Friday, June 22, 2012

Should Indie Authors Abandon Paperback?



It seems a given: you’re about to publish and, naturally, will release both an eBook and paperback version. Think again. Should you release in both formats?

Art Costs Vary.  Design costs for an eBook’s cover art are much lower—or nonexistent if you’re adept at design. You’ll encounter much higher costs for a full front-and-back paperback cover. If you’re on a tight budget, this is a serious consideration.

Time from Pen to Publication is greatly reduced if you only release in eFormat. You won’t spend hours proofing a paperback or coordinating work between your graphic designer and print-on-demand (POD) publisher.

The Flexibility of an eBook allows for fast edits if, God forbid, your first book reviewers catch errors you somehow missed. Similarly, if readers mention how much they wish you’d given more play to a certain character, or if they think you ended a novel too quickly (or in the wrong place) you can quickly revise then upload again. Yes, you can correct a paperback that arrived hot off the press two months ago, but you’ll pay for the privilege.

eBook, Free Book Some authors opt to release shorter works in eFormat only as a way to drive sales to their longer, more lucrative books. They run free promotions. They price at 99 cents. They do this to build a readership quickly while avoiding expense.

Convinced you don’t need a paperback to garner an ever-widening readership? Wait. There are good reasons to release in both formats.

What about Contests? Many highly publicized contests only accept paperback copies from entrants. Have you written a book you’re confident breaks new ground in your genre? Did your Beta Readers rave that they couldn’t put the book down? A contest win gives you bragging rights, higher visibility and a compelling lead sentence in your query letter to book review sites.

GoodReads Giveaway? With a paperback, you can run a GoodReads giveaway over several months to introduce your name to thousands of potential readers. Often, many of the people who enter but don’t win will go on to purchase your book. If you have other releases, those happy readers may purchase those books too.

Paperback Builds Credibility with Reviewers Most book reviewers will accept eFormats but some will only review paperbacks. Without a physical version of your book, you’ll cut down on the avenues for exposure.

Indie Bookstores? While most independent authors find it impossible to secure placement in chain bookstores, some writers earn a significant income through Independent Bookstores.

What About the Library? If your book garners excellent reviews from a variety of sources, including traditional book critics like The Midwest Book Review, libraries may choose to shelve your book.

Whatever you decide, be aware that most Indie Authors earn the bulk of their income through eBooks but many choose to also release some or all of their books in paperback for many of the reasons cited above. 

Photo: another great pic from Christian's semester in Europe.

13 comments:

  1. I really wasn't aware of all the pros concerning paperback format. Gives me something to think about. Great post!

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  2. Melissa, every successful Indie novelist has to stay focused on building a backlist--which takes money. As you prepare each successive book for release, it's worth your time to weigh the pros and cons of pouring additional money into a paperback version. And you MUST make the investment with your best offerings--a GoodReads giveaway alone can build your readership quickly.

    Good luck with your books, and thanks for reading along.

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  3. I definitely see a lot of pros with publishing in both formats. As far as editing paperback, you've got to try your hardest not to miss any errors since you can't get those printed books back that have sold with errors. But I've read read traditionally published books with grammatical and less often spelling errors. This is a valuable post though Christine.

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    1. A.S., I think the trick with any format is to ensure multiple eyes have poured over the manuscript. Even after my critique partner and editor proof the pages, I spend several days on a final read-through. Yet a typo invariably slips through.

      Many thanks for reading along.

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  4. It's great to see the pros and cons placed side by side like this and as an indie publisher in the Caribbean I have to think about the two daily. The high cost of printing and low readership has been very prohibitive to publishing which tips the scales toward ebooks. However, while ereaders are penetrating the market there is always the question of whether enough people have them as yet.

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    1. Thank you for bringing up an important point: the combination of high production cost and ever lowering readership of print books has certainly tipped the scales in favor of eBooks. Do most of us enjoy the delicious feel of a book in our hands? Or course. Yet as more and more people buy eReading devices it seems clear the readership of physical books will continue to decline.

      Many thanks for reading along.

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  5. I've sold a lot of paperbacks in just the first week and a half, and I think people still love to hold a book (even people like me who are practically physically attached to their kindle!). CreateSpace allows very inexpensive production, and the author can purchase the books cheaply. My graphic designer also did my formatting (print and ebook) and it was really seamless. Yep, I've found typos that even 4 proofers didn't see... but I see those all the time in traditionally pubbed books too, so I'm trying not to be to OCD about it!

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    1. Congratulations on the fast sales of the paperbacks! With regard to CreateSpace, I couldn't agree more--they have a wonderful staff and easy-to-follow procedures.

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  6. Great blog, a lot of useful information to encourage me on my first novel journey!

    Thanks Christine! Privileged to follow you!

    Mary :)

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  7. I always publish in both formats to give readers the widest possible choice. The vast majority of my books are bought as eBooks, but I'll always produce paperbacks as well.

    As you rightly point out, there's an advantage in doing so when it comes to reviewers and giveaways. And the additional paperback production costs are actually minimal, since it's possible to produce a simple back cover at no additional cost, and if you're not using a professional illustrator, websites like shutterstock sell cost-effective image rights for paperbacks (as long as you don't sell more than 250,000 - if you do, presumably you'd be happy to pay $50 an image for the advanced license).

    There's a big temptation to see eBooks as the only future, and I think it's sensible to keep an eye on paperbacks too, at least for now! :-)

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    1. MIchele, I agree. Despite the growth of eBook sales, paperbacks remain popular with most readers. I also find paperbacks given away on a blog reviewing the current release will lead to future sales.

      Many thanks for adding your input.

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  8. Very nice post. It gives a person a lot to think about when deciding.

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