You should always think about marketing the book, rather than the specific format, but since most indie authors make 80% or more of their income from ebooks, most marketing activities are more geared in that direction.
If you have print available, you will sell some copies just by it being an option for readers, and I've found that non-fiction does particularly well with print.
This is an excerpt from How to Market a Book Third Edition, available now in ebook, print and audiobook formats.
If you need more detail on publishing print, read my free ebook, Successful Self-Publishing, but it is important to note that if you want to do many of the things on this list, it's best to publish with IngramSpark, or another printer, as well as KDP Print.
In this way, your book will be available in the catalogs that booksellers and libraries order from, and they will be able to get a discount, which is critical for print book sales through this channel. You can also choose to accept returns, although this is risky because you can end up losing money.
Here are some marketing activities that suit print in particular.
Advanced Reader Copies (ARCs) and review sites
Many book reviewers love print books, and although you can send a digital file, it's much easier to forget a book in the Kindle queue than it is a beautiful print book on your bedside table.
Traditional publishers send out print copies to specifically targeted reviewers months in advance, sometimes with an embargo on reviews until launch, which generates buzz. You can use NetGalley to make your ARCs available to reviewers and offer an ebook version at the same time.
If you want to model traditional publishing, you will need to plan in advance and hold back your book from publication, even if it is ready (something many indie authors struggle with!).
Use IngramSpark to set up your print book and send it to reviewers, setting an On Sale date in the future. Pitch reviewers with a professional package with all the information they need.
You could also submit it for reviews at Publishers Weekly and other sites that need several months lead-time on reviews.
Literary festivals, book signings, and library events
There are more and more literary festivals springing up now, even in small towns. These usually involve panel discussions around theme or genre, interviews with authors, readings and book signings.
I'm a regular at CrimeFest in Bristol, England and ThrillerFest in New York. My books sit alongside traditionally published books on the bookstall, and I sit on panels with authors who publish in all kinds of ways.
Some festivals still have issues about indies, but if you attend for a few years and make relationships over time or even volunteer, you can usually get on the panels and have your books in the store.
Because there are so many authors, many more famous than you, it's unlikely that you will sell many books this way, but it can be a great way to expand your author network and meet bloggers and reviewers.
Book signings are often featured as part of these festivals, but they are usually only worthwhile if your target market attends. Otherwise, you may find yourself stuck behind a table with a pile of your books and no one talking to you. These signings are appropriate for big-name traditionally published authors but are not great for book marketing otherwise.
Events that are not specifically book-focused can be a great way to sell print books, for example, Christmas markets or summer craft fairs, as well as themed events around places or historical occasions. Basically, anywhere you can get a stall and sell your books.
Libraries often run author events, and they are always looking for people to speak. You won't get paid, but you might sell a few books and make some connections for next time.
Professional speaking events
Many non-fiction authors are also speakers and sell their books at the back of the room, and some may even include the price of books for the audience in their speaking fee. If you're running your own events, you can also sell your books directly to attendees.
I usually just take cash or offer to PayPal invoice people later, but if you're doing these regularly, apps like Square enable card processing easily and cheaply.
If you're speaking at a bigger event, you can arrange to include a book or a postcard in the attendee swag bags. If you're interested in speaking, check out my book, Public Speaking for Authors, Creatives and Other Introverts.
Direct mail and advertising to libraries and bookstores
In the same way that you can use Facebook advertising or BookBub to reach readers, you can also use specific advertising methods to reach booksellers and libraries.
If you're serious about selling a lot of print books, you might consider joining an independent publishers organization. They have directories of booksellers and distributors, libraries and services that will help you sell direct and options to include your books in catalogues.
For example, The American Booksellers Association offers opportunities to contact booksellers directly, and you can place ads in bookseller-facing publications like Publishers Weekly.
Relationships with bookstores
If you want to get your book into a physical bookstore, think about life from the bookseller's perspective before approaching them. They have to handle a lot of merchandize that makes a small profit, and they need to manage their overheads.
Imagine if every book in the bookstore was sold by a different author and billed separately. The bookseller would spend all their time dealing with authors and paperwork rather than customers.
This is why booksellers would rather buy multiple books from one distributor than lots of individual books from individual sellers. The distributor also offers a quality filter and has built-in marketing, as well as very often paying for specific placement or merchandising in the store.
The bookseller will require a discount on the print book in order to make any profit at all, so you will need to make your book available through IngramSpark and match the discount offered by other publishers.
Indie authors can get their books into bookstores in a number of ways, but the most important is through personal relationships. If you regularly buy books at your local bookstore and they know you, they are more likely to be open to stocking your book on their shelves. Perhaps you could even have a launch event there and bring more customers into the shop.
You can also develop relationships with buyers for bookstore chains, as Carol Cooper did for her book, Hampstead Fever, which featured in UK national chain WHSmiths, along with airport and train station bookstores.
Children's books in schools
Books for young children work well in print because they are often image-heavy, but this also makes them expensive as print-on-demand. Many children's authors do limited print runs and then sell direct into schools through school visits and by developing relationships with librarians.
Most schools are happy to have authors come in and run a lesson or do an assembly. If you send the children home with information, you can sell books to parents as well as teachers.
If you develop on-going relationships, the school might buy books for the library, or you could sell them at school events. This takes a lot of work for a small amount of profit, so some children's authors focus instead on online print sales by targeting bloggers who review children's books like Mommy blogs or Boomer blogs for grandparents.
Special and bulk sales
Special sales and bulk sales are great ways to sell more print books. You just have to think differently.
For example, if you have a book on pet care, consider pitching it to a pet store chain as something that could be co-branded and sold in their stores.
If you regularly speak for a large organization and have a book on time management, consider offering to co-brand a special version of your book with their logo and offer it at a steep discount to be given to all employees in the holiday season.
Honoree Corder, author of The Successful Single Mom and other books, offers custom print runs for her books so that divorce attorneys can offer it to their clients as a gift and include their business details on the back. The book remains the same, but the back cover becomes an ad for the attorney, so they are more than happy to pay for printing costs plus royalty for the author.
This model is more suited to non-fiction, but it's definitely worth thinking about.
Book clubs, writer's groups, or special interest groups
There are online book clubs like Goodreads, but there are also book clubs all over the world who meet in person to discuss books every week. Your book can be one of those.
Start by creating a list of questions that book club members could discuss about your book around theme, characters, or topics depending on the genre. Then search for directories of book clubs on Google, whether you want to look locally, nationally, or further afield.
If you offer discounts on your books, you might be able to organize bulk buying for the group. You could also offer to chat with the book club, either in person or via Skype, which I've done before with groups in Australia, the USA and Singapore. Borders are no problem with today's technology!
There are also writers’ groups, as well as special interest groups who might want to read your books. Think about your potential market and then go deep into researching where they might hang out.
Crowdfunding beautiful print
I don't suggest you use it for your first book or just a paperback version, but if you use it for a special project, it can draw people in and enable them to get involved.
Orna Ross, Irish literary fiction novelist, poet and founder of the Alliance of Independent Authors, did a crowdfunding project for her special edition of Secret Rose. It combined WB Yeats' novel The Secret Rose with Orna's own Her Secret Rose into one beautifully designed hardback with a gold embossed cover.
The high print costs were covered by crowdfunding. Readers effectively preordered the limited edition, and then Orna sold more copies at premium pricing at live events for Yeats's anniversary celebrations.
Crowdfunding isn't a scalable or repeatable model, but it can be suitable for special projects that require higher upfront printing costs where the author has an audience and community ready to support them.
These are just some ideas for focusing on print sales in particular, and it's an area I'm personally exploring in more detail.
In early 2017, I set up Curl Up Press as a publishing imprint for The Creative Penn Limited and joined the Independent Publishers Guild in the UK as a way to try and start selling more print books.
It's a small but growing segment of my own publishing business, but because so many of the marketing methods aren't scalable and take so much time, I tend to focus on online marketing.
The Bookseller reported that print sales online overtook print sales in bookstores in 2014, so you can still sell print books by focusing on scalable digital marketing. You get to choose what you want to do for your books.
This is an excerpt from How to Market a Book Third Edition, available now in ebook, print and audiobook formats.