Friday, July 22, 2011

Rethinking the Paperback's Place in Self-Publishing

I will be a self-published author. I have 0 designs of selling a paperback version of my book in book stores. First, it would never be on the front displays, it would be lost somewhere in the lengthy Romance fiction shelves, near the end, under "W" for my last name. No one would even find it back there, unless they were looking for it. If they were looking for it, they probably heard about my book online, which means they can buy it from Amazon directly, or read the ebook version.

Now, this doesn't mean a paperback version of my book is worthless. Far from it. But, it is more likely that the people who want a printed version have already read the electronic version and enjoyed it. Or, they know someone who read it and don't own an e-reader. In the first situation, I've already made my royalty off the reader, I don't care if they get the paper version for the lowest price possible. In the second situation, they're trying me out on the recommendation of a friend, so again, I'd like them to get a hold of the book for the lowest price possible. And, I'd like to encourage them to adopt e-reading as that helps grow author-centric publishing for all of us. 


I am not in favor of long-term $.99 pricing for my ebook. That is just me, and I understand other authors will have different strategies for their works. That's great! For my plans, I will price my ebook at $2.99. This will net me roughly a $2 royalty per ebook sold.

My printed books with be POD through Createspace. I will sign up for the ProPlan for $39 a year, so that this plan can work. My paperback will be 6x9, 300 pages. Included in the purchase of the paperback will be an offer for a free electronic version (probably in PDF). I should preface all of this with I do not believe in DRM. My paperback price? $7.99. 

Royalty-wise this is roughly $.34 if a reader buys my paperback book through Amazon's website, and $1.94 if they buy it from my author site. 

This is how it would look:

Reader who wants BOTH e-book and paperback copy: Buy it from my site for $7.99 and get both. (I make $1.94)

Reader ONLY wants ebook: Buy it for $2.99. (I make $2.00)

Reader stumbles on my paperback on I make $.34, but did 0 marketing for that sale, and hopefully the reasonable price makes the reader more likely to recommend it to someone else. Also, there will be an offer for the reader to email me and get an electronic copy for free.

I think the number of readers in the last category will be very small. This idea started from reading on another's blog (I honestly do NOT remember who's blog it was) that they offered the print version mainly as a service to their readers, they didn't expect major sales. Yet, the paperback version was priced at $12. 

This got me thinking...what does the paperback version as a SERVICE to readers really look like? And this is what I came up with. I'm happy to hear comments and concerns from others. Maybe there is an angle I missed. However, I think pricing the paperback as low as possible will be better for readers overall. 

"CANCELLED" arriving SEPTEMBER 2011A robotics engineer asks his business partner to marry him, but a previous one-night stand is having his baby.


  1. This is a great plan and I think you're right on the mark.

    Good luck!!

  2. I agree that you should try out your plan. One of the challenges I see with so much of the discussion about this topic is the factual information to back it up. Until we make the effort to put our work out there - it's impossible to know what will happen. The pace of publishing change is still picking up speed and what worked six months ago might not be the best choice six months from now.

    I hope it works for you! And if it doesn't...then next time you have some experience to evaluate against.

    - Lesann

  3. Thanks for sharing this. It's well-thought out, and something I will definitely consider for my next self-publisehd book. Still, I can't completely embrace ebooks as a reader (which keeps me from completely embracing them as a writer).

    I asmit it... I like my paperbacks. I read some ebooks, and the pleasure is different. I can't completely explain it, and maybe I'll feel different in a few years. I also can't imagine each of my kids having their own Kindles (insert other device here) to read books for school, study for a test, etc.

    Interesting. (and thanks for stopping by Depression Cookies)

  4. Thank you so much for the comments. Lesann, I agree there isn't a great deal of data to support anything indies do, as just about all of us are flying by the seat of our pants. But, I wanted to post the plan to see if any experienced writers had tried this way of thinking and if it backfired on them. I'm thinking probably not, as a POD paperback under $10 is hard to find.

    Paperbacks are still the majority of the reader market, so I do need to remain competitive there on price with books that save money by using larger print runs. I think, and hope, $7.99 won't be a price people balk at.