in as many pies as possible and hope that one of them bakes.

EBN: Do you read eBooks?

SC: I don’t have an eReader but I am going to get an iPad next week. I like the idea that I no longer need to have books in my house. It’s a waste of space in some ways. I like that I can have this computer hard drive that has a million books in one place and carry them around in my backpack.

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