OLD POST ALERT! This is an older post and although you might find some useful tips, any technical or publishing information is likely to be out of date. Please click on Start Here on the menu bar above to find links to my most useful articles, videos and podcast. Thanks and happy writing! – Joanna Penn
This is a guest post from Susan Daffron, The Book Consultant.
Many aspiring authors around the blogosphere have been weighing the pros and cons of releasing their books as ebooks instead of print books.
They are seeing the success of authors like Amanda Hocking and dollar signs start dancing in their heads. No print costs! No expensive layout! Woo hoo!
Online it seems like some people are equating self-publishing with ebooks. This gross oversimplification does everyone a huge disservice. Yes, ebooks are cool, but there are at least three good reasons to produce a paper copy of your book along with digital versions.
1. Give Customers What They Want
Ebooks are a bold new frontier, but not everyone has a Kindle or is in any danger of getting one. My mother, who reads more than just about any human being I've ever met, buys books by the truckload, and doesn't have a Kindle. She may be the sole reason her local Borders wasn't on the list to be shut down. She loves books–real books; not ebooks.
(As an aside, it will be a banner day for Amazon when my mom gets a Kindle and figures out how to buy books with it.)
At this point, my Kindle-free Mom will buy a book in hardback if she wants it enough and there's no paperback version. Even though hardback sales are falling, they aren't zero.
Some books are simply better as a hardback. If you want a book to keep for your personal library, hardbacks look better and last longer. Coffee table books just aren't as cool in paperback. And at this point, most of them don't work at all as ebooks.
Many publishers seem to worry that releasing an ebook version at the same time as a print book somehow devalues the or “cannibalizes” their print book sales. But that thinking is short-sighted.
As J.K. Rowling found out, people who want an “e” version of a book may look for pirated versions if you don't provide a legitimate option. If they want a book in a certain format, they will find a way to get it.
2. Increase Profits
No matter how you opt to sell the book, your overriding goal is probably to release a profitable book. To make the most money, you need to reach the as many readers as you can and pay as little as possible.
That's why you should release your book in multiple formats. I recommend that unless you already have pre-sold thousands of copies of your book, you start with print on demand using a printer like Lightning Source (and be sure to avoid “self-publishing companies” aka vanity or subsidy presses).
Most new authors and self-publishers don't know how to market a book. Like anything, it takes time to figure out what works and what doesn't work for you and your marketplace.
When you release a POD print book and an ebook at the same time, you minimize your risk. You get maximum online distribution for your title, but you don't have a garage full of books that you need to figure out how to sell, like you would if you did an offset run.
3. Stretch Your Dollars
The lack of print costs sounds like a great advantage of ebooks, but printing is just one of many costs associated with publishing a book. If you produce a quality product, it costs almost as much to release an ebook as a print book. You need to pay for editorial services and cover design for your book to be competitive.
The way you can save on production costs is to leverage the cost of editing and cover design for both your print and digital editions. Obviously, the final formats are laid out differently for print and “e” but by planning in advance, you can keep your book as consistent and as professional as possible across all formats.
You also can leverage your marketing, so it works for both the digital and print editions of your book. If you think of your book as a product, it's like a t-shirt that you can buy in multiple colors. (If you were selling t-shirts you wouldn't market the blue one differently than the red one, would you?)
All of your promotional efforts should showcase the fact that your book is available in multiple formats and in multiple locations. The easier it is for readers to find and buy your book, the better.
The different editions also can cross promote each other. Some people may find an online PDF or Kindle excerpt, buy the ebook, then opt to buy the print version later for their permanent collection.
The bottom line is that you don't have to choose between releasing an ebook or a print book. Savvy authors and self-publishers do both and make more money.
If you'd like to learn more about the business of book publishing, get inspiration and advice at the Self-Publishers Online Conference. The third annual event is May 10-12, 2011. Use the code Joanna11 and get a 10% discount!
Susan Daffron, aka The Book Consultant owns a book and software publishing company. She spends most of her time writing, laying out books in InDesign, or taking her five dogs out for romps in the forest. She also teaches people how to write and publish profitable client-attracting books and puts on the Self-Publishers Online conference every May.
Image (top): Flickr CC Lynn Gardner