How Special Editions Can Help Authors

Most self-published writers publish one paperback edition with a print-on-demand service such as CreateSpace and one eBook edition with a variety of eBook publishing services like Kindle, Nook Express, Kobi, and Smashwords.

There can be benefits of publishing multiple paperback or eBook editions of the same book.

A special edition can be made for free using CreateSpace (though it would be wise to invest in the author copy plus shipping charges to order one test copy). PDF’s and eBooks can also be made for free. So money isn’t the obstacle to making a special edition. It just takes a little more time; but not much, since it’s just slightly different from the original.

(1) Advance Review Copies

Authors send out advance review copies to local press, bloggers in the same genre, and potential reviewers. Some accept eBooks in PDF, epub, or mobi format, while others only accept hardcopies. Occasionally, these advance review copies are resold (e.g. as a used book on Amazon).

Why not put the words ADVANCE REVIEW COPY in large letters across the front and back cover, title page, and last page of the paperback, and the cover page of the eBook file? This can even be put on the header of the paperback and PDF versions.

(2) Draft Copy

Similarly, the word DRAFT can be used for copies distributed to proofreaders and members of a loyal fan club. This can even be used as a watermark for paperback and PDF editions.

(3) Large Print

For a novel or other book that mostly consists of plain text, it’s very easy to change to a size 16 or so font to qualify as large print on Amazon. Note that the paperback book will cost more if this increases the number of pages (unless the overall page count is still under 100 pages for black and white or 40 pages for color at CreateSpace, in which case the cost doesn’t change).

Add the words LARGE PRINT to the title. Only the regular print edition will show in Amazon search results unless the customer adds the words “large print” to the search. The large print edition will show on the regular edition’s product page, possibly hidden under a + sign (Amazon often uses this to hide other paperback editions, instead of listing every paperback edition separately). A note could be added to the product description that the book is also available in large print.

Large print only affects physical books (except for fixed layout Kindle eBooks).

A possible disadvantage of a large print edition is that when customers buy this edition, it doesn’t improve the sales rank or affect the Customers Also Bought lists of the regular edition. However, the large print edition may not sell enough for this to be a significant concern. It may also be offset by customers who would never have bought the book if the large print edition hadn’t been available.

(4) Color vs. Black and White

Sometimes an author wants to publish a paperback book in color, but the list price would be much higher than it would be for black and white. Instead of choosing one or the other, the author could publish both color and black and white editions.

However, in this case, the special edition could backfire. This presents a difficult choice to the buyer. Would you rather have the better book, or would you rather save money? Unfortunately, some buyers will actually walk away because of the choice, who would have bought the only edition available otherwise.

If color is essential, don’t make black and white. If color isn’t essential, just go with black and white.

Exception: A special color edition can be put on the author’s website. The Amazon customer won’t see it and be troubled by it. Someone who has met the author is more likely to buy the special color edition, and that’s how this customer will be shopping at the author’s website instead of Amazon.

Of course, there isn’t any extra charge for making an eBook in color. But sometimes an eBook that looks great in color looks lousy in grayscale. For example, two colors that contrast well might look nearly the same in grayscale. In such cases, it could be beneficial to make separate color and grayscale editions of eBooks.

(5) Omnibus or Anthology

Authors who have series or multiple titles that are similar can put the collection in a special edition. If the omnibus is discounted compared to buying the books separately, this discount may inspire sales. The author also gets paid for the entire series up front, instead of waiting for the customer to buy each book in the series one at a time over several months.

The omnibus also makes for a great promotional tool. Discount the price over a short period of time and announce this on the author’s blog, social media, and elsewhere and this might result in a sudden burst of sales.

(6) Hardcover

CreateSpace actually has a hardcover option (just contact support). Alternatively, use Lightning Source or Lulu to make a hardcover edition. A few customers actually prefer hardcover editions. The question is whether or not the added costs to the author are worthwhile.

Some books, like textbooks, stand the test of time much better when they are hardbound.

(7) Limited Edition

Sell a limited edition with valuable bonus material (not promotional material) from the author’s website.

(8) Translations

Books can be translated into Spanish, French, Chinese, and other languages. Multilingual authors can take advantage of this, and may be more likely to develop a significant following in other countries. There are also translation services available.

(9) Audio Books

The Kindle Direct Publishing newsletter advertises the Audiobook Creation Exchange (ACX). It’s an Amazon platform. An author who has a book that may be a good fit for truck drivers and who may be able to market toward this audience may be able to draw a significant number of sales through this medium.

(10) Clean vs. Adult Content

Movies often come out in both rated and unrated editions. No reason authors can’t do the same.

Chris McMullen, self-published author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

14 comments on “How Special Editions Can Help Authors

    • The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy did this with Douglas Adams’ “trilogy.” They included a short story about Zaphod at the end of the omnibus. It was great for those who bought the omnibus (but a little frustrating for readers who bought them separately). People definitely like to receive bonuses. 🙂

  1. Great ideas, all of them. Several years ago, I re-released an eBook (a PDF, like all others at the time) as a special, second edition, which featured a comprehensive genealogy report pertaining to some of the characters’ families. I did this because fans of the first edition seemed more interested in genealogy–and using it to prove the story–than in the supernatural entity the book was written about. People loved it!

    I’ve also pondered large-print editions, as many of my readers have requested them. I’m pondering audio books, and I have the software/studio to create them with, so you might be seeing (hearing?) some of my titles at some point.

    Thanks again for yet another great post!

    • Some spooky haunted house stories with spooky sound effects would be very cool. Some of your current fans might even buy the same stories again in audio format. 🙂

    • That’s a good point one would need to look into when searching for such a service. Perhaps it could be contracted like a work for hire. Thank you for commenting. 🙂

  2. Thank you for sharing this information! As a newbie to this writing/self publishing world, I truly appreciate all of the advice from those who have been there before me. I have often wondered how books were reviewed prior to publishing, now that picture is becoming clearer. I am currently waiting for my first paper copy for review from createspace, and then hopefully order my stock! This was been a fun and often frustrating learning experience. Book two should be much easier!! Thanks again for all of the haring minds I am finding in the blogging world!

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