Monday, February 6, 2012

Paperback Writer

Good Morning. No, this post isn't about the Beatles, but you can thank me later after the song has been in your head all day.

Today's post concerns the idea of putting my books into paperback form. I've been thinking about this for a long time. A LONG time. Probably since I was a kid and dreamed of becoming a famous author. There I was in braids and braces, holding MY book, accepting an award for writing the best durn book in the world. I think I was maybe 11, so Pulitzer wasn't in my vocabulary. Thinking back on it, the book probably had to do with horses (Misty of Chincoteague and The Black Stallion), and maybe a girl detective (Trixie Belden) who saved a town from the villainous villain. You get the drift.

Anyway, since I published to Kindle, the thrill ride has been amazing. I still get goose bumps every time I see the covers when I click to Amazon (about 8 gajllion times a day). Pulitzer is not in the picture, nor would I want it to be, I'm not that smaht, but something's been missing. And I finally figured out what it was.

The fact is, it's not a "real" book. I mean, sure, it's there, you can download it and read it, my name is on it so I know I wrote it, I even formed my own publishing company to do that. But I can't hold it in my hands. I can't smell it. I can't stick a bookmark in it, write in the margins, or kill a fly with it. I can't FEEL it. It's not tangible to me.

And so I've been scouring the internet looking up POD (print on demand) companies, looked at pricing, and royalties, distribution models, and percentage mark-downs. It's a lot to take in. Most companies are about the same. That's not the problem.

The problem is the consumer. When you can buy digital books for so much less, would you really spend the money on a paperback? I've seen prices from small publishers and self-publishers run the gamut from $9.99 to $15.95. (Most traditional publishers for the 5x8 mass market paperback are still hovering around $7.99 but that's with a 50K print run.) However, after looking at the POD models and how the companies do it, with the cost of paper, ink (not only for 273 pages but also the color covers), staff, electricity in the plant, all that, I can actually see how they would come up with the price they do to print one. Which is actually fair. (Working in a restaurant all those years really makes it easy to see the wholesale/retail mark-up.)

I guess the question I'm asking is, do people still buy "books"? Real books made out of paper. I mean, I wouldn't expect people who have the digital version to buy a paperback version too, that would be crazy, but I'm thinking of Aunt Martha who wants a nice Regency but without the sex, and maybe cousin Joyce who doesn't have an e-reader yet. If you're stuck in an airport, or dentist office, maybe a day at the beach. Do people still buy books as gifts? How much is too much for a paperback? (I know what I pay and how I read, so my opinion doesn't count.)

Tell me -- your opinion. I really want to know.

PS   I have another novella coming out shortly. (Like within the next few days.)
You can read all about it here.


Elliot Grace said...

...good morning Anne ;)

Tough questions, complicated answers. As you know, I went the Indie route, and like yourself, dreamed of one day holding my creation in hand, turning the pages, smelling the ink and paper, good stuff.

To be quite honest, from day one I was concerned that we'd printed too many copies, but went along with their more traditional way of thinking. Since "South of Charm" has become available on Kindle for a lowered price, my downloads have far outweighed paperback sales by a substantial margin.

Myself, I still prefer the feel of a good book in my hands, and on most days will go that route for a good read by the fire. But its not the popular way of thinking anymore.

If you decide to make a go of it, start small in quantity, and work your way up as sales gain momentum, just to be safe.

That's the best I've got for a Monday morning ;)

Enjoy your week, Anne!


Laura Pauling said...

Most indie authors I know sell about 10-20% paperback sales. But a lot of that is from their trunk when they happen to run into friends...etc.

I say go for it if you want a copy in your hands. Do it for one, your strongest seller, and see what happens. Then you'll know if it's worth it.

Anne Gallagher said...

El -- Thanks for your insight. Always good to have you in my corner.

Laura -- That's what I was thinking, just try one, and see what happens. Thanks.

Em-Musing said...

I DO buy print books. I love handling smelling and looking at my books. Alas, here in Mexico it's almost impossible to buy a book in I will have to go the e-reader route soon.

Linda G. said...

While I love the feel of a real book in my hands, I have to admit the convenience of my Kindle usually wins out when I'm buying a new book--it's just so darned handy, and easy to read on. Couple that with being less expensive, and it's tough to resist.

Anne Gallagher said...

Em -- THAT would be a problem. I couldn't imagine nt be able to read anything in a foreign country.

Linda -- You've voiced my opposing arguments exactly. This is what I've been struggling with.

Jennifer Shirk said...

I prefer to buy my books in ebook form. BUT...when I give gifts, I like to give something tangible so I'll buy a hardcover or paperback book for that.
I think you probably will sell in paperback but probably nowhere near the amount that you'll sell in just ebook.

Stina Lindenblatt said...

I still buy paperback and hardback books, but I also buy ebooks which I download on my iPod Touch. I would never pay the same for a self pubbed book that I would for a traditionally published one. It's too great a risky. Plus, I live in Canada, so the cost for shipping wouldn't be worth it.

Stephen Tremp said...

I don't buy them anymore but do take them from the library. Its just easier and cheaper to buy and download ebooks to my awesome Kindle Fire or ipad! But yes, I do still take a lot of books out from the library.

Anne Gallagher said...

Jennifer -- I know I wouldn't make the kind of money with print as I do with digital, but I'm wondering if I should offer it as an alternative. There's so much work that goes into it, I don't want to waste my time bothering if it's not going to be viable.

Stina -- Good reasoning. Price has been my biggest deterent so far.

Stephen -- My library is horrendous, so I stopped borrowing from them two years ago. I miss that. In RI I could interlibrary loan from any of the libraries across the state so had access to millions of books. They don't do that here (well, they do but you have to pay for it. which sucks in my opinion.)

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I confess I don't buy print books anymore and I read that the 5 x 8 size took the biggest plunge in sales this past year. Maybe if you did print books a different size would be better?

Talli Roland said...

Hmm... well, I don't buy print any more, I must admit. It's just so easy to buy on my ereader -- and instantaneous!

I'm going through a similar decision-making process right now; whether or not to do a print run of Build A Man.

jbchicoine said...

Just remember Anne, by putting the question out to your blogging friends, you are taking a poll in a pool of computer/technology savvy individuals who are likely the most inclined to own an e-reader. There are many, MANY readers in your target audience (Aunt Martha) who do not and probably will not own an e-reader. I personally know many of them.

I think that for the minimal investment of POD publishing, you should definitely make your books available in hard copy. If you don't, you are cutting out a wide swath of your readership!

Lydia Kang said...

I do buy print books and I love holding a book in my hands. But for me, the bottom line is that if I really want a book and it's available as either $2.99 ebook or a $15 paperback, I'd feel pretty guilty buying the paperback.

Sarah Ahiers said...

yes i definitely do. Of course, we'll see how that changes once i get my kindle, but i'm betting i'll still by real books because i like to share them with Twin and you can't really share a kindle

Marta Szemik said...

I do buy some print, but minimal. Only those I want on my physical shelves instead of virtual. I just released my paperback through Lightning Source and the main motivation was having it on my shelf and family and friends.
I chose LSI because of their distribution.

Sarah Pearson said...

I'm not buying books in any form at the moment, but if I was, I'd still prefer a paperback. Don't get me wrong, my kindle on pc is great for trying out new authors, but 'real' books are for keepsies, and they will never disappear if something happens to my computer :-)

Anne Gallagher said...

Alex -- Yeah I read that too, the mass market paperback (5x8) was going away. It's all about 6x9 now. I wonder why?

Talli -- Let me know what decision you come up with. With your other books coming from a small pub, it's a different ball game I know. The numbers are slightly skewed.

Bridget -- Yeah, it's that whole Aunt Martha category I'm missing. My mother's friends are dying to read my books but none of them own e-readers. And I think that's my target audience right there.

Lydia -- Yeah, it's that price point that sticks in my craw. $15- is such a lot of money. That's almost a quarter of a tank of gas.

Sarah -- True. I don't think Twin would give the Kindle I know I wouldn't.

Marta -- Yeah, I like their distribution model a whole lot more than CreateSpace. Which I could do both, but then the ISBN numbers are a nightmare.

Sarah -- Keepsies. That's the point. My personal library is probably 3000 titles right now. I hate to part with them, amassed over the course of my lifetime. With a Kindle book, I could just delete it.

Johanna Garth said...

People still want paperback books. In fact, my book has sold almost as well in print as it has online and it's so nice to be able to tell people that they can buy it at the local bookstore.

Price point for paperback starts at 14.99 and, on sale, goes to 9.99

Stacy McKitrick said...

I don't own a reader and don't plan on owning a reader. If the author only has a book in e-book form, I don't read it. Plain and simple.

I guess you just have to determine how many people are out there like me?

Rula Sinara said...

I still read paperback books (and yes, the song is in my head ;). I don't have an ereader yet, but I do have the kindle app on my pc. I've downloaded and read some ebooks...usually shorter ones bc the chair at my pc isn't so comfy. I can understand wanting a 'tangible' book. Perhaps go with a small count as has been suggested, then you can decide if it was worth it before printing later books.

Carol Kilgore said...

Yes, people still buy both paperbacks and hardbacks. I got my first ereader last fall. Of my extended family, I'm the second person to have one. Everyone else still reads books. A bookclub in my neighborhood - paper books. I think we're so accustomed to being on the computer all day we think everyone else is, too.

Now all that said, I think you may sell more ebooks than print, but I think print will still sell. At least for a few more years.

Bish Denham said...

(...swat a fly with...HA!) I know I still buy books. I know I will always prefer the feel of a book to that of an e-reader. Books may go out of style at some point, but not yet. Heck, I'm reading A Million Suns by Beth Revis and even on that spaceship of hers, she's got a library with real books! So by that calculation books are going to be around a long time!

Susan Flett Swiderski said...

Our house is so full of books, it practically takes a shoe horn to squeeze any more in here, so I don't buy nearly as many as I used to before they took the place over. Most of my books come from the library or from the kindle shop. But your largest target audience may be people with neither access, nor interest, in an e-reader. So, it might be worthwhile for you to give POD a shot and see what happens.

Anne Gallagher said...

Johanna -- Thanks for the head's up on the price point. It's good to know. And I know there are still people clinging to paperback. I just have to find them.

Stacy -- Well, you are definitely in the category of who I'm trying to find. Thanks for weighing in.

Rula -- I'm in the same boat. E-reader for Kindle and the chair is not comfortable. I'm thinking that's the way to go, start off with one and see how it goes.

Carol -- For a few more years.... I had to laugh. You may be right in that.

Bish -- Thanks for the head's up on spacecraft. That's good to know. And books have a lot of uses than just to read...doorstop, make shift table, extra weight for the pressed flowers.

Susan -- I think that's the way I'm leaning right now. I mean what's the worst that could happen? I wouldn't sell any? Oh well. If I don't try, I'll never know.

Jo Schaffer said...

I think it's about half and half now. My new agent will be pushing both. Check out what he says about it here:

M.K. said...

I think that publishing to the Kindle counts as book publishing. I don't think there is a need to bring dead tress into the equation.

Donna Hole said...

I still love a paper book. Its nice to get a Kindle copy for a good price in case I don't like it; but really, I'm still hooked on paper books. I'll buy both.


The Happy Whisk said...

I buy both. Which might not help you decide, but I wanted to let you know, just in case.

Jennifer Hillier said...

I bought a Kindle in August 2010 but I still read just as many, if not more, paper books. I still prefer traditional print books to ebooks, but I appreciate the convenience of my Kindle for traveling, or just to make things easier (for example, the book I'm reading now is a doorstop in hardcover, and of course weighs nothing on my Kindle, so I chose to buy it in ebook form).

How much is too much for a paperback? My personal high ceiling for a book is $13, regardless of the format. I just hate to pay more than that (though I will, if I love the author).

And I love receiving books as gifts. I don't often give books myself, because most of my friends and family don't read!

Liza said...

I'm late to the discussion again. But I hear you! I do think there is still something about seeing a book in paper and ink print. That said, my budget has precluded buying books although I still peruse the book store...then wince when I see the price. Even so, I'd die and go to heaven happy if I ever had a "real" book in the library. My concern with the POD books is that to sell them, there would need to be a strong marketing plan, which would likely cost more money. If it came down to one or the other though, I'd still chose books over the glare of my e-reader. But if books disappeared and I had a reader...I'd survive.

Patti said...

I haven't gotten into the ebook market yet. I'm a little hesitant to because I do like the feel of a real book in my hand. And I think we had the same day dreams as a kid. I not sure just seeing my name on an ebook would be enough. I'm pretty sure I'd want something more physical.

Angela M. said...

For the time being, I'm not buying printed books but only because I'm homeless at the moment. Once I'm settled in an apartment, I'll once again buy printed. Which ones I buy, however, are completely dependent on two things: price and availability. I buy so many books that I can't afford $10 for one paperback. Also if I'm absolutely dying to read a book, I won't wait if it's not in the local bookstore--via mail is out of the question. I'll download instantly instead. I prefer printed because I have a thing for collecting author-signed books, but if the price is too high or if it's not readily available, I'll opt for digital. When I gift books, though, it's always printed books!

Crystal Jigsaw said...

When I first held my paperback book in my hands, it was like holding a new baby. Incredible feeling! Looking at my words on an eReader just isn't the same - but it is selling as an ebook which is what it's all about. Successful sales are what really matters. I went with Lulu when I self-published Discovery at Rosehill. I do feel they ripped me off somewhat, considering they are advertised as FREE publishers. Difficult one.

CJ x

Christi Goddard said...

I still buy paper books, and even if I got an e-reader, I would still buy paper copies of books that I greatly enjoy just to have a real copy of it. But I might be the odd kind of reader to do that.

Old Kitty said...

I will never ever ever ever ever stop buying and/or borrowing from the library print books -ever! Amen!!

I think if they are your books - it more special - you can hug them, touch them, look at them...oh print books all the way!

Take care

Lord_Kiwii said...

I never really buy ebooks to be honest. I sometimes download them if they're free (very old books)so that I can read something on my phone if I have to wait unexpectantly or have to travel and know my bag is already to full with school books.

But I like the feel of a "real" book. I like to have more than just another file on my phone. I think I wouldn't pay more than 10 dollars on it though, unless I really really wanted the book :)