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.
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.
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
Your comments are welcome!
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