Making Money From Paperbacks

As regular readers will be aware, I used to post a monthly sales report, sharing my sales numbers, dollars earned, and what I had been up to in terms of promotion or various other projects.

I did that for a year, then felt it had outlived its purpose (to show an unknown writer with no platform can do okay) and that it was starting to feel like a trumpet-blowing exercise.

However, I also know that some people found it useful, so I’m going to try a different format. Instead of posting all my numbers, I’ll focus on one aspect each month and explain the strategy and/or where I screwed up.

This month I’m looking at paperbacks. As a bonus, at the bottom of the post, I have details of a talk/book signing I’ll be doing in London next week (my first, be gentle).

My Biggest Mistake

I was really slow to see the potential in print, and it was probably the biggest mistake I made over the last year.

While the paperback edition of A Storm Hits Valparaiso came out a month after the e-book (largely because I was compelled to fulfill crowdfunding rewards), I didn’t expect to sell many and I really dragged my feet on Let’s Get Digital – releasing the paperback a full nine months after the e-book.

I had felt that the market for Let’s Get Digital would be largely, um, digital, and that whatever was left would be cannibalized by the PDF version being available as a free download from my blog.

I was wrong.

Paperback Growth

Here are my paperback sales for the last five months:

February: 6
March: 24
April: 20
May: 49
June: 67

Note: A Storm Hits Valparaiso was released in Feb, Let’s Get Digital in May

I’m pretty happy with that growth – especially because I’m averaging $5 in royalties per copy sold. Last month, paperbacks brought in $330 (profit) – which is about 25% of my current income, helping me break new ground. I cleared $1000 in May and easily topped that in June – largely on the back of stronger print numbers.

Most of those paperback sales came from Amazon US, and, following that, direct sales to indie bookstores (mostly in the UK).


I print my books (on demand) via CreateSpace. I spoke about the logic behind print editions in this post, there’s a handy guide on doing your own print editions here, and if you want to outsource the print formatting (like I do), Heather Adkins provides excellent services at extremely reasonable rates. EDIT: Heather has a full slate at the moment, but check back in the future (and please feel free to make alternative recommendations in the comments).

If you are still on the fence about print, have a look at what it does to your product page.

Now that e-book really looks like a bargain; quite frankly, it’s worth releasing a print edition for this alone.

CreateSpace itself is free (and the service is great and the books are excellent quality), and your only costs will be your print formatter (if you use one), and a small fee to your designer to turn your e-book cover into a wraparound print edition. There is also the option of paying extra $25 for Expanded Distribution (which I always do).

Expanded Distribution

Expanded Distribution makes your book available for purchase by libraries and bookstores (where you will get few, if any, sales as the discount Amazon offers is too small, and they don’t take returns). However, it will also get you into places like Barnes & Noble (online store), The Book Depository (which has free worldwide shipping, and is especially popular in places like Australia), Junglee (Amazon’s new Indian venture), and such indie stalwarts as Powells, RJ Julia, and the Harvard Book Store (again, online stores only).

You should note that you earn less per sale on the Expanded Distribution network, and that you may have to price your book a little higher to ensure you actually make a profit on those sales. I price my print editions at $14.95, which gives a healthy margin per sale ($5 on Amazon, $2 on Expanded Distribution).

One other advantage of Expanded Distribution is that Barnes & Noble tend to automatically discount your book by 10%. If Amazon are informed of this lower price, they usually price-match it. This means my books often retail for $13.45 instead of $14.95, but the royalty I’m paid is unaffected – win-win. (This is the wholesale model, as opposed to the agency model used for e-book sales.)

Indie Bookstores

My paperbacks are also available from the following (physical) locations:

Village Books (Malahide)
Manor Books (Malahide)
The Honey Pot (Clonmel)

Pages of Hackney (Lower Clapton Road)
Railroad Cafe (Hackney Central – signed copies available)
Stoke Newington Bookshop
LXV Books (Bethnal Green)
Brick Lane Bookshop (formerly known as the Eastside Bookshop)
Victoria Park Books

All of the latter are in East London. When I get a little time, I’ll try and cover the rest of the city. Depending on where you live, it may or may not be worth your time pounding the pavement. I’m lucky in that London has quite a few indie bookstores, but that may not be the case where you live.

Approaching Stores

If you do plan to approach stores, this is how I do it. (I don’t claim this is the only way, or the best way, but this works for me).

1. Order a box of books from CreateSpace. Authors get books at cost ($4 to $5 for me), but must also pay for shipping. The shipping costs had been astronomical (to this side of the Atlantic), and I was looking into a local option, but CreateSpace has since cut fees significantly – which makes a huge difference. By playing with different order amounts, you can find the optimum number to get the best deal on shipping (for me it’s around 20 copies, but it will vary depending on the length/size of your book).

2. Make a list of indie bookstores in your area (I don’t bother with the big chains).

3. Visit them in person with some sample copies (although you might want to ring ahead to make sure the manager/owner will be around).

4. Dress smart, act professional. Wait until the sales assistant is free. Don’t go barging in, and leave the box of books at home (or in the car) – samples are all you need to walk in with (and a catalog if you have enough titles).

5. This is not the time to get into the politics of publishing. If there is no interest in one of your titles, move on to the next. If they have no interest at all, or won’t stock self-published work, thank them and leave. I’ve been in this situation once. A bookseller refused to stock Let’s Get Digital as they didn’t agree with self-publishing and didn’t want to encourage it. Whatever your personal feelings on that, remember that it’s their prerogative to stock whatever they like, and move on. (Case in point: that bookstore owner went on to order several copies of A Storm Hits Valparaiso.)

6. Sell the book. It helps if you have some enticing sales figures, if you don’t, make sure your pitch sounds good (a short snappy version of your blurb works best). Be clear about the genre. If you are a local author, don’t forget to tell them – they will be much more likely to stock your book.

7. Let people know it’s there. I usually send a tweet and post on Facebook to let people know where they can get my paperbacks (especially important for those who haven’t switched to digital). A couple of sales straight away might encourage the store owner to either display the books more prominently and/or place a bigger order.

8. Make sure they have your contact details for re-orders, but check back with the store regularly anyway. (I’ve already had several re-orders, but some I had to chase myself.)

Most stores will want to stock the books on a sale-or-return basis – meaning they only pay you if the books sell, and return them if they don’t. They will also want a discount. Normally, for me at least, that’s 35% (although in some cases you may have to bump that to 40%, e.g., if a bookstore is placing a large order). Some stores will have their own paperwork; more normally, you will provide your own invoice (you can drop it off when you deliver the books). Again, make sure it all looks professional.

Sometimes stores can be conservative with their orders – which can be disheartening after putting all this effort in. But a small order is better than nothing. When the books sell out, and the store is re-ordering, make sure they bump the numbers up – the book has already proved it can sell.

Finally, a warning. I really wish I didn’t have to say this, but it has been an issue in nearly every indie bookstore I’ve visited in London. Apparently some self-publishers think it’s a smart idea to send boxes of (unsolicited) books to stores. For the love of all things holy, don’t do this. No store owner will stock something that simply turns up one day on their doorstep. The books will gather dust in a basement until they graduate to the dumpster.

Talk/Book Signing

The good people at LXV Books in Bethnal Green invited me to give a short talk on self-publishing next Thursday (July 12) at 6:30pm (I’ll be taking the “stage” at 7:00pm). I’ll also be signing books at the end (and probably going for a pint across the road after).

The room is quite small – I believe the maximum capacity is 25 – so if you are in London and interested in coming along, you might want to register your interest on this Facebook page. If you don’t use Facebook, you can reserve a spot by emailing admin [at] lxvbooks [dot] com. (Directions here.)

I haven’t finalized the topic of the talk – I’m toying with a few ideas – but it will likely be quite an interactive session, and I’ll be fielding whatever questions people have.

I hope to see some of you there.

David Gaughran

David Gaughran

Born in Ireland, he now lives in a little fishing village in Portugal, although this hasn’t increased the time spent outside. He writes novels under another name, has helped thousands of authors build a readership with his books, blogs, workshops, and courses, and has created marketing campaigns for some of the biggest self-publishers on the planet. Friend to all dogs.

60 Replies to “Making Money From Paperbacks”

  1. Thanks David. I am a screenwriter ‘Lake Dead’ and Farmhouse’ starring Steven Weber and Kelly Hu and an author. I’ve not self published yet but my novels Ted’s Score (Comet Press) and The Last Customer (Hellfire Publishing) were published by small presses and I’m finding that my publishers will sell me ‘author copies’ at a discount which I can then sell on consignment to indie book stores. I guess this is similar to what you’ve done. So, thanks for the article, I found it very useful.

  2. Congrats, David. My ebook of Dark Dealings uploaded May 1 on Amazon in a soft release. I did an on-line release party and blog tour starting May 2that ended up lasting almost 3 weeks because of the number of blogs. My paperback loaded June 7. We don’t have as many indie stores, but mine is a paranormal/urban fantasy. I am also doing my first signing this Wed the 18th in a pub that likes to sponsor all kinds of events. This one is part of a twist, For the entire month of July I am donating 50% of royalties to a local charity that sends cancer survivors and their familes on respite cruises. This has resulted in local press coverage and two radio interviews. I also have two new age/paranormal shops interested in hosting signings. Local musician friends are trying to get the club they often appear at to sponsor a vampire ball. I suggested Halloween and that it be a fundraiser for the area Blood Bank. All because I had print books that I could use for promotion. Folks still like the idea of meeting the author and getting a signed copy.

  3. Fantastic! You’ve made so much progress in a year. Your experience provides both useful info and motivation for the rest of us. Keep going strong.

  4. I have always been surprised at the number of authors who do not offer their books in both formats because as you demonstrate here, the process is so easy. While the e-book market is huge, why ignore another channel.
    I would love to see Kiosks in traditional book stores and libraries where a buyer can order the (indie published) book right to the store’s location as there are still a lot of buyers who prefer not to use their credit card on the Internet.
    My books have been on shelves in larger chains but they will not include them in their data base and offer only a limited time frame for the shelf-space. One store offed my children’s Christmas book for the Christmas season because they needed the room.
    The actual process of being your own sales person and distributor is really time consuming and requires and enormous amount of organisation but it’s all part of the business!

    Lesley Fletcher

  5. I use Createspace to do small runs of print books to use as samples to test interest, then do a local print run to supply the market here. As you say, great quality, and very easy to use. (Postage to NZ is ruinous though!) The reason for using a Createspace assigned ISBN is for the Expanded distribution option – they say that’s the rule. Personally I haven’t seen any evidence of sales from the Expanded distribution option but then I haven’t marketed very hard yet. About to take a deep breath and make the attempt!

    1. Ah, yes, that rings a bell.

      I’ve had quite a few sales from Expanded Distribution – not as many as Amazon itself, but more than enough to make it worthwhile. If you are in New Zealand, The Book Depository could be big for you. You should check your listing there. Often it goes without a cover for months on end. However, if you contact them through this form here – – and explain the situation, they will allow you to submit the cover directly, and will update your listing (and that’s when sales started there for me).

  6. I am a huge believer in making a paperback copy of your e-book, mostly because I still know people who would never give up paperbacks. I haven’t seen a lot of traction with paperbacks yet but I still make copies for every book I produce regardless (though I must admit a certain Omnibus collection doesn’t have one because I know it will be time consuming and I am too busy writing at the moment).

    In terms of formatting, you asked so I will throw my hat into the ring. I format both e-books and paperbacks at a very reasonable rate and have my own website. I don’t need any additional clients but I am always happy to take them on. More information can be found here: Thanks again for the informative article. 😉

  7. “One other advantage of Expanded Distribution is that Barnes & Noble tend to automatically discount your book by 10%.”
    I had not heard this before. I thought you had to go through LSI and offer an industry-standard discount (50-55%) in order to get booksellers to discount. This makes the $25 fee seem very attractive.

  8. Good to hear from you again, David. You’ve been busy!

    I think this is another point where focusing on longer works rather than shorter is more profitable. It’s hard to sell something of odd length in digital, let alone paper.

    You’re right about the Amazon sales page advantage. Even knowing how it works, I get a small mental nudge every time I see the “discount” for digital.

    Good luck to you with the paper sales!

  9. This post was very appropriately timed. I am currently working on formatting my own novel for print for the first time and I’m fairly sure I’m going to go through Createspace.

    I have been nervous about how high I’d have to price my book because of it’s length. Going in to their price estimation generator, I had already looked at a few of the prices of some of my favorite indie authors (including your book prices vs. lengths). I was expecting to be able to sell at around $14.95 or $15.95, but that may not be so. The Kindle version lists the book as estimated 500 pages. I’ve been able to generously get it down to just over 400 pages for 6×9 at Garamond 11pt (and when I print it for testing, it seems easily readable – and my husband with his less than stellar eyesight who reads a lot agrees it is a good size). At that size, according to Createspace’s sample price / royalty generator, I’d have to price it at $16.95 to get over $1 royalty on expanded distribution. As such, I was surprised to read in your post that you get $2 on expanded distribution for an approximately 350 page, roughly 6×9 book priced at $14.95 (“A Storm Hits Valparaiso”). I can’t figure that out. I did a price estimation of my own at those sizes (in hopes I could reasonably get my book down to that) and their royalty estimator told me 73 cents would be my royalty on expanded distribution. I’m wondering if I’m doing something wrong.

    Granted, this is before uploading my book or checking paper type or anything like that. It was just in my initial estimations using their generators so I could have an idea of what I’d be working with as I was formatting the book.

    I do wish you could remember the advantage to using the Createspace ISBN over your own because I’ve been toying with the idea of starting a self-publishing company with logo and all. My husband is an excellent musician and composer and I’ve been trying to talk him into releasing some of his works on his own. If he did, we could release them both under our own company. We also do freelance work (theater, tv, etc.) for our “day jobs” and we could probably bulk it all under one “media arts” type company. We’re looking into the feasibility of it on multiple aspects (including taxes and bookkeeping, etc.). One of the factors that would play into it would include the choice of using my own ISBN, and thus our own publishing name, versus using Createspace ISBN. It probably wouldn’t be a deal breaker in either direction, but I like to have the information up front regardless.

    Finally, regarding the door-to-door approach to reaching local bookstores… You make it sound so reasonable. I’m HORRIBLE when it comes to touting my own creations. I get supremely shy, awkward, and idiotic. It’s the primary reason I’ve rarely submitted for publication. This is despite the fact that I’ve got reasons to believe in myself and my works beyond just my own hopes and dreams. I feel even weird stating this following reason for this proof that I should have confidence in my ability because it feels egotistical and bragging and even inappropriate: but I did place first & receive an additional honorable mention at the first and only writer’s conference awards I’ve ever participated in – and, as of the time that I won, was the only person to ever place in two categories for two separate works in the same year. Yet, I’ve not been able to bring myself to participate in a competition since. The few times I’ve submitted at all it’s been at a whim and with others’ prodding. I have little problem sharing my work in general, but I’ve found it daunting to release on my own (though less daunting than trying to get an agent and a traditional deal because both would require me to “sell myself” in the process – which I can’t even seem to do effectively for job interviews). I can discuss my works in technical terms and I can discuss the concept of “selling oneself or creation” in theoretical terms. I’ve even been pretty good at coaching others towards doing it for themselves, but when it comes to myself, I become an utter twit. Something happens between theory/logic and the actual doing of it. As such, I am in awe when you speak of it so simply and reasonably. I can only hope that I will be able to do the process even remotely half as well as you seem to be able to do it. Congratulations on that! And on your apparent success through it.

    You are truly one of my inspirations.

  10. David, you always give great post. I have one eFitzgerald Publishing author who has two books in print as well as available via Kindle, and she has sold quite a few via book launching events and boutique stores — more like new age gift stores rather than bookstores. But B&N (the physical store) told her they wouldn’t carry her paperbacks, and now I understand why. I would think they would take a special order from a buyer… though they might then feel they would get stuck with the book. I can see how indie bookstores are a much better bet, if you can find one. All of this is a great new market for us, and as usual, more work!

    I am more than ever encouraged to finally do my own first novel in print. The challenge is to get the media push to sell some…

    Thanks again for sharing your experience. You are the clearest and most honest voice on the s-p frontier, and we appreciate it.

  11. Thanks for the shout-out, Dave! I do enjoy working for you, and both books turned out fabulously gorgeous, if I do say so myself. And as Red said, yes, unfortunately I am not taking on *new* clients at this time (not enough time in the day), but I will be in the future 🙂 Good luck with it all!

  12. Glad to see you’re stilling willing to post numbers, a very generous thing to do, particularly for newbies like myself.
    When I publish my first novel at the end of the year I’ll definitely go for print. Another advantage that occurs to me that you haven’t mentioned is being able to get a proof copy. One of the major problems with proofing ebooks is reading on the screen. I suspect that it’ll be easier to spot typos etc when reading a paperback.

  13. David, thanks so much for posting this. I’m in the middle preparing my first POD book through Createspace and I’ve been needled with doubts that I’m simply doing this for my own needy frikkin’ ego.

    I hadn’t thought of actually placing them in bookstores though. At best, I’d assume they’d be promo copies I could hand out to folks who don’t have (or refuse to use) an ereader.

    Very inspiring! Thanks again.

  14. Thanks for a great post, and good luck with the talk! I’m not ready for that sort of thing yet, too nervous. I hope you consider having someone tape you. Even if you don’t want to put it on YouTube or anything, you could watch it for further study. Break a leg, sir! So impressed with your London efforts. Wish I had you working the Louisville area over for me.

  15. Excellent post. I just released my first novel last month, and I’ve been working on the CreateSpace version the last couple of weeks. I’ve had a lot of people express interest, but only for a paperback copy.

    I agree 100% about CreateSpace’s services. Their online viewer and proofing tools are excellent, and the print proof I ordered is very high quality – you’d never know it wasn’t a mass-published book. At first I balked a little at the cost of the paperbacks (the minimum for my novel was about $7.60 and I’d only make $0.25 a copy) but As it is in a very nice 5″ x 8″ trade paperback format, I think I can get away with asking $9-10 bucks apiece.

    Also, glad to hear about the Expanded Distribution. I thought that meant they only sold to Bookstores, not to other online booksellers. That $25 looks like a better investment once you put it in that light.

  16. Once again, a leading-edge post, David. The Approaching Stores blueprint is especially interesting to me since I published the print version of my first novel five months after the ebook version—a real mistake, not publishing both formats at the same time, as you point out. But because of this post, I will screw up my courage and approach some of my local indie stores.

    fyi – I’ve heard of two independently published authors who are doing regular signings at their local Waterstones. I wish we had that chain in the US since they seem to welcome indie authors. And they also talk about doing radio interviews on their local BBC stations. I wondered if you’ve had any success with radio spots or readings or are these subjects for another day?

    In any event, thank you so very much for this post.

  17. Glad to see you mentioned the poor discount. I just found that out, so I’m supplying my local bookstores myself.
    Since I’ll have two mystery books available later this year, I’ve been thinking about setting it up so bookstores could order through my site and I would have CreateSpace ship them the copies. PayPal lets you put up a link so they could pay through them, then I would follow through. The one issue is that bookstores would have to have an account on my WordPress site, approved by me, that would give them access to the form (since I don’t want readers to buy my books at a huge discount).
    Haven’t quite figured out the answer to that one yet.
    Apparently, the same problem might exist with Lightning Source: 25% discount only and no returns. The no returns part is not a deal-breaker for me, since I assume bookstores would be ordering for customers, or wouldn’t mind having my books on their shelf for awhile (they’re annotations of books by a popular mystery writer, Dorothy L. Sayers),.
    Oh, and in the U.S., Amazon is no longer charging for extended distribution. It’s free.

  18. This is such a helpful and encouraging post. I’m glad you have had luck with the indies in London. I’m pleased to say I had a surprising amount of success in Oxfordshire too with basically every indie I rang stocking my book and even Blackwells too. Mostly ‘sale or return’ as you say, but as yet only one has returned any and that was because they were refurbishing. Great post. I do love a paperback too.

    1. That’s great to hear. I haven’t had a “no” yet. Some small orders, some decent orders, some re-orders, but no outright refusals. I was pleasantly surprised, to be honest.

  19. All great info, David. I was unaware that the expanded distribution on CreateSpace now goes into India! And good for you for hitting the indie bookstores. When I self-published my first novel in April I released a print edition at the same time as the eBook. I have been pleasantly surprised by the number of print sales I have made. I would strongly encourage others to release print and eBook at the same launch because book bloggers and reviewers seem to like the idea of getting a crisp paperback (some will take nothing else).

    1. I’m constantly tinkering with the process, but, at the moment, I’m looking to bring out print editions a month or so after the digital. That gives a little time to fix any typos/errors (there are always some, no matter how rigorous your editorial/proofing/formatting/testing process is), sharpen the blurb, and optimize the back-matter. Sending paperbacks to reviewers can be an expensive business, but if it’s a key blogger, and you have a good chance of a review, it can certainly be worth it.

  20. Most instructive, Dave. And most encouraging. as we’re launching all our titles as POD this month.

    I suspect there may well be an opportunity for a few entrepreneurs in big cities to act on behalf of indie writers and take delivery of small quantities of POD editions to distribute to local book-stores for a percentage.

    With at least 75% of readers still firmly locked into print reading it’s still a huge potential market. And agree totally that the “discount” ebook value on the sales page is alone worth getting a POD edition on Amazon.

    1. If those services don’t exist (and they might), I would imagine there is an opportunity there. I know there is one highly regarded POD printer here in the UK (used by many publishers, small and large) who will also handle orders, distribution, and returns – for a reasonable cut too.

  21. Great post, David. Even though I’ve been indie for 18 months, I’ve just done my first paperback. I’m still waiting for the proof to arrive but I can’t wait to see it. I’m not sure how many sales I’ll make but I think it’s worth having – it’s YA and YA tends to sell better in paperback.

    1. You know what? Even if you (the general “you”!) don’t sell a single copy, holding your own book in your hands is a special moment that every writer should experience. I cradled mine like a baby.

      However, you should do quite well with print, and you could see some nice numbers. They are also handy for prizes, giveaways, keepsakes etc.

      1. Totally agree with the “holding your book” feeling. All indies should go print for this feeling alone!

        Also, oddly, *showing* people your paperback book–even when they will almost certainly buy the digital copy–is powerful. Most people’s eyes glaze over a bit when you say they can get your book for the Kindle, but their eyes light up when you pull a copy of your novel off the shelf or out of your bag to show them.

    2. YA tends to sell better in paperback… versus hard cover or versus electronic? I thought younger readers would be earlier adopters of e-readers. I’m going to be publishing my first YA book, indie-style, in September. But this has made me think about having a paperback copy as well. BTW, David, I just listened to your interview on the Creative Penn today and found your blog here. Great stuff. Cheers.

  22. David, would you ever work on the principle of allowing the bookstore to order the books from the publisher themselves so that you don’t have to supply at all?

    I did that in my first foray into print in 2008-9. It worked quite well in a very limited fashion (eg: my own home state and one other). But the rider was that I needed to get media coverage to create the interest, which I managed to do. I’m about to launch back into print again this month and am hoping bookstores will do the same thing again. It just means harder work connecting with electronic and print media. And by the way, I accept that it’s a lot easier to get supportive media coverage in regional areas where any news is newsworthy, than in a city the size of London!

    1. There are companies that can handle distribution for you. There’s one here in the UK that will handle orders etc. for a small percentage. I’m looking into it. Even if I do set it up though, I still think it’s best to open with the personal touch: visiting the bookstore in person, talking to the manager, pitching the books, and showing the quality of the samples (remember that POD books had a reputation for poor quality – a lot has changed in the last few years and CreateSpace do a good job).

      1. I was going to ask a question similar to Prue’s. Even if you do visit the store and pitch the books in person, why would they prefer to buy direct from you instead of ordering from CreateSpace? Wouldn’t their ordering from CS be easier (for both parties)?

      2. Ah, I see what Prue was getting at now.

        Okay, so the reason the stores won’t order direct from CreateSpace is that CreateSpace doesn’t do returns (which most stores want), and don’t provide a big enough discount (I think it’s only 20%, whereas stores, in my experience, don’t tend to be interested in stocking your book unless the discount is at least 35%).

        It’s not that they prefer to buy from me – they would probably prefer to order from a regular distributor – it’s that CreateSpace can’t offer them the same terms I can. As I’m buying the books from Createspace at cost, I can offer a better discount (you will have to play with your price to ensure you either aren’t selling yourself short or pricing yourself out of the market – there are handy calculators on CreateSpace).

        In theory, you could send them the books directly from your author account at CreateSpace. However, that will make billing a bit of a mess, as they will get *your* invoice from CreateSpace with your author rate etc. CreateSpace doesn’t have a facility to create a custom invoice (or note) to go with the books (which would be a handy feature).

        I haven’t played with Lightning Source yet, but if you do go down that route, bookstores will be able to order direct from them with proper discounts and returns etc.

  23. Thanks again, David! This is good news, especially because my book is middle grade genre and I’ve already had a couple of people ask for print versions. I suspect hitting the local indie bookstores and my kids librarians at school might be just the next step I need but I wasn’t sure how to go about it. As always, your expertise and willingness to share is greatly appreciated!
    All the best!

    1. I think print editions are especially important in genres that have been relatively slower to switch to digital (for a variety of reasons) such as literary fiction, historical fiction, non-fiction, and kids books.

  24. Glad I read this. I still prefer reading paperbacks but also pull the Kindle out from time to time. And from listening to many of my friends, they prefer the same. I only have two of my titles available in paperback but now after reading this, I think I may be busy formatting the others over the weekend.

    Best of luck with the signing!

    1. I’m torn over which I prefer. I probably read equal amounts paper and digital at the moment. There’s no denying the convenience and ease of the Kindle, but there is something special about a print book. I don’t think digital has quite replicated that special feeling when you crack open a book for the first time, scanning the table of contents, reading the blurb on the back, checking out the author photo etc.

      Although, I haven’t bought a (new) print book since I got my Kindle at Christmas.

      1. David,
        You sound like you are following the typical ‘new e-reader’ buyer’s reading habits. I too read quite a bit of paper after receiving my first Kindle (it was a gift). However, after two years… Its all ebook!

        There is nothing like that feeling of stocking up the Kindle with a dozen good books prior to a trip. 😉

        And there is a reason the AAP has made print sales numbers cryptic…


  25. I didn’t go the paperback route thinking no one would pay “that much” for a book, and really it’s only to “feed my ego.” Lately I’m starting to rethink my decision and your post has proven most timely. Thanks!

    1. These are the key advantages of having a print edition for me:
      1. Another income stream. It started off real small, but is now quite significant – and these are readers I wasn’t reaching with e-books.
      2. Makes the e-book look like it’s on special offer – at whatever price you set (I’m sure this has helped me maintain sales at higher prices).
      3. Nothing beats that feeling of holding your own print book.

      Any one of those is reason enough to do a print edition. Together, it makes it a no brainer (one I didn’t cotton on to for quite some time!).

      1. “3. Nothing beats that feeling of holding your own print book.”

        I guess that’s why they call them vanity presses (Ha!).

        I published my ebook on Amazon on Wednesday and I was amazed by just how straightforward the KDP system is. In 15 minutes, my book was sent for publication. How times have changed! I never considered for a moment selling print copies. It seemed like a daunting task, and your post seems to confirm it. Maybe if selling ebooks pays off, I will gather up the courage to sell print copies. For now, I’m glad to live in a time when technology affords me the easy way out!

      2. Heh. You know that some people actually do consider Createspace a vanity press?

        Anyway, don’t be daunted. Ordering boxes of books and hawking them to indie bookstores can be complicated, sure, but simply putting a print edition on sale on Amazon shouldn’t be.

  26. Wonderful post, David. Thank you. I’ve been seeing some success in my fledgling self-publishing ebooks career, but I can count the paperbacks I’ve sold on my hands without needing to use several fingers. You make a great case for me to reconsider my giving up on that format.

    1. You definitely shouldn’t give up. The outlay is relatively small and it doesn’t take too many sales to make your costs back. Everything after that is profit, and the books will be on sale for as long as you like.

      Also, you never know which of your income streams will become significant. For me it’s print books. For others, it’s Amazon UK, or Barnes & Noble, or a novella they just wrote for fun. I think you have to keep trying new things and see what happens. Sometimes you are disappointed (direct sales from my own e-bookstore have been minimal), and sometimes you are surprised (I never thought print would have been this important).

  27. David this is great – thanks for putting all this information together. I also decided to have my first self-published book in paperback form as well as e-book, because I do a lot of talks for various groups, including W.I. and I find that they often sell well there. Plus – I don’t have to pay a middleman! I haven’t yet approached any local bookstores, but may well do so after reading this post. Do you have an ISBN on your books?

    1. I sell quite a few by hand as well. It’s always handy to have a box of books kicking around. I get emails from people that want to buy a copy direct now and then. If you are doing talks, then it’s a must.

      CreateSpace offer free ISBNs if you don’t have your own. Technically, that means they will be listed as your publisher. Some people have an issue with that, and fork out for their own. I don’t. In fact, even though I have a block of ISBNs, I don’t use them on these print editions. There is one advantage of using the free CreateSpace ISBN – but it has slipped my mind momentarily! (Anyone else remember?)

  28. Thanks for sharing, David. I am one of those who finds encouragement in these sales report posts. I see myself using CreateSpace to make a print version of my upcoming series, but that would be sometime in December, when the final installment comes out. Right now, I have a crowdfunding campaign to tend to. But I am definitely bookmarking this post for all the information and references it contains. Thanks for being a trailblazer as always.

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