When I went to publish my first book, I never asked myself the question of print vs digital. I knew that I wanted my book to be published in a physical form.
Without holding my book in my hands, signing copies, and seeing it on book shelves, I would never feel like an author.
That’s me, though.
Your goal may be to publish at the lowest possible cost or, to make the most money on every copy of your book sold. Because of that, you may be thinking that a digital only version of your book is best. But, is that really the case?
Print vs Digital? Or, do you need both?
The answer is, it depends.
Whether you go print vs digital, or do both, depends on your niche, your goals and your target market. And, to a smaller extent, your budget may play a factor in the decision.
If you write fiction, you may not need a physical book.
If you’re in the romance genre specifically, digital is going to reach a huge portion of the market. For a great break down of the numbers on this check out Author Earnings presentation at Digital Book World 2017.
If you’re a non-fiction author the print vs digital decision is simple.
You should have both print and digital formats for your book.
Looking at three years of sales data (June 2013 – June 2016) for my first book, More than Cashflow, 14% of my retail sales were from the digital format.
If you add in the 1,500 copies of my book sold at the back of event rooms and as part of speaking packages, the percentage of books I sold in digital format was even smaller.
More importantly, a digital only format would have limited my ability to use the book for a lot of marketing. Without a physical copy, I wouldn’t have been able to partner with Canadian Real Estate Wealth Magazine to do a big promotional campaign. They wanted physical books to give away to new magazine subscribers. If my book was only in a digital format, real estate clubs across Canada wouldn’t have bought my books for author signings when I came to town.
Now, that’s just a couple of marketing methods that worked really well for me. What about you, and your goals? Maybe you aren’t considering selling your book with those kind of promotions, where does the print vs digital decision land for you. Here’s my thoughts …
Print vs Digital: 5 Reasons To Publish in Both When You’re a Non-Fiction Author:
- Costs Aren’t Much Higher When You Look at Print Vs Digital. Most of the costs you’ll incur as a publisher are going to be incurred no matter what.If you’re producing a high quality product, you’re hiring an editor (or maybe a few different editors), a layout designer and someone to create a compelling cover design no matter what version of your book you are doing. (If you’re wondering what each element might cost – download our Book Publishing on a Budget Workbook).
You’ll spend a little extra to have your book formatted to suit digital as well as print formats but many layout designers will include it in a design package.
For my first book I paid an extra $500 to have it laid out for digital. Three years later, for my second book, that formatting was included in the layout charge. When I hired a cover designer one price included digital and print covers, as well as thumbnail and 3-D versions of the cover.
And, the days of having to pay for a big print run to get copies of your book are gone. CreateSpace and Lightning Source’s Ingram Spark really support the indie author with print on demand solutions. You, and your distribution network, can order books as needed, one at a time.
For roughly less than $7 USD you can get a copy of your book printed. This blog post breaks down costs for a 202 page paperback. There are no minimum orders and you don’t have to mess around with taking orders or shipping.
So, really, except for the fact that you’ll incur costs to buy and ship copies to give away for marketing purposes, the costs involved with printing a book minimally more than that of creating a digital copy.
- The Sales Happen in Print: 70% of Non-Fiction Books Sold are in Print. Author Earnings studied print and digital sales, and found that non-fiction authors should pay close attention to print. 72% of books sales are happening online, but non-fiction readers are still buying print.
- Print Books Have a Long Marketing Life. Very few people will throw a book out (unless you don’t create a high quality book… another reason to produce a book that is comparable to a traditional publishing house). When your client gets your book, it usually sits on their desk or shelf for awhile. Other people will see it. Your client will be reminded of you. It may even get people talking about you. When they are done with the book, they will probably give it away rather than throw it out – so now you get to reach new people your business card or pamphlet never would have reached. A digital book doesn’t get any of this marketing juice.
- Your Marketing Opportunities Are Endless. You can use your digital book as a free give away when you speak, or as an opt-in gift online.
If you’re a speaker, many organizations will pay you to speak and buy a copy of your book for every person in the audience. I had a lot of real estate clubs who would buy a case of my books when I was in town. They would promote my presence at their events to draw people to their event and offer a certain number of signed books as an incentive to get there early. Or, they would sell the books at the back of the room.
I also used my books to generate revenue at events that I spoke at. If I sold my book for $25 I would make about $15 a book. At a larger event, that allowed me to pocket another $600.
Digital books can be given away as part of other author’s promotions too. This is a high value give away to the author and potentially great exposure for you, with no out of pocket expenses.
As a non-fiction author, you’re probably writing the book to share your message, help people solve a problem and make more money for yourself, right? That means the more marketing juice you can squeeze out of your book, the better you’ll do. Because of this, print vs digital isn’t really a question in my mind.
- Book Events are Weird without …. BOOKS! Try getting your local library to host a book event for you if you only have digital books. You have nothing to sign! Book stores won’t carry your book on it’s shelf in digital format.
My two favourite moments as an author were seeing my book on the shelves of Chapters Indigo in Canada, and signing books after speaking at a major event.Plus, for events, an e-book just doesn’t have the same perceived value as a physical book. And, nobody is ever going to carry your e-book around waiting for you to sign it!
Ultimately, given the data and the market, the REAL consideration is:
First, what type of book are you writing? Fiction or Non-Fiction
Second, and most importantly:
What is YOUR GOAL for your book?
But, here’s one last thought to consider. It’s even more difficult to stand out if you JUST do an e-book.
There are over 4 million titles today in the Kindle Store on Amazon. This is from the New York Times in late 2015 … so those numbers are even higher today.
Your single biggest issue when you write and publish a book is:
How can I get my ideal readers to find my book?
How do you stand out?
When you focus on e-book sales you face a lot more competition. And, your competition prices their book anywhere from FREE to $19.99.
So … it is a tough battle ahead if your goal is sales volume and you go e-book only.
Every option has trade offs … but let me ask you this:
Are you REALLY going to miss out holding your book in your hands?
I don’t think I would have felt like a true published author without an actual copy of my physical book in my hands.
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