Friday, March 8, 2013

Vanity of Vanities

(This is step #12 of my How To Publish An eBook thang)

When I was a kid I'd hear radio ads that pitched "for the author in search of a publisher.' And those ads were for vanity publishers. You gave them money, and they'd print your books. You'd get several large boxes filled with copies of your book and they'd sit in your garage until the heat-death of the universe.

Those books would stay in your garage because you are not a distributor nor do you have a business relationship with a distributor like traditional publishers enjoy.

Amazon changed all that when they combined the functions of bookseller and distributor along with book-on-demand printing. And they have a company called If you want to publish a paper edition of your book, you want to research CreateSpace.

You also want to do a reality check, but I'll come back to that.

They work just a little differently from Kindle Direct Publishing because they're not sending your bits to Kindles, they are printing and shipping paper editions. Your ebook doesn't have a back cover or a dust jacket. (If you want a hardback edition, you'll have to think about that binding, and that dust jacket. You'll have to talk to a printer and bookbinder about hardback editions.) CreateSpace just prints trade paperback editions.

CreateSpace charges a nominal setup fee and they require you design a wrap-around cover that combines your front cover design, a spine, and a back cover design. The back cover nominally has a blurb as well as a few testimonials and or editorial squibs from reviewers.

If you want to put a physical copy of your book under your nephew's Christmas tree, you can use CreateSpace to make it. And if you have other customers who don't use Kindles or Nooks, you can service that market using to print-on-demand books that will sell and ship to your customers. But that's time and effort. And your paperback edition will use a different ISBN number than your ebook.

Maybe you'd better take a look at how well your ebook is selling first.

I've heard the rule of thumb that several tiny publishing houses uses is: Only do a paper edition of the work after you sell 100+ ebook editions of a work. That makes a lot of sense.

Let's suppose you start selling books hand-over-fist. You'll want to get as many books in as many hands as possible through as many channels as you can manage. But what if your stunning work is not appreciated by the reading public. Or your stunning work is universally loved, but nobody in your target market finds out about it. At some point you have to take a sober look at how well your work is selling and decide whether there are less-dead horses to flog.

You have to listen to your market and learn from it. I was surprised that Finding Time does not out-sell The Aristotelian, because I know there's much more value there. Nevertheless, I was shocked to learn that promotions for Finding Time tended to drive more sales of The Aristotelian! I'm by no means an expert or even mildly competent in this marketing business, but I do know that the sales numbers tell me.

If you have a book that is not selling fast enough as an ebook, it's only going to sell more slowly if you bring out a paper edition.

Conversely, if you can reach a good-sized market that wants your ebook, the numbers may justify multiple editions: trade paperback, hardback, signed-and-numbered collector's edition. Each of these editions will be an opportunity to wring more sales out of your market. Personally, I think every bookshelf and coffee table would look a lot better with a leather-bound, glossy paper, signed-and-numbered boxed copy of Finding Time.

Sadly, I think I'm the only one who thinks that. And that's why I won't bring out that edition until I've got the sales to justify the expense and trouble.
(You can find the bullet-point outline of How To Publish An Ebook here.)

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