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Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Paperback or Not?

Hello friends,

Welcome to Self-Publishing Central. Today I've got a post that is the direct result of changing times in the publishing industry. Not long ago, we were asking whether it is worth it to publish in digital formats in addition to paper. Now we need to ask . . . with Kindle, Nook and iBook digital book sales skyrocketing, is it even necessary for a self- or indie-publisher to publish ON PAPER?

The rapidly increasing adoption of Kindles, Nooks and other eReading devices (including iPads) for buying and reading books has many indies asking themselves this question. And given the necessarily high prices of POD books, I can see their point.

In my personal experience, sales of paperbacks through Amazon and BN have all but dried up, when just last fall they amounted to about 20% of my book sales (in units sold). Last month, I sold a measly SIX paperback books on Amazon - and I had FIVE titles listed for sale! In the same month, my eBook sales numbers (and profits) were higher than ever . . . with Nook making up an increasing share. (I charge $6.99 for my eBook novels, in case you're interested.)

For so few sales of the paperback format, why should self- and indie-publishers even bother to make tree books available anymore?

Reasons why tree books are still important.

While I can certainly understand the arguments against bothering to publish in paperback in today's publishing environment, I believe there are still good reasons to make your titles available in paper. Here are a few:

1) Some book buyers still don't believe that eBooks are REAL books. As uninformed as this opinion may be, authors need to be aware of this perception. Having your book available on paper makes it more "legitimate" to this group of buyers. Oddly enough, once these buyers have confirmed that your book is available in paperback, they will turn around and buy the eBook copy instead. After all, eBooks are typically much less expensive. Make sense? Not really. But we need to take this situation seriously and deal with it appropriately.

2) Some buyers want an author-signed original. I know there are various movements afoot to standardize a way to "sign" an eBook. But for many people, none of the proposed digital solutions will substitute for the good old pen-and-ink method. For these folks (book collectors among them), price is not the obstacle. They want that unique feeling of owning an author-signed original. Why not make purchase of just such a product an option?

3) Friends and family want paper. In my experience, when my friends and family members want to support my writing by buying my books, they almost always want a paper copy. A keepsake, if you will. And digital books still don't collect dust well enough to satisfy this type of buyer.

4) Reviewers want paper. Again, in my experience, many book reviewers prefer to read your book in paperback before giving their opinion. I don't know whether they consider ownership of the (usually signed) book as a memento, an investment in a potentially famous author's work, or a commodity to be resold. But regardless of their motives, many of these reviewers (who are otherwise unpaid, by the way) prefer paper.

5) Why not have your book in paperback format? In my mind, the only legitimate reasons for not offering your book in paperback are: a) lack of money for design and printing or b) lack of time to set up the book with a POD printer. I find neither of these arguments persuasive.

If you choose to print through CreateSpace (where I do), it can cost you literally NOTHING to make your book available in paperback. (I recommend spending the $39.00 for the Pro Plan because it gets you better books prices, etc. But you don't HAVE to spend even that.) CreateSpace no longer requires you to even order proofs if you don't want to. Therefore, you can literally have your book available in paperback on Amazon for NOTHING!!! (I don't use exclamation points lightly.)

If you elect to buy the Pro Plan, you can buy your own books for sale to friends IN ANY QUANTITY, at prices ranging from $3.00 for thin books to maybe $8.00 for a pretty thick one. My books are usually around 290 pages and cost in the vicinity of $5.00 each DELIVERED TO MY HOME. Of course, delivery costs vary depending on quantity. But I could literally buy a single copy of my paperback (w/o the Pro Plan) and have it delivered to my home for less than $20.00. Not bad.

But why not get five copies for around $35.00 or 40 copies for around $240.00 (including Pro Plan). Then I've got some books to sell in my local bookstore, arts association or from my home.

6) Libraries prefer paper. Most of the libraries I have contacted still only accept paper books for shelving. Some will buy your paper books. Others won't pay you, but will agree to shelve your books if you donate them. Either is great exposure.

7) Guests at book signings prefer paper. When you schedule a book signing at your local sales location, or library, or book club, most of your guests will want to buy signed paper books. Sure . . . you can have a card to sign and an eBook to download; but most of my target market would just give me a blank stare if that's all I had to offer them at a BOOK signing.

I could probably come up with more reasons why you should still go to the trouble of publishing your books in paperback. But I think you get my gist. There are advantages to paper; the costs are minimal; why not do it?

I'm open to all your opinions on this one. I'm sure everyone would like to hear your comments.

Thanks for stopping by.

Cheers!

John

20 comments:

  1. Another great post John. Now I'm second guessing myself about my decision to publish electronically only.

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  2. Great post. I do have different reasons that I'm holding off from print than the two you mentioned. Ebooks allow me to tinker, with the design, the layout, everything really, but paper books are somewhat more set in stone. So I'll wait to pass that frontier until I'm totally satisfied with the books - or until I've got two books published in each series. Whichever comes first (^_^)

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  3. Ben and Sarah,

    No reason to hold off the POD book any longer. You can still tinker with many aspects of the book even after it's been published in paperback.

    You may not be able to change your ISBN or book cover; but you can change your content (like to fix little boo boos) any time you want.

    You can also retire the first edition and re-publish the entire thing. POD is great for such things.

    Thanks for commenting!

    Cheers!

    John

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  4. I've e-published three books and two will be paperback. One is available now and the second, assuming the proof is okay, in a week or so. I'm sure the third will be paperbacked, eventually, but I've got a couple of additional books to write first.

    I personally think createspace's option of not needing to order the proof is a mistake. I've had what I thought was a perfect book, but when I saw the proof in my hands I realised there were still elements that needed 'fixing'. I see their option, and raise them a final look-see.

    Thanks for the post. They (createspace) do have a fantastic service. I've paid the extra $39 for both books. I won't know what dividends that will pay me for a few years, but I think it's worth it.

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  5. Hi Tony,

    Thanks for your comments.

    I strongly agree that it's wise to see a proof of your book before final publication. You do catch errors, or change cover colors, or make other adjustments when you see the book in print.

    I like the option to NOT order a proof when the changes have become very minor from the previous proof. Then I can get that final book published and available sooner.

    I'd like the option of a digital proof -- which I understand CS is considering.

    Have a great day!

    Cheers!

    John

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  6. It's wise to have all the options, even ones that don't sell as high as others. If the price is right, those small sales will ad up over time and can turn out to be just as worth it. I plan on having paper books for my stories for all of those reasons listed and one more. I want to have a physical copy of my own book sitting on my shelf next to my favorite authors. And let's face it, what writer wouldn't want to see that? (Even if it's their own personal bookshelf.)

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  7. Hi Patricia,

    Of course, you are right that every author (at least the ones I know) wants to see his/her book on that shelf. Maybe in a few years the bookshelf won't hold the same appeal it does today.

    But at least for now, I'm with you 100%. It's great fun to hold your book, leaf through it, and see it on your personal shelf.

    Thanks for commenting.

    Cheers!

    John

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  8. Paper is a must! A self-published author needs to optimize all distribution options. Paper, eBook, ePub, apps, etc. With POD it puzzles me why an author wouldn't want to have their book in as many sales channels as possible. Who doesn't want to see their book in print...where is the satisfaction in that?

    To the point the gentleman made regarding Createspaces's no proof policy, I completely agree, it is a huge mistake and will only hurt self-published authors in the long run. If an author cannot invest in buying one copy of their book before sending it out to the world, they should not be publishing. It's unprofessional and impacts self-publishing as a whole.

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  9. Thanks for your comments, Sherrie.

    Just to be clear, CreateSpace is only offering the "option" to skip a proof stage. There is definitely a proof available. And I agree that at least one round of proof is very important.

    Thanks for stopping by.

    Cheers!

    John

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  10. I'm planning to do paperback versions of my books, but I've definitely been slow getting to it. Time to get my rump and gear and see if I can get them together. I'd like to do a giveaway, and that's not nearly as fun with ebooks. ;)

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  11. Thanks for commenting, Lindsay.

    I just did a giveaway on Goodreads. You're right. The paperback books are more fun for the readers.

    Cheers!

    John

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  12. I'm doing eBooks and tree books because not all of my audience has eReaders. I chat up potential readers everywhere I go: the bus, the grocery store, the nail shop. I haven't seen one Kindle. I can't even afford one just yet.

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  13. Thanks ShayShay,

    You are absolutely right that there is a large audience that HAS NOT made the switch to digital. It's too soon to abandon them.

    Cheers!

    John

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  14. I have two urban fantasy series I'm working on, and they'll be available as both ebooks and POD, thanks to CreateSpace's low cost.

    And I will be ordering proofs of each POD version, just to make certain they're as perfect as can be.

    I already know I have readers who'll order the paperback version instead of buying the ebooks. :)

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  15. Dear Scath,

    Thanks for your confirmation of my own experiences. It's not time to ditch the print books . . . if it ever will be.

    Appreciate your stopping by.

    Cheers!

    John

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  16. Hi John,
    Are you professionally affiliated with CreateSpace, or just real happy with their work. I'm looking for a new POD publisher. Have been using iUniverse and very disappointed in their services.

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  17. Hi M.R.

    I have no affiliation with CreateSpace at all. They just happen to be the best deal I have found for POD printing. Great prices. Good marketing options. Decent service. Period.

    Thanks for asking.

    Cheers!

    John

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  18. My first book has been up on Kindle for a few weeks and I'm just getting around to doing the print version. I was wavering on whether I should do it or not. In fact, I even wrote a post on that.

    http://writingdrone.blogspot.com/2011/07/create-space-not-for-fiction.html

    However, you have convinced me of the error of my ways. The proof from Create Space came in the mail a couple of days ago and I was debating on whether I would go forward with it, simply because the cover does not look as good in print, so now I need to do a different cover and it was both my natural sloth and wondering if anyone would buy it at the price that held me back.

    So.... off to finish the new cover and then pay for the ProPlan. Thanks much for your advice.

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  19. I agree that publishing a print version is important for any indie publisher. I'm taking it a step further and offering the people who buy my paperback a free electronic copy of the book (probably in PDF). This way I can hopefully help convince those who are still reading paperbooks to make the switch to ebooks. Also, I'm pricing it as low as I can go, on purpose. I know I won't do major volume on the print version, so I don't mind pricing at $7.99 (with the pro plan) and only making $.34 when someone stumbles on my book, or $1.94 when they buy it from my author site on Amazon.

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  20. Great post! I think it's definitely important to have a paper copy available. For me personally, as a book blogger, I love getting paper books because I don't have an ereader, and it's hard for me to sit at the computer to read when I sit here all day writing. My poor eyes are starting to pay the price! As a writer, a lot of the people I've told about my book don't have ereaders either, and have asked if paperbacks will be available once the book is out. And in checking many book bloggers review policies, probably at least half of them still prefer paper copies over ebooks. Plus, I've heard absolutely nothing but wonderful things about CreateSpace from people all over the internet, so why not get the paper copy, when as you said, it's a cheap option for us as authors, and a handy one for many of our readers.

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