Why I self-published both paperback & ebook

The joy of holding your own paperback in your hands. So exciting!

One of the main attractions of self-publishing is the ease with which you can now produce and distribute your masterpiece and along with that how you can offer it as a very reasonably priced ebook which any right minded individual will of course shell out for. All you have to do is upload your file to Kindle Direct Publishing and Smashwords and (after a short wait in some cases) your book is available in a variety of formats and across a number of outlets including Amazon and Barnes and Noble. What more could you wish for? And the wisdom seems to be that those amazing self-publishers who are making millions out of this are doing it on the downloads. I hear no tales of truck loads of books whizzing round the country, book signings even. The electronic is embraced utterly. Indeed many small presses are embracing the economic feasibility of being digital first outfits, Proxima books, Crooked Cat Publishing, and Carina Press are examples.

I rejoice in and embrace the new technologies that have allowed me, singlehandedly (well almost) to present my work to the world from the comfort of my own home. I attended a One-Stop Publishing Conference in 2010, where I listened to the fascinating self-publication journey of A.J. Healy, writer of the children’s book Tommy Storm. It was quite an early endeavour in this self-publishing lark, a heroic tale of negotiations with Chinese printers and long hours on the road touting physical copies of his book round the independent bookshops of Ireland. It required levels of physical and financial dedication that the ebook publisher might shudder at.

Yet I have decided to provide a paperback option to those who wish to buy Housewife with a Half-Life. And while my tale does not compare to A.J. Healy’s, it also required more financial and physical dedication than my ebook version. I actually had to leave the house and travel several miles down a motorway to meet the real life people (lovely people) who had offered me a chance, as a local author, to launch my book in their bookshop (Hughes and Hughes, Dundrum).  I had to order a quantity of my own book costing several hundred euro upfront as the distribution channels made available by the publisher (CreateSpace) were either not the right ones for the Irish bookseller or were not available yet (haven’t figured out which yet). Ordering your own book is similar to the partnership publishing offered by some small presses where they ask you to invest in a certain number of copies of your own book. The number can be quite reasonable and enables the small press to get your book out and use their contacts to promote and review it, or in the worst cases the upfront payment you make is money for nothing. The publishers are offering nothing more than what you could do yourself for less. (There are ways in Ireland for the self-publisher to access distribution networks and book chains and I’ll outline those in another post. )

In my case I used CreateSpace, an Amazon venture, to create my paperback. This simple process which I will describe in another post, enabled me to upload a cover file (I had engaged a designer who provided me with the files), to upload my interior file, to review online and physically by ordering proof copies and to have my paperback available on the most commonly used online bookstore and other associates.

But why did I bother to go through the additional work in producing a paperback? Why did I publish both an ebook and paperback?

It wasn’t that much extra work

In terms of the quality and production of the book, much of it was done already. The cover design and editing had been paid for. In terms of proof reading, having a physical copy actually enabled me to find outstanding mistakes and update the electronic versions as well. There was an additional cost in ordering proofs but as I’ve said, it was worth it. Much of the promotion work, posts, adding author details was also duplicate from the electronic version.

I was born in the old days and so were my friends

I’m open to what is to come in the future of books and electronic media. I found this article on bendy e-paper fascinating. However books as physical artifacts are intrinsic to my history as a reader and a writer, I still love having the physical book in front of me and it goes so far that if I happen to read a book in electronic format on my Kindle that I really admire I will go out and buy a physical copy. For many of my contemporaries and friends, many of whom are not regularly on the internet, a book is a 3 dimensional thing. When they see that I have a real-life book on offer, they are more likely to buy it or read it and even those I know electronically only have voiced a preference to read my upcoming work in book format. Of course I’m not just selling to friends but what is true for a proportion of them must still be true for a proportion of the reading public as a whole, particularly the age range I’m aiming at with Housewife with a Half-Life. On a personal note I was absolutely thrilled when my CreateSpace paperback order arrived unexpectedly yesterday almost two weeks ahead of schedule. Look at the picture. Do I look happy?

A paperback has given me greater kudos and opened up further publicity avenues.

I am so grateful to Hughes and Hughes bookstore in Dundrum for offering to launch my book as a local author. They are working very hard in drumming up publicity for the launch event which will take place on 22nd June in Dundrum shopping centre, Dublin and having a third party working on my behalf lends my novel credentials and helps to make it a viable project. We hope to get newspaper and radio interest too and in general get the book talked about in the public eye which is so important. I will also launch the paperback online (having already launched the ebook). This lets me contact Goodreads readers and organise an extended book tour. All these activities add to the visibility of the book. I can also try further techniques such as book tweeting services and advertising to raise the profile of Housewife with a Half-Life.

I am not saying that any of this will make me a bestseller but having a paperback as well as an ebook a) gives my heart and soul a satisfaction that personally I would not have had with just the ebook version b) makes marketing, PR and selling sense. What about you? Have you chosen against a paperback option for whatever reason and why does that make sense for you? As  a reader do you think it makes any difference what format the book comes in? Let me know what you think.

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12 comments

  1. Congrats Alison! And you do look VERY happy in that picture with your book! I’m releasing my next book on paperback as well as ebook, and am also going to be paperbacking my self published backlist. I don’t know if I will sell many (or any) but as you say, it is easy to do, and useful as an alternative to those who aren’t kindlers.
    All the best and lots of success with your book!

  2. Hooray for all of us born in the old days! I can’t wait to see what your paperback version looks like.

  3. Great post and agree entirely with your reasons. I did both – a publisher took on the ebook and agreed to let me also release it as a self-published paperback. This enables people who don’t have ereaders to read the book and thus reach a larger audience, and a big plus – allowed me to do a book signing at Waterstones – you can’t do that with an ebook! Wishing you every success with your book. 🙂

  4. Thanks to all of you who’ve commented with your experiences. It’s certainly food for thought. I had the joy last night of selling some real copies of the book direct (and being asked to sign them) and it was a wonderful feeling.

  5. I am publishing in both formats too, again for much the same reasons as sated above and also I just want to sit in on my bookshelf at home and think ‘I did that.’ A bit like a proud mummy. I may even stroke it occasionally.

    Good luck with your book
    Sue

    1. Love the way you’ve phrased that, stroke your book, brilliant, that’s exactly right. Come back and let us know more about your book, link etc. 🙂

  6. Congratulations, Alison. It’s a great article and I agree with the need to hold your own book and the publicity that it garners. I have had requests from newspapers, magazines and radio stations for hard copies only. I wouldn’t have had the publicity with just eBooks. I wish you all the best with yours.
    Fiona

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