It’s easy to publish an e-book with Kindle, Kobo, Smashwords, and other e-publishers. It’s also easy to publish a paperback with CreateSpace or Ingram Spark, for example.1
Well, either way, there is some formatting to do, and you might need a little help at the end. It’s generally not too bad. Most authors feel that one or the other is much easier. Those who visualize perfect formatting of pages tend to get a little frustrated with the reflowable formatting of e-books – i.e. there are no pages. Those who favor the e-book formatting tend to get frustrated with headers, page numbers, and other features unique to pages. But it’s manageable, especially with perseverance and all the free help available from other authors.
There are benefits of publishing in both formats. If you just publish in your preferred format, you save yourself from having to deal with the format you don’t like, but you also lose out on some of these benefits.
For one, both paperbacks and e-books sell frequently at booksellers across the globe every day. Many customers prefer to hold a book in their hands and turn the pages, while others prefer to read e-books on their favorite electronic devices. If you only offer your book in one format, you are narrowing your audience.
It depends in part on the genre. Nonfiction how-to guides are often handy to have in your hands when you need them, and there is plenty of room to jot down notes. Fiction geared toward an audience who embraces the digital age is apt to be preferred in e-book format. However, there will still be customers who prefer the book in the alternate format.
Note that you may publish both a paperback through CreateSpace and an e-book through Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) even if you enroll your book in the KDP Select program. Although KDP Select enrollment requires your e-book to be published exclusively with KDP, you are allowed to publish print editions of the book while enrolled in KDP Select. I have several books enrolled in KDP Select and also available as paperbacks through CreateSpace, and so do many other authors.2
Many authors, especially in fiction, feel that it’s only worthwhile to publish an e-book because the price will be much lower. Why bother formatting a paperback edition at a higher price?
- Some customers only buy hard copies. If your book is only available as an e-book, you may be losing some customers. Even if your book will primarily sell as an e-book, all sales are valuable. It’s not just the royalty you’re missing out on. The more customers who read your book, the greater the chance for word-of-mouth recommendations and reviews. Maximize your exposure.
- At Amazon, your Kindle edition will show as a discount off of your paperback list price if the two editions are linked together.3 So if your Kindle edition is $4.99 and your paperback is $9.98, even if you never sell one paperback, the effect of publishing it is that your Kindle edition will look like it’s on sale for 50% off. This way, the presence of your paperback edition may inspire a few e-book sales.
- If you sell a paperback book, you’re eligible to take advantage of the GoodReads giveaway program (http://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/new) within six months of publication. Giving away one or more copies (10 is recommended) is a good way to help build buzz for your book. There is a chance that one or more recipients will leave a review for your book (but, of course, there is no guarantee, and no guarantee that the review will be favorable).4 This is the indie author’s opportunity to compete with traditional publishers who send out advance review copies. Of course, you can also comprise a mailing list and send out advance review copies like they do. You can even print ADVANCE REVIEW COPY across the cover, if you wish.
- You can sell the paperback book in person. Since you can buy author copies for cheap from CreateSpace, it allows you to offer a healthy discount while still drawing a fair royalty. This opens up opportunities for selling your book directly to local stores (not just bookstores, but other local stores that sell books). You can sell directly from your website or in person. This improves your overall visibility. You can even sell special editions.
- The printed proof is handy for editing. No matter how many times you view your book digitally, you’re sure to find more typos when you read the printed proof.
- A paperback book is an important part of your press release package. You might use then when contacting a local newspaper, bookstore, or library, for example.
- If you don’t have a paperback, you’re missing out on a possible marketing opportunity. Have you ever seen someone reading a book on a bus on in a plane? If the cover catches your interest, you might just ask if the book is good. This is word-of-mouth sales potential. If you give away copies of your book to friends and family, give them paperback editions, especially if they are likely to read in public places (“Guess what: I’m going on a trip this weekend,” “Really? How would you like a free book?”).
- Every time someone sees a paperback lying around the house, it reminds them to read it. Sometimes books are purchased, but not read; sometimes people read books, but don’t finish them; and sometimes people intend to review books, but forget to do it. Seeing the paperback is a constant reminder, whereas an e-book can become buried behind other e-books on an electronic device. I’m not saying to publish in paperback only, just that this is one more possible benefit of having a paperback in addition to an e-book.
- A well-formatted, visually appealing paperback tends to make a favorable impression on the reader. It may put the reader in a good frame of mind while reading.
1. CreateSpace is an Amazon company. Ingram Spark is a new print-on-demand service from Ingram, the major distributor to bookstores. I’m a loyal CreateSpace author. Amazon gave me my opportunity, and I’m quite grateful for it. However, Ingram Spark has some merit, too. Another option is Lulu. Finally, Lightning Source may have a few advantages of Ingram Spark, especially for the small publisher. It’s also possible to mix and match. For example, use CreateSpace for Amazon and Ingram Spark for possible bookstore distribution, or use CreateSpace for paperback and Lightning Source for hardcover.
2. You are allowed to publish a paperback through CreateSpace and enroll in KDP Select at the same time. However, you’re not allowed to publish an e-book through Kobo, Nook, Smashwords, or anywhere else while your book is enrolled in KDP Select. On the other hand, if you don’t enroll in KDP Select, you may publish your e-book with Kindle and anywhere else, too.
3. Your Kindle edition and paperback edition should link together automatically within a few days provided that the title and author are spelled and punctuated identically. If you have a subtitle for the paperback, use a colon to separate the title and subtitle at KDP. If the two editions don’t automatically link within a couple of days, there is a specific place to request this on the KDP Help forum. Click the link below (then you may need to login to KDP), choose Product Page, and select Linking Print and Kindle Editions. Go to your product pages and copy/paste the ISBN and ASIN into the designated fields.
4. A recipient of a free book at the GoodReads program may choose to rate or review your book at GoodReads and may also choose to review your book at Amazon. Recipients might not review your book at all, and the review will not necessarily be favorable. Note that if the recipient reviews your book at GoodReads, it won’t show as an Amazon Verified Purchase.
Chris McMullen, self-published author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers