I want to share one finding I neglected to include in our 2013 eBook Self-Publisher Survey:
In what format/formats have you published your books? My assumption was that most of the people taking the survey would answer “eBook only.” Looking at the graph it seems the opposite is true.
Why might having a printed book make a self-publisher “legitimate”?
Because it is harder and usually more expensive to publish a print book, even if you do use a print-on-demand (POD) service like CreateSpace. With the reduced reliance on traditional publishers the public and media are looking for new ways to streamline their consideration process and the availability of a print edition is one way to do that. In my experience the effort also produces a higher quality book.
Let’s look at the key differences between the two formats:
Low resolution (larger selection of images)
|Front / Back / Spine|
High resolution images mandatory (can be more expensive)
|Layout & Design||Easier to design in that you need to keep things simple. So this is easier for the "design challenged."||You can keep it simple but there is no need. Readers appreciate good design. Room for creativity.|
|ISBN number||Technically not required so it requires no expertise or investment.||Mandatory. Some printers will provide this for free but it lists them as publisher. Potential cost.|
|Editing||Theoretically the same as with a printed book.||I maintain that the print process greatly improves copy editing|
Backing up this perspective was the next question from the survey where I asked: Have you used print on demand (POD) for one or more books? (Check all that apply.) Interestingly only 10% of respondents indicated “eBook only” was their sole format.
But maybe this shouldn’t be a huge surprise because the print format still accounts for 80% of all books sold and it maintains an important role in book marketing. (See slide 6 here.)
3 ways to market your book that you can’t do with an eBook-only book
- Events—whether you are doing a book signing or performing a speaking engagement, the print book beats the eBook every time. It’s immediately profitable; there is no worrying that prospective readers are going to get sidetracked and not buy your book. It’s also something to sign and above all, a physical prop to wave about during your event!
- Matchbook—Amazon’s new book/eBook bundling initiative is designed to upsell your eBook to those 80% who still don’t read eBooks. Read my FAQ about MatchBook here.
- Goodreads Giveaways—imagine showing your book to thousands of potential readers for the cost of a handful of your books. Who wouldn’t sign-up for this? It’s also a great way to get book reviews. Read about it here.
Right or wrong, for now a print book implies legitimacy
One of the points made in the narrative comments of the survey was that reviewers—in particular the media—prefer reviewing print books. Whether that’s for their convenience or a way to filter out perceived c**p, it’s a reality. There remains a certain stigma for the eBook-only author that needs to be overcome.
A print book communicates you had enough confidence in your work to take the time, and make the investment in a physical product.