Book Gadget v0.72

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Why I'm Not Publishing Books on Paper

At present, I only publish my work in digital format—ebooks and audiobooks. Since many of you are also authors or seriously thinking of writing a book, I thought I would explain my reasoning on this, as it might be helpful to you in making your own decisions.
     The main reason that I'm a digital-only author is that if I publish my books on paper, I can't get them onto the shelves of physical bookstores.  It's virtually impossible.  Why?  Because I'm an "indie author," meaning that I self-publish my work outside of the realm of the traditional publishing industry.  Like  it or not, traditional publishing largely controls what's on the shelves of brick-and-mortar bookstores.  (Self-publishing my own work is a personal choice—for more about traditional versus self-publishing, see this post).
     Also, I am an internationally-oriented author, and I have a large number of readers all over the world—in Australia, the UK, Europe, South Africa, Malaysia, Russia, India, the Middle East, etc.  This compounds the distribution problem tenfold.  Even the biggest U.S. publishers have trouble getting their titles onto the bookstore shelves in every corner of the globe.
     Thanks to digital retailer/distributors like Smashwords, ebooks provide an instant and elegant solution to the problem.  It's a great feeling to know that any reader, virtually anywhere in the world, has equal access to all my books at the touch of a button.
     That said, I admit that it sometimes bothers me that I can't pick up a paper copy of my book and hold it in my hands, and that I can't send readers who want my books in paper format to a physical bookstore.  Some people enjoy collecting paper books and building a home library, and I can certainly appreciate that as well.
     While it's true that I could arrange to publish all of my 20+ titles on paper through a company like Lulu or Createspace, this does not fully solve the problem, neither in the USA or abroad.  Readers will still have to order the books online or through their local bookstores—copies will still not actually be sitting on bookstore shelves.  Many of the people who want paper books tell me they not only want my books in that format but want to go to their local bookstore and buy them off the shelf.  Having to order and wait for a paper book is a "speed bump" that greatly lowers interest.  Today, it's my experience that most readers, when given the choice of ordering a physical book and waiting a week or two for it to arrive, or downloading the book instantly, at 1/3 of the price (when you include postage), choose the latter.  Not all, but most.
     Despite how easy companies like Lulu and Createspace make it sound, publishing on paper is still a lot of work and takes significant time.  I only have so many hours in the day.  When I ask readers, "Which would you rather I do—produce more new ebooks and audiobooks or slow down and offer everything I write in both digital and paper format?" the answer is always a resounding "More new books please!"  The vast majority of my readers are willing to read or listen to my books in digital format, even the ones who prefer paper.
    Of course, there are some people who refuse to read anything but paper books.  I admire their tenacity, but I have to draw the line somewhere.  I believe that there will always be paper books, but I also believe that the number of people who refuse to read anything except paper books will steadily diminish, so that eventually I will reach 99% of the folks who are interested in my work.
     But there is another larger, overarching factor in my decision to stay digital.  I struggled for fifteen years in the paper book industry—burned through four literary agents—and made very little progress.  It was the advent of ebooks and digital publishing that allowed me to take full control of my career and caused my book sales to take off.  While I'm sure it would be a wonderful feeling to hold all my novels in my hands and see them lined up in a neat row along my desk, I'm confident that the feeling I have from making a living as a novelist and being able to write full time is far more satisfying.
     Perhaps things will change in the future and I will decide to publish on paper.  For example, maybe someday there will be a printing and binding machine sitting in every physical bookstore that can produce a high-quality paper copy of any ebook in a matter of minutes.  There have been attempts at this, but nothing has caught on big yet.  Or, maybe a traditional publisher will come along and offer to print my books as they are, without insisting on fiddling around with the titles and content, and they won't have a problem with me continuing to publish my ebooks and audiobooks independently.  Who knows?
     Never say never.
     In summary, that's the logic behind my decision to keep my books in digital format only for the present, and it may or may not apply to your own situation.
     Your comments are welcome!

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22 comments:

  1. Mike, thanks for the information, it has been helpful. More and more we are sending publishers down the road, think about television, the commercials are dominating the programs; it is all about making money instead of servicing the customer. Publishers and TV producers are working their way out of business. Things are a-changin. Cheers, Al

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    1. Hello, Mike. I think it's a very good article you wrote. It is really useful for authors who are still struggling in the paper book industry. They became more and more demanding and they are reluctant at publishing someone who is not already famous for something else. We have to star in a tv reality show may be or more?
      Anyway, I wanted to ask you, Mike, if you think possible to make a living as an indie writer on line?
      THank you for your answer.
      All the best for you and all the writers here.
      Sofia Stella.

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    2. Thanks for your comments, Sofia. Of course it's possible to make a living as an indie writer online, because I'm already doing it and so are a lot of other people. I know about ten right off the top of my head who live abroad, like I do, and are unable to physically meet readers face to face.

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  2. Great post, Mike. You're approach is dead on. This is why LPC advises our authors to skip bookstores and focus on Kindle sales. 95% of their royalties will come from Kindle. Their print book is what we call the "trophy copy." It sits on their shelf and collects dust while eBooks take off. Again, great advice for some authors.

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  3. I agree for the most part with this. I chose to also have mine in paper because I try and sell anywhere I go. I'm currently working on a "new" way to be able to sell digital in person http://www.dropcards.com/home/ This site says for music, but it also works for novels. I have one from a Canadian author. I'm not so interested in being on a shelf in a book store anymore so digital is what I'm targeting, even though I want to also be able to have a book in my trunk to sell on the spot.

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    1. Lisa, I used The Audiobook Creation Exchange (ACX.com), which was set up by Audible for authors and narrators to find each other and make deals. You can post your books there (Kindle books only) and narrators will post auditions and you can go from there. ACX makes it all very easy on the contract side.

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    2. Thank you Mike! I'll check it out... Appreciate the email...

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  4. I agree with everything you said. But you can make a paperback through Createspace in 40 minutes. It doesn't take that much time. So I always take the 30 or 40 minutes to create a paperback. Of course, I've been doing it for a while so I have the process down pat. You said people like to go to the store to find paperbacks and then check out. Sure, some. But me and lots of my friends and neighbors and families all buy paperbacks online. I don't want to go to a store. LOL. I buy all my paperbacks right online at Amazon. I read digital too, but I love paperbacks. This is a great post and I think digital is the way to go for all the reasons you stated. There's nothing like having fans in England and even Africa. Congratulations to your indie success. You're doing a fantastic job!

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  5. Your assumption isn't valid. I have readers ordering my paper books (Createspace) through Amazon or other online retailers and I get them into bookstores. Yes it is another bit of effort, but your opinion that people who want printed books shop only at bookstores is flat wrong.

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  6. I understand entirely. I'm a relatively new convert to ebooks and know that when I eventually complete my short story collection (only got 3 1/2 stories written so far) I'll be self publishing in digital format only.

    Although ebooks are great and really very convenient, I do still enjoy sitting with a real paper book in my hands. It really is a different experience and I'm sure that nothing really compares to seeing your printed books on the shelves of major book stores.

    Sadly you're right, all of the major book stores only seem to stock material from the big publishers. Perhaps we should start a campaign to demand that the big book stores do more to support the independent authors.

    With that in mind, I suggest that we start petition, to be presented to all of the major book stores and hopefully we'll get to see Mike Wells books in printed format one day...

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  7. Well, it takes literally 5 minutes to publish on Createspace and have the book ready. I don't know where you get the idea that it takes time :)
    Sure, if you plan to create the cover yourself, the end result will be terrible in most cases for the majority who try, and if you have no idea how to format your book (though Createspace provides you with the templates) then you are at a loss.

    To someone learning how to ride a bike, it seems incredibly difficult, but kids learn to do it everyday.

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  8. I fully agree with your decision to stay with ebooks. I may be a little influenced by the defect in my left eye that makes reading small print used in current publishing difficult but the larger output is a great reason. I think you are correct that instant print will happen one day but it may be fought by the traditional publishers.

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  9. I have found that it takes little time to do a CreateSpace book, especially if you are working from a published e-book (I do most of those through a small indie e-book publisher which leaves print rights with the author). Will it sell? I feel it's worth the gamble. But the real thing is some local book/author fairs. Very hard to do effectively with only e-books ... next time I will have at least some paper books there and expect better results.

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  10. I think there is room for paper and digital books. I enjoy both, and fully support your decision to only do ebooks (I have all of yours on my Nook tablet). Writers - do what is best for you individually!

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  11. Great post Mike! However, did you know that having a print book on Amazon can help you sell more kindle books? If you also have an audio book, that helps as well. Having all 3 print, audio, and Kindle give you more of a presence on Amazon and with clue in Amazon's algorithms to help boost your presence.

    I just started working with authors to help them come up in better placement in Amazon Kindle searches and that is one of the tools. You also need to make sure you have the best keywords chosen and categories. There is a difference between key words and categories. So many authors don't realize that Amaazon have their own search engine and they need to optimize (SEO for Kindle) it can make or break an author.

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  12. I agree with Chrissy Peebles, because I hardly ever go to a brick and mortar book store anymore unless it's an indy, small and interesting. I never go to the big ones anymore. I finally got on at ACX... now will see what happens! Thanks again for your information.

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  13. Hi Mike, Thank you for the information, and I totally agree with you.
    I, however, am a paper book person. I have no idea why, but I cannot read a book on a computer. Nevertheless, I have found the solution to my problem, I just print them :) So now I welcome the e-books as much as paper books.

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  14. I wrote another comment which I think got lost. Just wanted to say whar a great article this is. I remember Stephen King an article quite some tome ago in which he talked about whether to get into ePublishing. It was new, and people were reluctant to give up the hard copies of books. I was one of those people who didn't want to make the switch. That was 2 Kindles and an iPad ago. I love the portability of eBooks and now only buy for Kindle or IPad. And you are one of the authors I've read and enjoyed this way. Thank you for your article!

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    1. Funny. I was actually a die-hard myself until I got my first Kindle. Sorry about the "capcha" thing but there's nothing I can do about it, it's built into blogger

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  15. I have to say that I feel the same way about ePublishing. I still, as a buyer, buy paper back books. However, when it come to (hopefully) publishing my first book, if I self-publish, it's going to be on eBook.

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  16. I'm so glad I read this, Mike - people keep telling me I ought to be in paperback, too, but I've been resisting it. I WOULD like to see my books in paperback, too, but I bet I'd only sell a handful - I've noticed that the self pubbers who do paperback don't sell very many at all as they have to make them too expensive in order not to sell them at a loss - and who's going to pay £7.99 for a paperback by an indie author? Because I've had a few people saying "I don't have a Kindle, why don't you do paperback?" I HAVE been thinking about it, but this has heightened my resolve to only do it if I can find a way that will be financially viable and, um, not too much hassle!

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