Search around on the internet about this very topic and you’ll find hundreds of blogs and articles about whether or not the print book is a dying art-form.
But who is right? Who will win the battle of the paper vs the tablet?
I don’t really believe anyone knows for sure. Yes, you can research studies. Yes, you can poll everyone you know. Yes, you can look at the sales percentages each quarter. But, even with all the data, things can change in an instant.
For me, personally, I don’t believe print books will ever cease to exist; however, if I’m wrong and they do, it will be a very sad day in this world.
Of course, eBooks offer advantages over print books. They are cheaper to buy, and more importantly cheaper for a publisher to produce. I know this. I understand this. I know how easy it is to go on vacation with literally hundreds of books at my fingertips instead of the one I was able to stick in my luggage. I know the anonymity of holding a Kindle instead of a book for all to see exactly what you are reading. I know it’s a way to read dozens of books for the price of one print book. Believe me, I’m no stranger to the advantages of the Kindle. With that said, though, for me, I just love holding a book and flipping through the pages. And, with that, I’ll always choose a print book over an eBook.
Anyway, back to my point, with this bitter battle over to print or not to print, more and more smaller publishing houses have decided they aren’t going to offer their authors a print option when publishing their titles anymore.
Oh yes, it’s true. While I was researching publishers during my many rounds of submissions with my first novel, I was actually surprised to see how many publishers stated in their policies that their titles will be released in eBook form ONLY.
No print books? Nope. Natta. Denied. No Print for you! Do not pass go, do not collect $200.
Don’t get me wrong, for the record, I don’t, at all, begrudge them for their choice. It’s their choice, it’s their business. They’re in the industry, they know the industry, and they see the numbers on the sales reports. Not to mention, they know how much money they’re making (or perhaps, losing?) from the print book sales. I’m sure they’ve made the best choice for their business and they have the complete and utter right to make such a choice.
With that choice, though, what does the loss of the print book option (or even never having the option) mean for us authors?
Well, a lot, actually when it boils down to the nitty-gritty of marketing and selling our books. At least, it is in my opinion, and I have to wonder, while they believe they are making a good business choice (which they very much might be), are they also kind of screwing us…even if it’s just a little?
Have you ever been to a book fair without print books? I have. And, it’s not a very fun experience. Especially, when everyone around you has a table full of print books that customers are grabbing and buying all day long while you sit there and smile as they walk right past your table. Yes, I’ve been there. Twice. And, I will never do it again.
When readers go to book fairs, they want print books. They want to pick up the books, read through the blurbs, admire the covers, and flip through the first few pages. They want to walk out the door with signed books in their bag that they can read and enjoy. They do not want to walk out with a bunch of flyers telling them to go to such-and-such website to buy the eBook.
Have you ever had a book signing without print books? Or a new release party? I’ve traveled down those horrible roads, too…or at least, tried to. And, do you know how many books I sold?
Why? Because book stores aren’t going to host authors for signings when there is no book to sign! They also won’t host release parties without an actual copy of the book in hand. That’s where they make their money. They host you, they get a cut of the sales.
Of course, you can host your own little release party or signing for family and friends; however, not only will you be responsible for footing the bill for a vendor hall (since you won’t be able to have it at a book store), but now you are limited to who shows up since a lot of sales at a release party are from strangers shopping in the book store the day of your party.
Without print books how are authors supposed to have book signings? How are they supposed to sell their books at book fairs and conventions? How are they supposed to cut deals with local book stores to sell a couple of copies? And, more importantly, considering it’s estimated that only 50% of people in this world have a Kindle, how are we supposed to sell our eBooks to the other 3.6 billon people? To me, even if print books aren’t making the same amount of money, are publishers really losing enough for them to cut our audience in half?
So what is an author to do? Well, there’s really only two options. #1, find another publisher or #2, self-publish your novel so you have print books. Whatever your choice is, though, just make sure you are 100% sure in your feelings. You’d hate to sign that contract and kick yourself later just as much as you’d hate to turn it down and kick yourself later.