Several indie authors only publish their novels in ebook format. Makes sense too, especially when you’re first starting out. It costs a lot less to format and produce an ebook than a paperback.
For example, a cover designer has to create a spine and back cover for your print book, in addition to the front cover, so his fee will be higher than if you had commissioned him to do an ebook cover only.
It’s more difficult to go DIY with a print book than an ebook because the conventions for interior design are so different. You’ll either have to hire someone to format your print book for you or, for a less costly option, purchase an interior design template. Either way, your upfront costs are going to be more for print.
It’s also always a good idea to order proof copies of your print book before you put it up for sale. While Amazon’s CreateSpace (the most common way indie authors publish print books) charges a reasonable fee for proof copies, their cost can add up. With ebooks, your proof copies are pretty much free!
The increase in initial costs is one of the major reasons I’ve stalled releasing print versions of my books. But as soon as I can, I’m going to offer paperback versions of my novels.
Here are 7 reasons why all indie authors should do a print run of their books:
- Most readers still prefer print books
- Book bloggers prefer print books
- Goodreads giveaways only allow for print books
- Physical books are magical
- Print books can increase sales of your ebook
- Indie authors can make more per copy sold
- Print books are better for your health
Must Do Print Reason #1: The Majority Still Reads Physical Books
While ebooks have risen in popularity, they don’t dominate the market. Mark Coker, founder of indie ebook distributor Smashwords, predicts that by 2013, ebooks sales in the US will reach 45% of the US trade book market. Keep in mind, we’re not there yet.
Guy Kawasaki, co-author of APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur (which I highly recommend), spent a lot of time analyzing a report detailing books sales in the US. He found that while ebooks for adult fiction outsell individual print formats (mass market paperback, trade softcover, hardcover), as a whole, all formats of print books outsell ebooks by a significant margin.
No matter how you spin the numbers, I think it’s safe to say that more than half of the book-buying public are still purchasing physical books. Which means that if you’re only releasing ebook versions of your novel or non-fiction, you’re missing out on a big slice the book-buying pie.
Last Christmas, New York Times and USA Today best-selling romance author Jill Shalvis announced she was releasing a seasonal novella for her Lucky Harbor series (which is excellent, by the way). Here’s an excerpt from the announcement:
So I have a little surprise for you — I wrote a Lucky Harbor Christmas novella coming out 12/3. Now brace yourself, okay? UNDER THE MISTLETOE is going to be cheap, only $1.99, but…it’s also going to be digital only.
Before you yell at me, know this — the novella is short. Real short, so if you don’t have an ereader, all is not lost. You can simply load the Kindle app or the Nook app onto your computer or phone and read it that way, and because it is short, you won’t get eyestrain.
Okay? We all okay? We can still be friends?
What does this message say to you? It tells me something important: Jill has a sense of humor and she knows she has a core fan base who wants to read her books in physical format. In other words, these fans would be disappointed by an ebook-only offering.
Of course, Jill’s not an indie author. She’s traditionally published by Grand Central, Berkeley Mass Market, and Harlequin. Most of her stalwart fans probably first discovered her at the romance section of their bookstore.
As an indie author, your core fan base will likely begin with ebook readers. But that doesn’t mean it can’t evolve into something different. As that fan base grows, so does your potential to reach more readers. These potential buyers have seen the glowing reviews on Goodreads; their friends have gushed about your novel to them for months. They’d definitely give your book a chance…as long as it comes in print form.
Don’t put artificial constraints on your marketing reach; expand your fan base potential by appealing to readers of ebooks AND readers of print books.
Must Do Print Reason #2: Reviewers Still Love Print Books
A positive review from a book blogger can jumpstart your career as an indie author. You only have to look at the acknowledgement section of successful indie authors like Colleen Hoover to see that.
As you can imagine, indie authors, aspiring to get that positive review, inundate book bloggers with review requests. One way bloggers stem the tide is by accepting print novels only. Even if they do accept digital copies to review, several book bloggers state that print format is their top preference.
If you want to improve your discoverability by soliciting reviews from book bloggers, then aim to please. Send them a print version of your book. (Another benefit is that you can include a handwritten note with your review copy, a classy touch which an email can never rival…and which may leapfrog you to the top of the blogger’s TBR pile!)
Must Do Print Reason #3: Goodreads Giveaways Are Only for Print Books
Doing a giveaway on Goodreads is a great way to inexpensively promote your book and get it on a lot of “to be read” virtual shelves. (Here’s a great article with 11 tips for running a successful Goodreads giveaway.)
Keep in mind though, as the giveaway rules currently stand, you can only do a giveaway of print books. From Goodreads’s giveaway guidelines:
You can offer a book as long as:
It is not an ebook edition. At this time, only print books are eligible for the giveaway program. We’re working on a user-friendly interface for ebook giveaways, but they’re not available yet.
When you finally mail your paperback book to the winner, you can include a handwritten note, which again, is a classy touch which readers definitely appreciate. You might even include a small gift which matches the theme of your book. A surprise like that could turn the giveaway winner into a true fan (assuming of course they liked your book!). But you can’t do any of this…unless you have a print edition to begin with.
Since Amazon recently acquired Goodreads, it’s possible the Zon may make changes to the giveaway program. (I sure hope they don’t!) If they do, you can always conduct giveaways yourself or jointly with other authors who write in your genre.
In this case, the rules of course are completely up to you. Before you settle on an ebook-only version of your prize, ask yourself this question: which will create a deeper impact on your winner–unwrapping a package enclosing a print version of your ebook…or opening an email which includes your novel as an attachment?
Note: If you conduct a giveaway yourself, you can gift your ebook to the winner at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo, which is more exciting to receive than an email attachment. But there’s a big catch. There’s no guarantee that the winner will actually redeem your gift card for yourbook. Theoretically, she could use it towards another purchase.
Must Do Print Reason #4: Paperback Books Are Magical
There’s something about holding a physical book in your hands that’s magical. You don’t get that feeling by holding an eReader in your hands–as convenient as they are.
Whether you’re holding a print book published the traditional way through a Big Six publishing house or a book which you’ve put together yourself using CreateSpace, I imagine that magical feeling multiplies when you’re holding a book YOU’VE written in your hands.
For indie authors, holding the self-published paperback version of their book is a great way to mimic the experience of a traditionally published author. The best part? You don’t have to sacrifice any of your author rights to get that magical feeling.
Naturally, the CreateSpace or Lulu version of your book isn’t going to look or feel exactly like one produced by the Big Six, but it still comes pretty close. Take indie author Catherine Ryan Howard. To commemorate the third year anniversary of the publication of her memoir Mousetrapped, she created a hardcover version of the book via Lulu.
Looks fab, doesn’t it?
Imagine presenting a paperback or hardcover version of your book as a gift to a parent, sibling, or friend who supported you during your writing journey. It’s a lot more impressive than showing them a picture of your ebook cover on an eReader screen–especially if they fall into the bracket of readers who don’t really like ebooks anyway (see Must Do Print Reason #1)!
Must Do Print Reason #5: Paperbacks Can Improve Your Ebook Sales
On Amazon at least, the sales page for your book also lists the other formats your story comes in (hardcover, paperback, audio, etc). As long as the two editions are linked, Amazon will show customers how much they save by purchasing the ebook version by comparing its price to the paperback version.
Look at the Amazon Kindle listing for Elisabeth Naughton’s self-published novel, Wait for Me:
By purchasing the ebook over the paperback, a reader would currently save 75%! If the thousands of positive reviews didn’t sway her, this irresistible deal probably would. The lure of saving 75% (or thereabouts) can be just the nudge a reader–on the verge of becoming a buyer–needs to click on the “buy now” button.
If you look at novels which come in ebook formats only, there’s no saving percentage listed. Their sales display doesn’t look quite as snazzy.
Theoretically, even if you never sell a paper copy of your print book, its mere presence could lead to increased sales of your ebook because it makes your ebook look like more of a bargain. And everybody loves a good bargain, right?
Just think about the women’s shoe racks at a department store. Every time I go to the mall, there’s hordes of women circling round the racks with shoes marked down by 50-75%…sometimes with an additional 15% off because they’re are on clearance. The full-priced shoes don’t generate half as much interest.
By moving your ebook from the full-priced rack to “the clearance rack,” you might create a lot more sales buzz…without–and here’s a key difference–decreasing the perceived value of your book.
Must Do Print Reason #6: You Make More Money
This reason again pretty much applies to Amazon as it’s the easiest place to sell both print and ebook versions of your novel. Working off of Amazon’s current ebook royalty structure, you make 70% off the cover price if your ebook is priced between $2.99-$9.99. Below $2.99 or above $9.99, you only make 35%.
Because of this pricing structure, most indie authors set their ebook price between $2.99 and $9.99. For some books (in particular non-fiction), readers will gladly pay more than $9.99. With an ebook, Amazon would penalize you for charging more than $10. Not so with print.
For example, let’s say you’ve written a novel around 75,000 words. After all the interior design for your print book is done, you have a paperback of about 290 pages. How much money will you make? Using the CreateSpace royalty calculator, I figure:
- $2.09, ebook version sold at $2.99
- $3.46, print version with 5″ by 8″ trim, sold at $12.99
- $3.46, print version with 6″ by 9″ trim, sold at $12.99
- $4.66, print version with 5″ by 8″ trim, sold at $14.99
- $4.66, print version with 6″ by 9″ trim, sold at $14.99
$4.66 per copy sold is a pretty good chunk of change.
That being said, you should always think about how your pricing strategies affect your career in the long run. Just because readers are willing to pay more for physical books because they perceive them as having greater intrinsic value, doesn’t mean you should stick readers with a significantly heftier price tag. You’re more likely to build stronger relationships with your fans when you lean towards affordable cover prices.
Must Do Print Reason #7: It’s Better for Your Health!
This is probably the most controversial reason on this list, but here goes: recently, I’ve been doing research on so-called smart meters. Turns out they’re not so clever. For one thing (and this is just the tip of the iceberg), they produce electromagnetic frequency (EMF) radiation through wireless signals and also through the creation of dirty electricity.
In 2011, based on the current body of evidence, the International Agency for the Research of Cancer (a branch of the World Health Organization) classified the radiofrequency electromagnetic fields (RF EMFs) which wireless devices emit as a Class 2B carcinogen (same category as DDT and lead). Devices which produce such RF EMFs include cell phones, cordless phones, anything WiFi-enabled, smart meters…and eReaders. Using any of them exposes you to unnecessary radiation.
The WHO was particularly focused on the effect of cell phones and their relationship to gliomas, a malignant form of brain cancer. Some doctors who’ve spent time examining the health effects of RF EMFs have linked them to other problems including double strand breaks in DNA, harmful effects on sperm, and increased permeability of the blood-brain barrier in the head.
Unlike a smart meter which is usually foisted onto your property whether you want it or not, you can choose if you want to expose yourself (or your kids who’d be the most vulnerable) to radiation from your eReader and if so, for how long. Me, I’m going to err on the side of caution and use my eReader less than I did before (and definitely not when it’s charging). You might not yet be convinced.
Either way, I think we can both agree that physical books don’t emit any radiation at all. Until more research is done on the health effects of wireless communication, print versions of books remain the safest option for you and your family.
The Best Time for Indie Authors to Do a Print Run
While you should definitely invest in producing print versions of your book (especially if you’ve written non-fiction), you don’t have to do so right away. As Mark Coker said somewhere, although I haven’t been able to locate the exact reference, you should never go bankrupt trying to print your book. For some indie authors, even the low upfront costs of print-on-demand publishing is an expenditure they can ill afford.
If you fall into that category, don’t sweat the print stuff. Do your ebook first, and then, just as any good business would do, reinvest the profits from your ebook into a print edition.
There’s a hidden benefit to delaying your first print run too. You have the time to work out the kinks in your story–whether they come in the form of a typographical error or a factual mistake. (Thanks to indie author Joanna Penn who first pointed this out to me.) Then when you do release a print edition, you can do so with more confidence, which is always a plus!
If you want to learn more about print-on-demand publishing, I highly recommend reading articles posted by Catherine Ryan Howard (the indie author with the amazing hardcover, remember?). Three good places to start with are:
YOUR TURN: So, have I convinced you do a print version of your novel? Why or why not?
Hardcover Stack by Albertogp123
Clock by Deux-Chi
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