Cutting open a cardboard box full of hot-off-the press books is undoubtedly a great feeling. Wrapping your hands around that sweet print copy of your baby speaks volumes for all the hard work you’ve done. A print copy is so tangible, so real. Dopamine rush aside, a wide variety of factors play into whether or not you should do a print version of your ebook.
This year I will be covering dealing with rejection, publishing goals, formatting mistakes to avoid, knowing comp titles, and blogging a book. Feel free to explore Word Bank’s archive of publishing posts. In particular, you might find Book Formatting Mistakes to Avoid of interest.
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Should You Do a Print Version of Your Ebook?
Admit it. Visions of bookstore window displays have likely danced in your head. Print-on-demand services make it possible to order a handful of print books at a time. This may suffice if you’re willing to pay for the formatting and have a copy for yourself and your family and friends. Small-print runs are also readily available to meet an author’s immediate needs at speaking engagements and conferences. However, widespread distribution is another matter entirely.
Reasons to Definitely Do a Print Version
Beyond the coveted book-in-hand effect, having print copies available makes sense if you are going to be offering the book in conjunction with speaking gigs or at a booth at comic-cons, farmers markets, holiday bazaars, etc. If you plan on marketing your book to book clubs or giving away promotional copies, having a print version available for readers to order is also a boon. Other reasons to offer a print version of your book include that its price on Amazon will make the ebook price look like a great deal, yet such psychological magic matters little if the reader isn’t being enticed to read your book. Print versions obviously come in handy, though be sure to factor in how much you will pay for shipping the titles you will be offering in person.
Reasons to Maybe Do a Print Version
The profit margin on a print book is never going to be as high as an eBook, and the higher price point means they will be a harder sell overall. If the books are selling well enough at speaking engagements and the like, a print version will be viable. Otherwise, you will likely end up selling your book one by one, and this can be incredibly time consuming with little investment on return. Contacting bookstores and libraries one at a time is likely not the best investment of your precious hours available to you for marketing your book. Take the time also to ensure you are pricing your book accordingly.
Reasons to Skip a Print Version
Your printer can boast being able to list your title in catalogs, but that doesn’t necessarily mean much. In order to get print books in front of a wider crowd entails using a book distributor. Distributors focus their efforts differently. One might focus on regional chains while another will focus on independently owned bookstores. A distributor’s profit comes from taking a percentage of the titles they are able to place in a bookstore. If you can land a distributor there may be shipping and other fees to deal with as well.
The structure of this posts makes it pretty apparent where I stand when it comes to deciding if you should do a print version of your book. Print is great for certain purposes, but for the average self-published author, book distribution and consignment scenarios can be quite the headache, especially for a team of one. Be realistic in your expectations. It’s always possible to branch out down the road. The slow-burn is the beauty of self-publishing.
So, should you do a print version of your ebook? What success (or not) have you or authors you know had with doing a print run?
Please share responsibly. Jeri Walker, 2018. Image credit: Red Apple in Hand.
I totally agree, Jeri, without a distributor, a print book is simply an aid to advertising and promotion. But boy, it is nice to hold. 😀
Andrea, there really is no substitute for being able to hold one’s book in hand that’s for sure.
These are great points about printed books. My husband’s titles are all comic books. And he sells mostly at cons so the bulk of what he sells are print copies. And honestly, the profit margin is so low. So it seems that finding an eBook market would be the most profitable.
Erica, does he offer an ebook version as well? Though most people who enjoy graphic novels and comic books do likely prefer to read print copies over ebook copies. I still buy travel guides in print for that reason.
My publisher has always done both print and eBooks and both have sold.
Alex, you’re lucky to have a publisher who can assist you in such matters.
Yeah, print books are expensive, but thankfully, I’ve been able to handle the formatting on my own. And I do find I sell more copies in person than online.
Loni, that’s great you have the hang of formatting. Appearing at events can be a great way to push some books.
Great points… ‘the profit margin on a print book is never going to be as high as an Ebook’: that is entirely true…. but I still believe in the power of ‘books’ in the traditional sense. ???? On a more mundane view, most people still carry books with themselves… I see it a lot in Public transports… which is a nice thing to experience, by the way.
Sending love and best wishes, dear Jeri
Great points here, Jeri. It’s great to have a stack at home to promo locally. Not necessarily for major distribution but for promos, photos and giveaways. Lots of people still prefer paper backs over e-books, surprisingly. The print on demand option on Amazon is a solid solution for satisfying those readers who don’t like e-books. This: “…for the average self-published author, book distribution and consignment scenarios can be quite the headache,…” YES, indeed.
Lisa, POD is definitely a great way to satisfy readers who want to order a print copy. I remember you saying too a while back how it had been time-consuming to place your book in a few stores.
I know the thrill and pride of holding your book, as I got print copies of my first poetry book but made no effort at marketing and gifted most of them to my family and friends. Ebooks are so convenient to publish and print on demand at Amazon is not that easy, even cover has to be re-done plus profit margin is a dampener!
Balroop, I agree that the profit margin can be a real dampener when it comes to print books.
Great points Jeri. I could never publish one of my books without being able to hold it in my own hands. Besides, they also come in handy for promotions. 🙂
DG, I can’t imagine doing promotions without a print book. I’ve seen how there are ways to get eBooks signed, but when went to hear Charles Frazier do a reading of Nightwoods in NC, I bought the hardback copy rather than the electronic version, even though I hardly ever buy print books anymore.
I read stuff digitally all day. I’ve replaced newspapers with digital subscriptions, I subscribe to an uncountable number of email newsletters and I read blogs everyday. But when it comes to books I only read print books. In fact the last time I read a digital book, Jeri, it was your short stories and then only after I assured myself there was no other way. I assume there must be other people who feel that way, so that’s one argument in favor of print.
Ken, there are times I think about going back to reading print books, and it’s mainly because I’m glued to a computer screen all day (as well as the ever-present phone screen). But the minimalist in me really LOVES how eBooks don’t take up space! I do have plans to finally make a print version of my short stories, however.
I guess it’s how people want to approach their work. Paperback is a bit more expensive, but I definitely wanted to publish in both formats. Even though my marketing and promotional skills are horrible, I wasn’t about to leave out a readership group to save on a few more dollars. I also wanted to be as professional as traditionally published books, so I feel it’s important to publish in both, if not more, than one format. I don’t buy self-published books that are only in eBook form. I don’t know, but I feel like they’re not complete and I don’t want to waste my money on them.
Denise, that’s interesting and shows how we can vary in our reading and buying habits so much. I don’t think it sways me one bit if there’s not a print version available, but I do get miffed if there is no electronic version (usually in the case of older books) since I mostly read ebooks and not print books.
I’ve yet to publish any book (e-book or paper), but since I still read more paper books than digital books, I would feel a pull toward doing a print version although I know that distribution challenges can make this an expensive endeavour. Lots to think about when I finally get around to publishing.
Donna, I think distribution can be worth it if the book is selling and the author has done their homework and knows what they are getting into.
Good pro/con, Jeri. I’m not at the ebook point yet. As you know, I’m working to see the Travel Journals. Such hard work! Harder than writing.
RoseMary, writing really is but a small slice of all that’s entailed in ensuring a book is successful. I say, free virtual assistants for everyone!
Great points! I’ve been thinking of publishing and how I would like to write an ebook as well as hard copy. There are still a lot of people out there who enjoy reading the later.
Bola, I’m in the minority with my preferences for eBooks. It’s definitely a good idea to make print copies available, but going after a distributor is another question.
This is the best article I’ve read on whether to print your ebook. I think it’s easy to get caught up in the emotions of book printing, without looking at the realities.
Meredith, thank you. I’m all about reality 😉