Print? Why bother? The eBook revolution is taking over, any self-respecting indie-author knows that - eBook revenues doubled in 2011 to over $2 billion in the US market. If they do so again in 2012, then by this time next year eBooks will have over a third of the publishing take.
I had a pretty good answer to that question until about six months ago - don't.
Distribution is much tougher for print compared to an eBook. Although you can easily get the print book listed on Amazon and B&N's website, the big chains are very unlikely to stock a self-published volume in their stores. And it's a long hard road, hand-selling to individual, independent book shops. Price is also a problem, as it's only volume that gets the cost down, and that means financial risk and raises the question of storage, but...
While there's no doubt that seismic shifts are taking place in publishing and that within a few years the eBook will dominate, just flip that opening statistic around and you'll see that over two thirds of books are still sold as print editions. It's an awful big chunk of the market to turn your back on.
So, a few months ago I started looking at the Print-on-Demand or POD suppliers - these are the people who take a file (usually a PDF or two) of your book and print a single edition whenever someone buys one.
The advantages are massive - there's no stock to be held anywhere and there's no financial risk, no (or little) upfront payment. The POD supplier just takes a cut of each sale to cover their costs and hands you the rest as a royalty. Once I'd done the research and thought about it a little, it wasn't so much 'Print? Why bother?' as 'Print? Why not?'
I decided to go with Amazon's CreateSpace programme, not least because I'd been so happy with the Kindle Direct Publishing experience for my eBooks. But there was lots of advice to that end, notably, Dean Wesley Smith (who also makes the case for print publishing in more detail), David Gaughran, and Jen Talty. I also researched formatting it myself, but in the end I followed David Gaughran's advice and got Heather Adkins at Cyberwitch Press to do it.
I had to go back to my original cover designers to get a higher resolution image, but I was able to put the rest together inside CreateSpace's cover-building program. There is the cost of the proof, and I coughed up the $25 for the expanded distribution program, but in total all of this came to about US$100 and a couple of days work.
And the result is fantastic. I was so pleased with the proof of The Fulcrum Files that I went straight-ahead and put The Defector and The Wrecking Crew back into print with CreateSpace. The only difference to a trade-published edition is that you can't get those lovely matt, waxy covers that are all the rage these days - they only come in gloss. Otherwise, if you put the care and effort into the preparation then the proof copy that drops through the door will be a delight.
The downsides still exist though, the price to the customer is high. I can't sell the books for less than the £7.99, £8.99 and £9.99 that I've priced them at - but at least they are available for those people who haven't, and perhaps won't shift to eReading. And having the price comparison does make the eBooks look cheap, which is not a bad thing.
The first monthly royalty cheque got me well over half of my investment back. I should clear the rest this month - and that's without the sales from a recent book launch for the print edition (at the pub that featured in the novel) netting a three-figure profit.
So while I'm still very much dreaming of electric books, I no longer have nightmares about printed ones.
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