Today is an exciting time to be an indie author. The proliferation of e-readers makes it easier than ever to bypass traditional publishers and get your book into the hands of readers with the click of a mouse.
But the truth is that eBook sales accounted for less than a quarter of U.S. trade book sales in 2012, and there is still demand for printed books among avid readers. As an indie author, it’s important to reach as many readers as possible and weigh the options to determine whether print is important for your self-publishing success.
The Undeniable Advantages of Digital
The perks of publishing a book electronically are obvious. First and foremost, after the one-time costs of editing, formatting, and designing, as well as registering for an ISBN, publishing an eBook costs virtually nothing. While print-on-demand services mitigate the enormous financial risk of ordering a print run of books the author is responsible for selling, it still isn’t cheap to go through the process of producing a professional-looking print book.
Accessibility is another upside to e-publishing. Readers everywhere can access your work the instant you upload the finished product to online retailers; you won’t waste time waiting on printing, shipment, or retail distribution. Nothing’s faster (or cheaper) than one-click wireless downloads.
Finally, eBooks provide a better financial arrangement for both the author and the consumer. Indie eBooks are usually priced under $5, with the author receiving 70 percent of the royalties on Amazon when the list price is between $2.99 and $9.99. Print-on-demand titles created through Lulu or Amazon’s CreateSpace are usually priced higher, with the author receiving a lower percentage of royalties.
The Perks of Print
Although the profit margin on printed books is significantly lower than on eBooks, providing your book in the two formats your readers are looking for can only boost sales. And believe it or not, modern readers still want hard copies. As of August 2011, Kathryn Stockett’s popular novel, “The Help,” had sold 5 million copies, but only 1 million of those were electronic Kindle editions.
Even in today’s technologically advanced world, plenty of people would rather hold a book in their hands, turn the pages, use a bookmark, and make notes in the margins. Readers still like owning books to display on their bookshelves and share with friends.
As an author, you probably feel an emotional draw toward seeing your book in print with your byline on the cover, especially after the obstacles you had to overcome to create it. For writers, holding the book in their hands is important. If you only publish an intangible eBook, you won’t be able to run your hands over the cover or display it on your bookshelf.
Making the Decision
The moment of decision comes when you reach the final stages in the development of your book. Here are some considerations to help you determine which publication method best suits your needs:
- Demographics: Evaluate the audience your book is targeting and determine whether your readers are more likely to purchase a print book or an eBook. Ask yourself, “Who will read my book? Why? Are they young or old? Tech-savvy or traditional? How are they using my book? Where are they reading it?”
- Numbers: Estimate how many people have expressed interest in a print copy of your book. For some authors, the few readers who would prefer to own a print copy are not enough of an incentive to go through the arduous process and cost of producing a professional-looking product.
- Capital: Even authors who choose a print-on-demand service will incur some costs to produce a book, and a print run will be an even larger investment. Ask yourself if your funds allow it, as well as whether the investment is a worthwhile one.
If you decide to take advantage of the relatively low cost of publishing an eBook, keep in mind that self-publication still requires a large investment when it comes to marketing and editing. In fact, eBook publications should be taken just as seriously as print publications. Although eBooks aren’t exactly “immortalized in print,” they still represent a final, finished version you should be proud to distribute to your readers.
Although eBooks have become an important and steadily growing part of the publishing industry, in no way have they rendered traditional print publishing obsolete. Print publication remains an extremely relevant way to gain readers and should be considered by all authors seeking an audience.