I wanted to talk about something I see happen a lot. The way a lot of indie authors discount paperbacks. Discount as in, not use. Now, I’ve had a previous post about paperbacks before  but the concentration was on how to create them, how to use them, etc. The process.

Let’s talk about the business strategy point. 

Before that though, just a little quote from the end.

So why bother?

  1. Price Anchoring – by having a high price displayed (Print); your ebook price looks lower. That means you can actually have a higher ebook price because that $5 ebook is so much cheaper than the $16 print.
  2. Professionalism – got ebook, audio & print? Now that looks like a professional book. One that someone cares about. It signals a level of ‘interest’ and investment that also signals a higher quality. Add hardcover… and well… something new.
  3. A different audience – print readers are either giant fans (who want something physical they love and allows you to do in-person signing) or readers who only read print. If you don’t have the print, you won’t touch them.
  4. Signed copies / in-person sales – you can’t do either without producing the print books. And having the option to sell them in-person might be something you’d want.

Since then, I’ve also found a few other reasons for having print:

– libraries love hardcovers. Large print hardcovers work very well for sale to libraries, and, because it’s such a specialised market, isn’t very competitive (at least among indies).

– non-English language translations (specifically, Germany!) are very heavily paperback focused. I have a much more significant % of sales in print for that language than I do for English.  

– opportunities to develop oneself in bookstores. I know of a number of authors who, through places like BookTok or just contacting local bookstores, have a powerful presence in physical stores.

– physical books through Ingram / etc. are a non-Amazon form of income. Worried about what happens if your account gets removed? Well, then source other income forms!

But You Don’t Earn A Lot

That’s the biggest refain I hear. A lot of people, always noting that ‘it’s not a lot of money’ or it’s not worth much. 

And I’d say that really depends on what genre you’re doing, how you’re doing it and, most importantly, how much of a presence you have.

I don’t sell much paperbacks via my website. Signed or not, it’s just not set-up to do so. Even so, between going to events and what not, I’ve probably generated a couple of hundred in the year from signed sales directly.

Also, sending signed paperbacks or hardcovers to my patron supporters is one of the many ways I can reward them. And I make a decent chunk of change from Patreon. I’m not sure I can give it a full % breakdown, since I know many patrons support me because they want to; but it easily in a few thousand dollars I would say (gross, not net since yes; shipping is a cost).  

Then, of course, we have sales from Amazon:

That’s just last year. It’s much higher than previous years (see comments about translations; though again, note which book has sold the most copies). 

And that’s just Amazon. Add another 20-25% on top of that for Ingram sales for paperbacks and hardcover, since I ONLY do hardcover via Ingram.

A Simple Conclusion

Look, you can discount or not create paperbacks. It can be annoying, the initial cost of getting paperback copies can add to it. Editing and formatting the inside covers if there are changes adds to the amount of time.

However, over the long-term; it can add a significant secondary source of income. Considering how low upkeep can be once you have edited and updated it in the first few months, it’s something to consider if you are looking at making publishing your career in the long-term.

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