Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Print isn’t dead

Perhaps I’m not the norm here, but judging by my sales so far, print is definitely not dead yet. I have 15 sales – not a ton, I realize, but it’s a start – and of those 15, 7 are print copies. (7 print, 7 Kindle and 1 Nook) I’m finding that as I promote the book to people I know, more often than not, they don’t have an ereader, and therefore wouldn’t have been able to get my book if I wasn’t offering a paperback edition.

I guess the lesson to other self-publishers is: offer a print edition.

It really isn’t hard. There are print-on-demand companies like CreateSpace and Lulu that make the process relatively painless, and it’s not too expensive to get it going. Personally, I used CreateSpace, and the only cost I’ve incurred so far is the $39 Pro Plan (which lets me get higher royalties and makes their Extended Distribution available if I choose to utilize it later on). The ISBN was free, and I created the PDF and cover myself, so there was no cost there. Now, if you don’t have the software or experience to do those things on your own, you’ll have to outsource, but you need a cover even for an ebook, so you’ll have already faced that issue anyway. And making a PDF of the interior isn’t that difficult. I used Adobe InDesign, but I’m pretty sure word processing programs like Word can do it as well.

Point is, if you self-publish and choose to only publish ebooks, you’re probably losing some sales. Not everyone is on board the ebook bandwagon yet, and I don’t know about you, but I don’t feel right lecturing them on how you can still read ebooks on your computer via apps like Kindle for PC (or Nook for PC). Personally, I can’t read anything longer than a blog post on a computer screen without getting a horrific eye strain headache. That’s why I prefer my Kindle and don’t use my iPad as an ereader. Backlit LCD is not kind on the eyes, and I think that’s why a lot of people are resistant to ebooks.

An example of this: one of my promotion attempts is to make up postcards about my book (again, being a graphic designer has come in handy) and keep a stack on my desk at work. I work at a country club, so not only do I have pretty regular traffic in there from my co-workers, but we have about 200 or so members that come in every month to pay their bills. I don’t want to be obnoxious and ask every one of them to buy my book, but having the postcards there is a good way to start a conversation if they seem interested. The front of the card is the book cover and the back has a short blurb, links to my website and instructions on how/where to purchase it. So rather than have to explain to each person that I’m writing as Allison Kraft rather than my real name, and how they can get it on Amazon or Nook or blah blah blah (which they’ll most likely forget as soon as they walk out of the office), they can just take the card with them, and maybe later they’ll remember to check it out.

Anyway, back to the example. I put the stack out today, and a little while later two of my co-workers came in and saw it. They both picked up a card and looked it over. One of them doesn’t have an ereader, so he said he would buy the paperback. That’s one sale I would have lost if I didn’t have a print version. (The other co-worker went on his phone to the Kindle site and looked at it a few minutes later, and most likely bought it.) Most of our members are retired as well, and while some of them are comfortable with technology and well-versed in the Internet, most aren’t, and therefore most will not have ereaders.

So there you go: two sales I might not have otherwise gotten if I’d relied solely on verbal promotion. One of those two employees already knew I had a book out, because our boss mentioned it yesterday. But he hadn’t made the effort to look it up or buy it until he picked up the postcard.

Now if only I could solve my other ebook-related problems so easily. I still only have Destined on Kindle and Nook, because the other formats (Kobo, iBooks, Sony, etc.) make it fairly difficult to get in without going through an aggregator like Smashwords. I’m in the process of dealing with Kobo, and hope it will work out, but I’m worried that I’m going to run into trouble with the ISBN. We’ll see. I’m also trying to get it for sale on Google Books, but that process is slow, and I’m a little hesitant of it because in order to have my book there, it has to be part of their preview program, which makes 20% of the book viewable for free. 20% is a LOT of content, but for now, Google eBooks is the only way I’ve found to put the ePub edition on sale where anyone can buy it. The way they do their previewing makes me nervous. It always looks like nearly the entire book is available, though when you actually go in and start paging through, it does only let you see parts of it. I don’t know. I may have to break down and use Smashwords, as much as I hate the idea. Why can’t SW just accept an ePub file directly? I spent SO many hours getting my ePub perfectly-formatted; I hate to throw that all away and take a chance on whatever their meatgrinder produces. Maybe I can find a way to sell the ePub directly from my website…


  1. Thanks. I didn't realize that. No reason not to do it if it's that easy.

  2. @Michael E. Walston I think if you have the ability to produce a well-formatted PDF, then it would be a crime not to get a print copy available. It doesn't cost anything, unless you decide to chip in the $39 for the Pro Plan (if you go with CreateSpace), and it opens you up to a whole new group of potential readers.

    I think in the past, people avoided PODs because their per-copy selling prices was too high. But now companies like CreateSpace and Lulu are able to print-to-order at prices that readers are able to afford.