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.
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.
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