As I write this, there are 13 books on the shelf behind me. All of them have my name on them. One of them is “Writers Gone Wild,” published by Penguin. The rest are other people’s works I edited and annotated for my Peschel Press through CreateSpace. Fourteen inches of paper that I wrote or transcribed, edited, proofed, and shepherded into production. When I’m gone, these books and their successors will be my legacy, on the shelves of readers, libraries that specialize in niche books, and The Library of Congress. They’ll exist about as long as anything will in this best of all possible worlds.
That’s not the only reason why you should offer a print edition of your works. In fact, I can’t think of a legitimate reason why you shouldn’t.
Except one: That you work isn’t good enough to put in print. Like the pulpmeisters of old, there’s a new breed of writers who publish disposable stories for $2.99. They’re like cups of coffee: buy one, drink it up, throw it away, buy another.
They might feel uncomfortable asking $12 or more for their scribbles, afraid that readers would feel cheated if they paid that much for an hour or two’s pleasure. It’s the flip side of the argument in the publishing community that holds that selling your ebooks for $2.99 devalues reading.
I won’t get into the argument except to note that publishers have always changed the price of books, according to their format (hardback, trade paperback, and pocket-sized books with pages so thin they could double for toilet paper) and how new they are.
If you feel uncomfortable offering a print version at a high price point, take comfort that book buyers who agree with you won’t pay that price either. You’re not running a con. Readers are savvy enough to check your book description, read the reviews, even check out an excerpt. If someone wants to pay $15.95 for a book you wrote in a week, who’s to say they shouldn’t? They might get just as much enjoyment from it as a book that took a decade to write.
With that out of the way, let’s get into the reasons why there should be a printed version of your book for sale:
1. You make more money per book. A $2.99 sale at 70 percent returns $2 to you. Depending on the price you set, you stand to earn more from a print sale. More money is better, right?
2. The return on investment (ROI) is high. Laying out a CreateSpace book is dead simple compared to creating an ebook that works across all platforms and devices. I make mine with Word 97 and an old version of PhotoShop using CreateSpace’s interior templates. You use the same cover as the ebook version (again using CreateSpace’s cover templates) and you don’t have to write the back cover copy as if you’re selling the book in stores (although you should).
Laying out a book in the 223B Casebook Series takes a week, but that’s an anthology which uses plenty of art (52 pieces in my latest volume). That’s a lot of work. A novel can be laid out in a day. There’s a learning curve, but if you’re already used to Word, putting in page numbers and dealing with headers or footers, you’re most of the way there.
3. It amortizes the cost of writing. Say writing a novel took two months. Creating the ebook version takes a day. Add another day or two to create the print version, plus more time for the audio version, and you’ve spread the cost of those two months over three products. This pays off the investment faster and after that it’s pure profit. What’s not to like?
4. It gives you something to sell. More outlets translates into more income and more visibility. My books can be found at three bookstores, including New York’s Mysterious Bookshop, and we average four appearances a year at local arts festivals.
5. It gives you authority and credibility. It’s validation. It displays your talents to potential publicity outlets such as newspapers, magazines, television and radio. If you deal in non-fiction or sell self-help advice or other services, it connects you to people who hire speakers for groups or convention, and gives you something to sell afterwards.
6. Some readers prefer printed books. To fans who see your titles on their shelves, it reminds them to visit your website for the latest news. Why disappoint them?
7. Amazon gets a stronger tool to market you. When the company discounts your ebook, it shows the size of the savings. With only the ebook version, the discount isn’t very big. If the paper version is available, it uses that price. Which looks better, a 10% discount ($2.99 to $2.70) or an 83% discount ($15.99 to $2.70)?
8. More passive sales. CreateSpace does offer sales to bookstores, but with a little more effort, you can get a higher return by making it available through Ingram Spark. Even if you attach a “no returns” policy, you allow bookstores everywhere a chance to order the book for favored customers. Since you’re in this for the long haul, the chance that people will request your book through their favorite retailer will rise. Why not let them?
9. Special gifts. In my research for the 223B Casebook Series, I uncovered a series of parodies written by a famous writer. We’re trying to get permission to publish this series, but if we can’t, we’re considering privately printing a numbered limited edition and giving them away. The existence of only 223 copies could make quite a splash in the Sherlockian world.
With so many advantages and few disadvantages, there’s really no reason not to offer a printed edition of your works.