by Molly Greene
Given an unlimited number of books to read and full access to any title I wanted, if I had to choose one or the other, I’d prefer to read a traditional print book over an ebook any day. Don’t get me wrong: I love my Kindle, but I choose print, hands down. And yet, my books are available on Amazon in ebook format only.
Aside from a smattering of local indie booksellers, it’s nearly impossible – and if you can swing it, can be very expensive – for self-published authors to get their product into bookstores nationwide. See this post on the subject by successful self-pubber author Toby Neal. Part of the issue is being responsible for the cost of unsold books returned by stores. HuffPo addresses the subject in Putting an End to Returns.
Ebook sales are higher
Even when self-publishers do make print books available online, print profits are lower and ebooks remain the highest sellers by far. A few authors do sell a nice amount of print books – Toby Neal and Todd Borg come to mind – but the majority report only a handful of print book sales per month.
So, unless a self-published author attends direct sale events like Todd, or does a lot of Goodreads giveaways – which require a print book – it sometimes doesn’t pay to commit the time, energy, and budget to creating print editions for every title. Here’s what friend and author Belinda Pollard has to say:
“My experience so far is that paperbacks do not sell well in online bookstores. This was exactly what I expected. I produced a paperback for my debut mystery/thriller Poison Bay, not for online sales but because it feels different to have my own book on my bookshelf instead of just in my Kindle, and because I can do it all myself so I don’t have any typesetting or cover design costs. It is also worth it for me to have a book to show people, because I work in publishing, and so it becomes a business cost for me.
“An unexpected bonus is that it’s looking like the paperbacks that I hand-sell are going to be my best chance of breaking even within a year on my publishing costs, including the huge cost of professional editing. I have sold books at speaking engagements, to my exercise class, church members, Toastmasters club members, bank tellers, post office workers, people attending children’s parties… the list goes on. It’s surprising who is interested in buying a copy, when only we have the courage to talk about our books to people we meet.”
Costs to set up a print book
It’s free to set up a print book on CreateSpace (CS) if you do the work yourself, and don’t have to pay for typesetting costs or a cover artist to create a jpg of your front and back covers, (um, good idea!). You order a certain number of books for yourself, and CS ships as they’re ordered via Amazon. Here’s a great article about using Lightening Source vs. CreateSpace for print – spoiler alert, many authors use both services for the same title, which is twice the work.
Per friend and author Helen Hanson about using CreateSpace, “For print, you’ll need a custom cover file that includes the front, back, and spine in .pdf format. I do my own from the ebook art using MS Publisher. For the interior file, download the CS Word doc template for the size book (trim size) you want and then clip and paste your text (mss) into it. When you’re happy, save the file as a .pdf document for the upload.
“You can purchase a hardcopy proof from CS for about $10, but you don’t have to. They have a fabulous online proofer, or you can download a .pdf proof to examine at your leisure. Grainy images on the proof = grainy images on the hardcopy.
“Once it’s complete, you can buy copies of your books at reduced rates (one or 9,999) from the CS dashboard/panel – not your Amazon sales page, where you can only purchase retail. You can also buy and ship to someone else from the CS dashboard. The book cost is the same whether you order 1 or 9,999. In this case, the 6X9 book with 290 pages costs $4.33. The shipping costs depend on location, volume, and delivery date.”
Here are Helen’s numbers for a 6×9 print book, including shipping (which drops considerably when you order more than 5 or 10) to a single address, with a 12-day lead time*:
- 1 book = 4.33 + 3.59 shipping, or 7.92 per unit
- 20 books = 86.60 + 13.00 shipping, or 4.98 per unit
- 25 books = 108.25 + 15.50 shipping, or 4.95 per unit
*If you want them sooner, the price goes up significantly!
Do readers prefer ebooks over paperbacks?
Readers are split. Ebooks are easier to travel with and are less expensive. I think bottom line, almost every dedicated reader prefers print, but electronic reading devices have made huge inroads because of ebooks’ price and convenience.
Will ebooks replace print books?
Ebooks will never replace print. My favorite authors’ hardcopy books are my most cherished possessions to be read over and over again. I use ebooks to find new authors, and I believe most ebook readers feel the same way.
Let’s be honest. Ebooks lack a lot of things that print books offer. Character. Heft. The ability to easily turn the pages back and check a character’s name name or situation in the plot. (Who is Mary? Was that the sister or the friend?) This is harder to do with a Kindle, and most of the time I just forge ahead.
Will libraries be negatively affected by the growing use of ebooks?
There’s been lots of hoopla about the demise of libraries due to the ebook revolution, which I think is hogwash. Libraries will always be an important source of information within communities.
I borrow ebooks from my regional library online, but that will never replace my live and in-person trips to borrow hardbacks, DVDs, audiobooks, etc. I think libraries will someday loan ereader devices as well as ebooks and audio books and everything else! Which brings us to the fact that it’s also difficult for self-pubbers to get into the library system in print …
Ebooks vs. print books in library distribution
I do think, though, that over time it may be easier to get a self-published ebook into the library system than it will be to get in with a print book. Read Indie Authors: How to Get Visible in Libraries by Porter Anderson (on Anne Allen’s blog) via a program called Self-e. Then there’s Joe Konrath’s author service, Ebooksareforever.com – read about it here.
Readers, what do you think? Do you create print versions for all your books and if so, how are they selling?
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