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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.