Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Is Having a Print Book Important To Ebook Sales?

I published two ebooks this spring but as of yet haven't had a print book up for sale. I've dragged my feet on this because... For several reasons, I suppose.

The cover art for CANALS is O.K. for an ebook but would not work for print because the resolution of the image is too low. I'll have to find a new image, or pay someone to make one for me. I hadn't even planned on releasing CANALS because I thought I would write only in the action/thriller genre. Those plans changed and some months CANALS sells better than THE MIGHTY T.

The cover art for THE MIGHTY T is ready to go, I think. I just need to finish the back cover. I dragged my feet on that because I was waiting for some good blurbs, or testimonials. I have those so I am without that excuse now.

My last excuse is my archaic computer and software. I think this Windows XP computer is six or seven years old and the software is even older. I use Word 97, for crying out loud. I used to use PageMaker but haven't for ten plus years. I formatted THE MIGHTY T for print on an old copy of MicroSoft Publisher. I plan on turning the document into a PDF with a print program called PDF995--old school. It wouldn't work with Word but it seems to be working with Publisher.

I know that I've lost a few sales by not having a printed copy available but I'm not sure how many. THE MIGHTY T could be marketed locally, because it's set locally, and in the San Francisco area, because the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir is owned by the City of San Francisco. I need a print copy to properly market locally.

Now that I've rambled on, I'd like to get some feedback from others, writers or readers.

For writers who have printed copies of their books, has it helped your overall sales and your ebook sales?

For readers, would you buy an ebook if the printed book wasn't available? (Especially if you prefer printed books.)


  1. I'm struggling with the same thoughts. I epubbed and wonder if I used Createspace for paper, would I get sales in paper or more in ebook? The problem is the price difference with self-pubbing paper. You have to price the paper version pretty high compared to traditionally published books.

    But, there are some things I would like to do for promotion, like a giveaway on Goodreads, but you need a paper copy to do that.

    Here's an interesting post from another author who did paper and is probably not going to with the next because sales achieved weren't worth the hastle.

    In the end, I think I'll do a paper version from Createspace, low cost, easy distribution, gives the reader the option if they prefer paper and I can use the paper book for giveaways.

    Don't know if that helps your discussion, or conclusions. I'll be interested to see what you do.

    Good luck!

  2. There will be a huge difference between the ebook price of $2.99 and the likely $15ish price for the 6"x9" paperback. There are a lot of readers, millions, who either don't have an ereader or don't like to use theirs. One of my daughters has a Kindle but much prefers print.

    I'll go with Creatspace, too. You won't make a lot on Amazon sales but the price for the author's copies is great, right around $5 + shipping. That's great for local promotions and sales. Helps get the word out about your book.

  3. You will get some print sales, but you'll have to PUSH to get them. Likely not worth the effort. Now I'll tell you why it *is* important still.

    Browse the Kindle store, you'll notice it has *limited* categories. Look at a ranking for Canals
    Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #351,510 Paid in Kindle Store - not so good, because until it cracks a top 100 for the chosen category, it'll keep looking like this.

    Now, if you had a print version, it might look like this:

    #134,985 Paid in Kindle Store
    #15 in Books > Literature & Fiction > Women's Fiction > Single Women

    See the finer grain "book" listing? You only get that with a print version! You're battling other books to reach a top 100 listing, when Amazon will add these extra listings to your ranking.

    Publish in print, but pick two "*book* categories" that fits the book, but with the least amount of competition.

    Take a look at the book category:
    Books > Literature & Fiction > Women's Fiction > Mothers & Children

    Sonia is competing against a mere 198 others for a top 100 position. Now the target audience is MUCH smaller, but the future is bright for Sonia & Heart Press to own the Women's Fiction arena... Kindle doesn't *offer* a Women's Fiction category yet - and won't for a long time.

    Also, when you are planning to do a Print version, it is important when doing the Kindle version to pick only ONE category for it - and then TWO for the Print book. This gives you the maximum exposure possible as a small publisher... "managed publishers" can pick a THIRD one on the print side. Also, when a book goes CRAZY in sales, Amazon will throw a THIRD one in when they feel like it too to continue goosing sales. Amazon 101, that few know about.

  4. I would buy a print copy. I am also epublishing but will probably order 1000 copies from Lulu or
    createspace for book signings and relatives. You take a loss but will reap benefits from book signing publicity and will build your brand. But that is my opinion my friend. Take it with a grain of salt.

  5. As a print journalist, I can tell you -- people do still react differently to things printed on paper. There is something primal in us that seems to make paper feel important. A number of studies show that a person with a book and no PhD is viewed in as much regard as someone with a PhD and no book. And the perception that someone is "for real" increases with a print book. Even in this E world, print still carries weight, so I'd say that (ironically) in an intangible way, print does manage to lend a sense of credibility to a writer. That's just what I've found by working for a still-printed newspaper.

  6. I agree, Scott. Besides, seeing my name on a tangible book has been a goal of mine for years. That I write under a pen name will make it a little strange.

  7. I'm definitely going to be putting together a print version of my book as soon as I can (held up somewhat by the fact that I want to do a collected edition of the trilogy, rather than 3 individual books which would all be really thin), but my main motivation for this is being in the UK, where Kindle is still taking off and the ebook market is smaller. A lot more of the people I'll be able to market to face-to-face (i.e. friends, family, and people I meet) are unlikely to be interested in an ebook.

    The other issue is that I think there's a much deeper-set perception of value for tangible objects than for digital products (I talked about this in relation to webcomics in this blog post; ). I think reader willingness to pay for hardcopies is, long-term, a lot more secure than for ebooks.

  8. I did it all - hardcover, paperback, and ebook for my first - sold all the hardcover because I think some of my friends thought I might become a big writer (little did they know), and they wanted something tangible, plus it was very nicely packaged.

    I ordered paperbacks for book signings and to give bloggers, reviewers, and to send to newspapers/potential advertisers. To date, I'd say it was worth it getting all formats, though I will cut out the hardcover for my next. It's a 'nice to have', but not worth the cost.

    I am only beginning to see the sales on my ebook now, so it's a bit too early to tell which format is selling the best. Ultimately, it's wonderful to have something to hold on to .

    I liken it to looking at photos. Most of us view pictures on a computer and few of us have photo albums anymore, but it's still nice to look through one. The experience is just different, and it's great to have both.


  9. Eden,

    As a self-published author, hardcover hardly seems worth it; they're so expensive. Maybe if you had a few printed so you could sell them for $40, signed, like Konrath does. Can't imagine you'd have too many takers, though. Paperbacks, though, are important, I think. For the reasons you mentioned. And to give to family, most of whom don't have an ereader.