Friday, 29 April 2011

Paperback or not for Replica?

It was a no-brainer to publish Replica for the Kindle on Amazon; it cost precisely nothing, as I did my own proofreading, formatting, photography and cover design. I believed that the readers who bought and enjoyed Remix would buy Replica, and indeed they have; Replica has spent most of its twenty days since launch within the UK Kindle top 200, and it won't be long till sales reach 1,000.

But is it worth producing a paperback version? I'd like to be able to hold a physical version of the book in my hands, of course, but how many would I sell? I'm not entirely sure how many paperback copies of Remix have sold, but I think it's fewer than a hundred. (Compare this with Kindle sales of nearly 20,000 so far.) Sales were brisk in the first half of December, but Amazon put a 9-11 day delivery on it, and sales stopped. By the time Amazon had ordered 45 from Lightning Source, the Christmas rush was over, and the book had dropped out of view.

To publish a paperback, I'd have to re-format the text (a job I enjoy, but it's painstaking and time-consuming). I'd also need to re-do the cover to the correct specifications, including a spine and back. Then, assuming I got everything right first time, Lightning Source would charge me about £70 for set-up and a proof copy. It's possible to sell to individual bookshops, but the time it takes and the profit margin make that a waste of time. And I can't sell the paperback as cheaply as publishers with print runs in thousands can, so as an unknown I'm charging more for my novel than famous authors. This naturally puts buyers off.

I'm just not sure it's worth it. What do you think?


  1. I'm probably missing something here but why don't you use a POD service like Lulu? You'd still have to do the typesetting etc. but your proof copy would be around £7 not £70.

    With so little investment, it doesn't matter if you don't sell many. And it would make Old Kitty happy!

  2. Awwwww lovely fairyhedgehog!!

    A print edition of Replica would indeed make me very happy!!! :-)

    Take care

  3. I hadn't thought of using another printer. CreateSpace, perhaps...I'll look into it.


  4. That is indeed a ticklish question, paper or ebook. I've seen a similar discussion in a writers group that I follow, they seem to be caught in the angst of the paradigm shift. Ie whether tis nobler to have the book in the hand or the dollars(pounds) in the bank. Now I've already gone through this last year when I took my battle to be published away from agents and print publishers. While it would be satisfying to have the thrill of my book on my shelf. To be honest I prefer banked readies to a glowing ego.
    Regards Greg

  5. I haven't done print versions of my novels yet, but I plan to, probably through CreateSpace. If nothing else, you can generate some extra interest by doing a giveaway on Goodreads. ;)

  6. Lexi, Ray Rhamey always espouses the efficacy of selling print alongside the e-book for those who don't have the capacity to e-read and also for those who want to have a print version to keep. I'm one of those who has read e-books I should like to purchase in print-form to keep in my library.
    It just covers a further part of the marketplace.

    I'm publishing two more novels later this year: and will do the e-book via Smashwords to secure premium catalogue status to cover ALL e-readers and will do the print version through because its financially so reasonable and takes care of everything I need to do. As to selling in bricks and mortar, I don't care really. Quite happy with online print distribution. A sale is a sale is a sale!

  7. Hi Lexi
    as you know I'm a recent member of the Kindle owners club and while I do like it, I find I've a bit of a different attitude to reading on it: less considered somehow. It's as if I see the 'Kindle content' as disposable in the same way I'd treat a newspaper or magazine. Fair enough perhaps for a book I'd only read once, but not for a favourite I'd return to, or something I'd like to give more attention to. So perhaps it depends how you'd like to pitch your books: one off, transitory entertainment or something longer lasting (in the sense of how they're used, obviously the bytes will always be there). I can't imagine taking part in a book group discussion with only a Kindle copy to hand. Would be difficult to flick to pages to make a point, or compare paragraphs easily, etc.

    Just a thought. If you can do a low cost print run I think it's worth it for the extra marketing even if not through trad book selling outlets. Email me if you'd like to know the few typos I spotted in the Kindle text so you can fix them before printing anyway.

    Good luck with the sales, in whatever format. Replica is certainly an enjoyable read!

  8. Greg, perhaps one does the ebook for money and the paper book for love :o)

    Lindsay, if I remember rightly Goodreads only does giveaways for US authors.

    Mesmered, I haven't bothered with Smashwords this time, my sales there are so slow. I was full of enthusiasm when I put Remix up there, but what it seems best at is giving books away.

    K, my daughter agrees with you, particularly about the ability to flip back through a paper book to check on a passage. I have emailed you re (gah!) typos.

    Everyone: thank you, and you have persuaded me. I'll do a print version as soon as I have time.

  9. Marion G Harmon, author of Wearing The Cape, has just opted to Kindle after becoming fatigued by the traditional route. But he's been advised by an agent to get back in touch if he can shift 20,000 ebooks.

    Seems to me that your sales record and excellent feedback demonstrate quite clearly the commercial value of Remix and the commercial potential of Replica.

    The market is sorely in need of feel-good thrillers like Remix.

    I'd guess 20,000 sales is a pretty good hook to get an agents' attention just now, and to negotiate a contract that will see your books widely available in print without selling your soul.

  10. Mark, that's certainly an interesting thought.

    Two agents I sent Remix to said they'd like to look at my next book, and I thought I'd contact them once Remix had got to 20,000, and Replica to its first thousand - and that will be in the next day or two.

    But I am a little disillusioned with trad publishing; the long wait before publication, the probability the book will only be in the bookshops for a few months, the inflated price publishers charge for an ebook, meaning e-sales will be low.

    Sugar & Spice is extremely successful as an indie novel - are you hoping for mainstream publication?

  11. I would love to have a hard-copy. I have difficulties reading large amounts on a screen and often find I've managed to miss something important (which isn't great when you're reviewing!). I loved Remix (I reveiwed it via The book Club Forum) and am eagerly awaiting further hardcopy books from you!

  12. Didomgodess, I've just rescued your comment from Spam. Don't know what the filters didn't like about it...

    Today I sent off the files for Replica to Lightning Source, so I hope to have paperbacks available fairly soon :o)

  13. I've just recently published my book as a paperback on Createspace. I have had my Kindle and iBook versions out for a month with comfortable sales. Very happy with Createspace so far, and their cover and interior templates make it all easier than I could have hoped, all for about $60 total for 2 proof shipments (I made my font too big first take and chose speedy shipment both times).

  14. SJ, I'm afraid Blogger sent your comment to Spam and I've only just rescued it.

    I know Createspace is great in America, but I think it has disadvantages if you use it in the UK, as it's very US-centric. I can't be more specific, as when I look it up all the info is about US users' experience. I think I started with Lightning Source as I wanted my micro press's name on my books - pure vanity :o)