Let’s start talking about paperback sales.

I’m currently testing out a bunch of paperback sales on Ingram Sparks. Specifically, I’m creating / have created:

– 6 x 9″ paperbacks

– 6 x 9″ hardcovers

– 6 x 9″ paperback large print (only for LitN right now)

These are all distributed on Ingram Sparks, so it’s available for ‘wide’ distribution. 

I’m noticing a little confusion about all the various options, so here’s a little explanation of things.

Paperbacks – The Basics

Amazon used to have a paperback division called Createspace. Then, Createspace was shut down and KDP started allowing people to print paperbacks direct on their site. 

KDP Print only does softcovers – no hardcovers as yet. You CAN create Large Print books direct on KDP (just create a new book, choose ‘Large Print’ and then e-mail to link it up); though there are issues with Large Print sale on Amazon (more later).

There are other companies that do distribution & printing. The two I know off the top of my head are:

– Ingram Sparks

– Lulu

Ingram is what I use and have experience with. They have a set-up cost (that you can almost always get a coupon code to get rid of); and a cost for updating your files (again,  you can often get codes to remove that. ALLI gives all their members a code for both which is quite useful).

Ingram also has a much wider variety of sizes and can do hardcover and large print editions. Large print does NOT have a nice little tick box, you just have to note it in your description and then, e-mail them to verify.

Ingram also is a bit fiddlier in their specs for getting text right than KDP I find and the files are both slightly different. So expect to have to do minor adjustments if you are using both KDP & Ingram.

To note – sizing of your paperbacks is up to you. The most common self-publish size is 6″ x 9″ because it reduces the number of pages (and thus cost) while being a ‘standard’ size. The  4.37″ x 7″ in size is the ‘standard’ mass market paperback size (pocketbook size) but it’s quite expensive (lots of pages) unless your book is small (40-60k kind of thing).  

Expanded Distribution – Ingram & Amazon

Amazon has an ‘Expanded Distribution’ option in KDP Print. 

When you select expanded distribution, Amazon makes your book available for sale to other US retailers & libraries at a discount. They actually use the Ingram distribution system, but you are automatically set at a 45% discount (no returns). Those people looking at Expanded distribution will note they make MUCH less than what they did if Amazon just did the printing and sale on their site (the normal price for yourself).

That is on purpose.

If you chose Expanded Distribution in Amazon before, you can transfer your title over to Ingram Spark directly and skip set-up. Do note, once it is transferred, you’ll still need to update pricing for countries outside the US.  

Why have both?

With Ingram Spark, you can set your discount anywhere from 30/35% – 55% discount with optional returns. This can make it easier for your books to be stocked at independent retailers. However, unless you intend to specifically target indie bookstores; offering returns and a high discount is just leaving money on the table. After all, when customers want your books from an indie store or library, then your content is there.

What do I do?

I follow what I’ve heard to be best-practice which is:

– list paperback direct on Amazon 

– have Ingram distribute everything else.

This gets you the most profit for sales from Amazon (the majority of your paperbacks sold) and you still get to have your books wide.

Realise you can just sell on Amazon, ignore the expanded distribution option so that you can keep your desired margin rather than marking up so that your expanded can give you the desired margin. I don’t, because I would rather have the option for my books to be in libraries, etc.

Things to Know

Eventually, online sellers will twig onto the book you are offering in Expanded Distribution (if you are) and create listings as 3rd parties for your Amazon listing at a discount. You’ll still make money – just at the price of a copy sold as an expanded copy instead of a ‘real’ copy by Amazon.

Paperback sales are often not a lot (at least in scifi / fantasy fiction). I make about 0.3% of my unit sales (slightly more, I think about 1% of revenue). That’s not a lot at all. And considering the cost of producing paperbacks (cover cost); it can take a long time to pay back. 

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.


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