A few weeks back we talked about how to price your self-published paperback book, and as we discussed it in the Midnight Publishing office, the staff began to ponder…we never actually talked about whether you should print a paperback book or not for a particular manuscript. In the days of digital technology, e-books, tablet reading devices and Kindle Direct Publishing (to name one distribution platform), paperback for indie authors was the one “as yet unconquered” land for self-published authors everywhere until about four years ago, when Amazon-owned print-on-demand company CreateSpace built traction and changed the playing field for indies everywhere.
So. You can now print paperbacks of your self-published books following a relatively easy format with CreateSpace or other printers such as Ingram Spark’s Lightning Source and Book Baby. This fact alone is incredible and revolutionary for indie authors everywhere, and has spawned hundreds of self-publishing platforms and services to better serve your indie author needs (but we all know you want Midnight Publishing to help. Go on, give us a call today!).
However, the question remains: Do you need to pursue a paperback version?
When deciding whether it’s necessary or in your best interest to print paperback versions of your book, a few factors should come into play—ones that Midnight Publishing’s self-publishing experts will now share with you:
The length of your book is a huge factor in deciding whether to pursue paperback versions of a book or not. Essentially, you must keep in mind that materials cost money. Paper, ink, covers, shipping—all increase the base cost per book with a printer like CreateSpace. Thus, if you’ve written a short story that’s around 20,000 words long, you’ve got a conundrum: the base price of the materials will be at least five dollars a book, and that’s if you make no return. But if you want to make a profit of a dollar per book, that means that potential readers are already looking at paying six or more dollars for a story that’s barely eighty pages long.
Most paperbacks found in bookstores and Walmart (which have about the same quality as you can expect with a CreateSpace-printed book) are $8.99 or even less, and those are for full novels—80,000 words or more. Short stories and novellas under 50,000 words as paperbacks are not a good choice for mass distribution, unless you have a huge fan base and a lot of interested readers willing to fork over the cash.
The same goes for lengthy books—a 250,000-word book is going to be around 1,000 pages long. That’s huge; the base fee for such a book will be at least 15 dollars. So if you want to make any profit at all, you’re asking for nearly 20 dollars for a paperback book. The same concept applies: a dedicated fan base means they’ll buy it, but if you’re a new author just building your platform and prices need to be low with high reader-perceived value, then your paperback will need to sit pretty at around 60,000 to 100,000 words. (There’s a reason why traditional publishers have strict word count constraints—a lot of it has to do with printing costs and not necessarily the storyline).
Another huge factor (and probably the second-most important only to “length”) is the genre your book is in. There are a couple of factors to consider here:
Is it a kids’ book?
If so, will it have graphics? How much does an illustrator cost? How much does it cost to print the book with high-quality graphics and colors? Usually with kids’ books, you do need a paperback version, and a hardcover—otherwise kids may destroy them. That increases the price, but printers have recently been offering unique book dimensions, high-quality graphic designs and hardcover options for doable prices. It’ll take considerable research, though.
Is it erotica/romance?
If so, will your readers want to read such a book “out in the open?” Is it going to have a cover with a man’s naked, muscled torso on the front? Is it in the same realm as Fifty Shades of Grey in regards to description (or even more explicit)? Then consider just going with digital e-books. Erotica and romance readers are notorious for being avid fans, so it would honestly be a better use of your time and resources to spend money on formatting the second installment of an e-book erotica series than to bother with paperback versions.
Is it literary fiction, fantasy or a book of poems?
Individuals drawn to these genres tend to appreciate the feel of a paperback book in their hands—in fact, Midnight Publishing has run into dozens of readers who’ve told us they wouldn’t even read a book in these genres unless they had a paperback version. So if your book falls into these categories (and hits the desired word count), you should definitely consider paperback versions.
Next time we’ll address our continued tips on whether a self-published author should pursue paperback versions or not. Until then, contact Midnight Publishing with any questions, comments, or for a free editing sample of your first 1,000 words! We’d love to help prepare your book or content for publishing, in whatever medium you choose. Midnight Publishing: trusted with over five million words since our inception.