Putting Readers First: Self-Publishing in Digital and Print
It is ridiculously easy to self-publish an ebook, especially if you are using Scrivener. You can go from a final draft to a fully published book with just a few clicks. And if it turns out to be a hassle, there are plenty of professionals offering formatting services at affordable rates.
But ebooks require either an electronic reader or an app on a tablet or smart phone. Some readers haven’t made the switch to e-readers and many more find it uncomfortable to read on their phones. And let’s face it–a lot of people are holding out on making the switch to digital because they love the smell and feel of a real book in their hands or because they prefer a physical product over a digital one.
Yet many self-published authors are opting out of print publishing altogether. It is an extra step in the publishing process and it’s not an easy step if you’re not a wiz with formatting. Since most self-published authors make most (or all) of their sales in the online space, where e-books are the preferred format, it might be worth it to lose a few sales in order to focus resources elsewhere (writing the next book, marketing, etc.).
But is that really the wisest decision?
The Benefits of Publishing in Print
There are countless benefits to publishing in print, the least of which is expanding your sales opportunities. Here are a few reasons self-published authors shouldn’t skip out on print:
- You can hand paperbacks and hardcovers to loved ones, acquaintances, and random strangers. You can bring them to bookstores, libraries, and networking events. When it comes to in-person marketing, nothing beats a physical product that you can hand out.
- Get your book into circulation: people will share, show, and lend physical books. It’s sitting around their house or they’re holding it on the bus, making it visible to others. That’s free marketing!
- Sure, you could scan your signature and paste it into your ebook, but that’s not a real autograph, is it? You’ll need a print version if you want to autograph copies of your book, which are great for giveaways and a good way to build a loyal fan base.
- Lots of people have e-readers but not everyone has one. Many people still prefer print for a variety of reasons. By refusing to make your book available in print, you are aliening readers and potential fans of your work. Even if they are a small percentage of your readers, they still matter.
- When readers visit a site like Amazon and your book is only available as an ebook, it doesn’t look very professional.
- Also, a lower priced ebook looks like a good deal next to a higher priced print book.
- Print books make far better gifts than ebooks.
- Kids are still more likely to read a print book than an ebook.
The most important reason to publish in print is for your readers. Even if you’re only making one or two print sales per month, it’s important to remember that those print books might get passed along to friends and even used bookstores, exposing your work to new readers. As you write more books, you’ll make more sales. And you never know–one of those print readers might have a large audience of their own and through word of mouth, one print sale could easily translate into a hundred digital sales.
If you ask me, the benefits of producing a print book far outweigh the hassle or cost that it might incur.
Why Your Print Sales Might Be So Low
Many self-published authors say they don’t publish in print because when they’ve tried it, the sales didn’t justify the hassle of creating a print version of their book.
My own print sales are about 25% of my total sales, which is a considerable percentage. I know that my books have been used in classrooms and writing retreats, and it’s likely that my print sales are so high because my books are learning resources. However, I suspect that the reason my print books sell so well has more to do with marketing.
You see, if you don’t advertise the fact that your books are available in print, then your print sales will lag. I’ve seen several authors who refuse to publish in print (some of whom also limit themselves to Amazon, but that’s another topic for another day) because historically, their print sales have been low–sometimes only one or two copies over several months. But in every case, I also noticed that those authors were not letting their readers know that their books were available in print. I think those authors might have been selling themselves and their books short. If you only point people to your ebooks, that’s all they’re going to find.
Oddly, a few writers self-publish in print only. Just a few weeks ago, I found a book that I wanted to read. It was available in ebook but not for my e-reader (Kindle) and there was a paperback version on Amazon. At first I thought it was a new book–maybe the author hadn’t gotten the Kindle version out yet. But then I found that the book had been out for many months. It looked to me like the Kindle version was not forthcoming at all.
That author lost a sale, because although I wanted to read the book, I wasn’t so eager to read it that I was willing to inconvenience myself.
In self-publishing, we need to take advantage of every opportunity and do our best to meet our readers’ demands. That means producing great books, pricing them competitively, and making them as widely available as possible.
What are your thoughts? Have you ever self-published a book? Did you publish an e-book, print book, or both? Jump into the conversation by leaving a comment, and keep writing!