Print vs. Ebook: Which is Right for Your Self-Published Project?
When developing a book idea, one question you might forget to ask yourself is whether you envision your project as a printed book, as an ebook, or both. I actually have some experience with this question as my first book, The E-Ticket Life, has a proper print run while my latest book, Write, Print, Publish, Promote, is an ebook exclusive. So why the discrepancy? Well, as I realized, there are several different aspects of a book that might better lend them to one medium over another. In my case, the illustrations in my first book were a primary factor in wanting to do a print run while my book on self-publishing seemed a better fit for digital.
If you’re trying to decide whether you should take your book project to print or turn it into an ebook, here are a few factors to consider:
One of the biggest factors that will help determine if a print run of your book makes sense is how long your manuscript and finished product are. This is important because, while ebooks can be any length you choose, printed books have more limitations. Technically, CreateSpace allows you to print books between 24 and 828 pages in length but, in practice, printing a shorter book might not be practical from a marketing or pricing standpoint.
Since there are certain costs associated with printing that cannot be removed, reducing the number of pages in your book might not shave down the price as much as you might expect. In fact, while a 24-page book with 6×9 trim is currently $2.15 per copy on Createspace, it only costs $3.25 per copy to print a 200-page book on the platform. Unless you can justify selling your short book for a higher price, you may find it hard to come up with much profit margin given these costs. Of course, some exceptions to this rule include children’s books, books of art and illustrations, and a few others.
Pricing and Margins
Speaking of margins, the profit models for printed books and ebooks are actually quite different. For example, while the ability of ebooks to eliminate printing and shipping costs usually leads to higher profit margins, they also tend to sell for lower prices. Furthermore, to incentivize authors into pricing their ebooks a certain way, Amazon will give your 70% of your list price (minus a delivery fee based on file size) if your book is priced between $2.99 and $9.99. However, titles priced outside of that zone are only eligible for 35% royalties.
Meanwhile, print books offer greater flexibility in your pricing and in how you sell your product. Even with Amazon handling the fulfillment of my CreateSpace sales, I still make more on print versions of my book The E-Ticket Life than I do with ebook sales because of the higher list price. Better yet, when I buy copies in bulk to sell at events like the D23 Expo, I can end up making far more per copy than I would with an ebook — not to mention it’s a little hard to sell someone a digital-only product in person. So while my margins might technically be better with ebooks on the whole, the right circumstances can mean greater profits with print.
When I was in the process of creating an ebook version of The E-Ticket Life, one thing that drove me a bit crazy was how much the layout I had worked so hard on creating was thrown by the wayside. In addition to some of the fonts I had selected being changed, the gorgeous illustrations my friend Ashley O’Neill had supplied me for the book were reduced to thumbnail size on some devices. Because of this, while I continue to offer a Kindle version of the book, I tell anyone who will listen to purchase the printed edition instead.
Granted, there are some steps you can take to help maintain the integrity of your ebook design such as creating a fixed layout .epub as opposed to a reflowable one. Unfortunately, this could mean that your ebook won’t be viewable on all devices. Additionally, even when fixed layout ebooks are supported, they could prove hard to read and require users to do a lot of pinching and zooming. Thus, if layout and design are important to you, you might want to push your print edition like I do.
Ultimately, while there are a few factors that can help inform your decision to do a print run of your book or not, the choice is really up to you. One of the best things about self-publishing is the ability to see your vision through and execute it to a T. So, whatever you choose to do with your book project, the important thing is that you’re making your dream a reality. On that note, for more tips on writing and publishing your own book, be sure to pick up Write, Print, Publish, Promote on Amazon.
Also published on Medium.