ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Self Publishing Tips: Should You Publish a Print Book, eBook or Both?

Updated on September 2, 2018
heidithorne profile image

Heidi Thorne is a self-publishing expert, nonfiction book editor, author of 21+ books and eBooks, and a former trade newspaper editor.

Source

Should you publish a print book, an ebook or both? Before you answer, consider these pros and cons.

Print Books

Going print is going "old school." Print books have been around for centuries. And with today's digital printing technologies, it has become cheaper and easier to get one's book into print.

PROS to print books include:

  • Print books are STILL popular. Not everyone enjoys reading ebooks. According to an article on the Huffington Post, print books (both hardcover and paperback) outsold ebooks for the first half of 2014.
  • Something memorable to put in their hands. This is exceptionally important if the book is being used to promote a business. A print book can be an impressive "promotional product" and expanded "business card" to give to a client or prospect.
  • Capture book sales at live events. Audience interest in the author, his book and topic can be high immediately following an event where he is speaking. Capture that interest by offering something tangible for attendees to purchase to commemorate their experience. Expecting attendees to remember to download an ebook after they've left an event might be unrealistic. Seize the sales moment! However, see the "cons" below for important tax considerations.

CONS to using print books include a number of business issues if the books are sold direct to customers by the author or self publisher. Note that most of these issues would be eliminated by choosing to let a self publishing platform (e.g., Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing) handle both publishing/printing and direct-to-customer sales for the book. In that case, the author would receive royalties instead of income from direct customer sales.

  • Sales taxes. Print books may be considered merchandise, making it necessary for an author or self publisher selling his own books to register as a business with the local taxing authority. In addition, sales tax collection, payments and tax return forms will have to regularly be done. As well, if books are sold out of the home taxing area (such as at locations outside one's home state), there may be additional taxes that will need to be reported and paid. Contact a CPA or tax professional and applicable government taxing authorities for details and requirements.
  • Shipping to Customers. Other than sales taxes, selling print books direct to customers by phone, mail or online will also require shipping costs. Though mega retailers like Amazon can offer free shipping deals, individual authors and self publishers cannot since it would severely cut into (or even eliminate!) profits from print book sales. As a side note, setting standard shipping costs can be a tricky business in itself.
  • Foreign sales. Selling books directly to customers outside one's home country can open up financial reporting, taxation and shipping problems that could overwhelm most authors selling just a few physical copies internationally. As with sales tax issues, contact a CPA to learn requirements for foreign sales. Shipping may also involve dealing with customs issues. Because of challenges like these, authors and self publishers may choose not to sell direct to international customers.
  • Storage. Print books take up space. Thankfully, print on demand technologies have all but eliminated this problem for authors who self publish.

Ebooks

With all the handling issues associated with print books, ebooks might sound like the perfect solution. But as with all selling scenarios, ebooks have their advantages and limitations, too.

PROS to publishing and distributing self published ebooks include:

  • Low cost and quick to produce. Got Microsoft Word or other word processing software to create your manuscript? You're on your way to creating a professional looking ebook!
  • Expands publishing possibilities. Since ebooks can be read on both electronic book readers and mobile devices (often with the use of an app), ebooks can be available for reading in many more places than print books.
  • Can build a worldwide audience. Unfettered by physical shipping and handling issues, ebooks can be made available to readers worldwide.

CONS to publishing ebooks include the following. As with print books, some of their downsides can be reduced or eliminated by selling through a self publishing platform instead of direct to customers.

  • Not having the clout of print books. With ebooks being so easy and cheap to produce, they may not be seen as being as valuable... even if they include the same information that would be in a print book.
  • PDF ebooks can drain profits. Ebooks sold direct to customers online as PDF files can easily be shared, almost without limitation! Purchasers can simply attach a PDF ebook to an email and distribute to everyone on their contact lists. Plus, it could be shared on—ack!—social media. Will those who receive a shared copy say "That's a great ebook. I think I'll buy myself a copy."? NO! They already got it for free. True, there can be some controls added to the PDFs, such as passwords, that could help restrict unauthorized access. However, those may provide only limited protection. Might be better to sell via Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing or other programs which have limited and/or structured ebook sharing capability.
  • Ebooks may be taxed as merchandise. Depending on the local government where the author or self publisher is located, sales of ebooks direct to customers may incur sales taxes, just as physical book sales would. Contact a CPA or tax professional and local government taxing authority for rules and reporting that may apply. Again, this issue would be totally eliminated by letting a self publishing platform handle the sales, with the author or self publisher simply collecting royalties.

If you self publish, do you prefer publishing your book as...

See results

So Which Format Wins?

Both! And with today's advanced self publishing platforms and technologies, it makes it easy and cost-effective to do both, reaching wider audiences than ever before.

Disclaimer: Any examples used are for illustrative purposes only and do not suggest affiliation or endorsement. The author/publisher has used best efforts in preparation of this article. No representations or warranties for its contents, either expressed or implied, are offered or allowed and all parties disclaim any implied warranties of merchantability or fitness for your particular purpose. The advice, strategies and recommendations presented herein may not be suitable for you, your situation or business. Consult with a professional adviser where and when appropriate. The author/publisher shall not be liable for any loss of profit or any other damages, including but not limited to special, incidental, consequential, or other damages. So by reading and using this information, you accept this risk.

© 2015 Heidi Thorne

Comments

Submit a Comment

  • heidithorne profile imageAUTHOR

    Heidi Thorne 

    19 months ago from Chicago Area

    Thanks, Glenn, for sharing your experience with us! Agreed, with as easy as Createspace makes it, there's no reason not to do both print and eBook. I've also found that I have about equal results from both print books and eBooks. And if you can build a good online article income, sometimes book revenues (print or digital) can be secondary. So appreciate your support! Have a great day!

  • Glenn Stok profile image

    Glenn Stok 

    19 months ago from Long Island, NY

    Interesting pros and cons. I find it so easy to create a Kindle version after having a print version completed, that I've done both with all three of my books.

    As per my experience, they are about balanced as far as sales go, but neither is as good as income from online articles (which is a third option).

  • heidithorne profile imageAUTHOR

    Heidi Thorne 

    2 years ago from Chicago Area

    Hi lawrence! Glad to hear you're considering both print and ebook versions. Makes sense these days. In my experience with Createspace, I have not had to pay any upfront costs for print; only when I purchase copies. However, you have to do the formatting and upload yourself (some self publishing platforms may offer to do that for you). Best of luck with your publishing adventures! Thanks for stopping by and have a great week ahead!

  • lawrence01 profile image

    Lawrence Hebb 

    2 years ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

    Heidi

    Some good points to think about here. I want to go the 'both' route but that all depends on 'up front' costs. If 'print on demand' has none then that might be the option along with eBook.

    Lawrence

  • breathing profile image

    Sajib 

    2 years ago from Bangladesh

    For those who are self-publishers, both eBook and print book are good options. Both have their own pros and cons which are clearly highlighted in the post. It depends on the writers’ adaptability to the formats. If you are comfortable with print book and find it more suitable for your publication, go with it. The same is true for eBooks too. As long as the writer is in conformability with one, there is no need to think of the other. But yeah, there are certain aspects where you might need to choose the other format. In that case you should not be rigid with your usual choice as the only thing matters is the best outcome.

  • heidithorne profile imageAUTHOR

    Heidi Thorne 

    3 years ago from Chicago Area

    Hi Chitrangada Sharan! Glad you found it helpful. We'll be watching for announcements on your new book. Thank you and have a beautiful day!

  • ChitrangadaSharan profile image

    Chitrangada Sharan 

    3 years ago from New Delhi, India

    Your article is always full of useful information. I was looking for this and you have some great suggestions that I would refer to when I publish my print or ebook.

    Thanks for sharing the tips. Voted up and pinned on my self help board!

  • heidithorne profile imageAUTHOR

    Heidi Thorne 

    3 years ago from Chicago Area

    FlourishAnyway, we look forward to the day you'll be announcing that you're publishing your first book (both in print and ebook)! And, yes, I think it's a good idea to give readers a choice. Glad you found it helpful! Have a lovely week ahead!

  • FlourishAnyway profile image

    FlourishAnyway 

    3 years ago from USA

    I look forward to the day when I have to choose this (I'd choose both). In the mean time, you have provided an excellent education regarding advantages and disadvantages of both. As a reader, we tend to reader things about 30% slower online and I like to digest as much information as possible if given a choice of formats.

  • heidithorne profile imageAUTHOR

    Heidi Thorne 

    3 years ago from Chicago Area

    Oh my, yes, Suhail! It's been quite a ride for the Blackhawks. We're so proud of 'em! Now if we could just get the Cubs to the World Series... :) Thanks for the kind congrats!

  • heidithorne profile imageAUTHOR

    Heidi Thorne 

    3 years ago from Chicago Area

    Hi alancaster149! I couldn't have said it better myself! I do think that print editions do have the sentimental value that an ebook just cannot provide. My personal library is full of books that were gifted to me, signed with kind and personal greetings (some by the authors themselves), that are prized items in my possession. In fact, I saw one article that said many people who fall in love with an ebook, go and buy the print book later. Also, Amazon has a program where people can buy the print book and get the ebook, too, at a reduced price. If Amazon recognizes the value in both, why shouldn't we?

    I think some topics just lend themselves better to ebooks, e.g., business or tech topics that may have a short shelf life and/or are reference materials. Then, indeed, there is value for readers and profit for authors.

    THANK YOU so much for adding this heartfelt insight to the conversation! I so appreciate your support and participation. Have a beautiful weekend!

  • alancaster149 profile image

    Alan R Lancaster 

    3 years ago from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire)

    LTNS (long time, no see) Heidi. Interesting page. I do both - have I said that before somewhere else? - because there's a market for both.

    What I can't do for folk who buy the KDP versions of my books is sign, date and provide a bookmark. That could add value if I 'croak', but people like to see something in their hands that they've bought at an event (in mid-October I'll be back at Battle Abbey for the 949th commemoration of Harold's stand near Hastings) or direct from me. I usually buy ten copies of my book from the publisher (New Generation) to sell to friends.

    A free copy of each of the RAVENFEAST saga series goes to my 'kids' (age 24-30 now); one goes to a cousin who'll buy me a drink by return. As an ex-squaddie (soldier) he'll understand the sentiment behind the writing that revolves around loss of comrades in fighting, evasion of the enemy and carousing.

    So there it is, the ethos behind solid printed copies: sentiment. There's no sentiment in the electronic word, but there can be profit.

  • Suhail and my dog profile image

    Suhail Zubaid aka Clark Kent 

    3 years ago from Mississauga, ON

    Btw, a hearty congratulations on Blackhawks winning the Stanley Cup for 3rd time in 5 years.

  • heidithorne profile imageAUTHOR

    Heidi Thorne 

    3 years ago from Chicago Area

    Hi Homeplace Series! Indeed, both Createspace and Lulu are providing great service to the author community. And, yes, the marketing and promotion is the tough part of the whole process. Thanks so much for adding your experience to the conversation! Have a great weekend!

  • heidithorne profile imageAUTHOR

    Heidi Thorne 

    3 years ago from Chicago Area

    Well, Suhail and my dog, we'll watch for updates on your publishing adventures. :) Thanks for your kind comments and have a great weekend!

  • heidithorne profile imageAUTHOR

    Heidi Thorne 

    3 years ago from Chicago Area

    Totally agree with you, Larry! At least for right now, I think it's a good idea to provide both. Sometime in the far (or maybe not so far?) future, that may change. We'll have to watch the trends. Thanks for stopping by and have a terrific weekend!

  • heidithorne profile imageAUTHOR

    Heidi Thorne 

    3 years ago from Chicago Area

    Thanks, KoffeKlatchGals! Yep, I'm with you on using both formats. Glad you found the info useful. Have a great weekend!

  • Homeplace Series profile image

    William Leverne Smith 

    3 years ago from Hollister, MO

    Always nice to see an update on this important issue we each face. I'm still quite happy using both CreateSpace and Lulu.com. They provide the books in the form I need, I just need to do a better job of promoting them, myself! ;-)

  • Suhail and my dog profile image

    Suhail Zubaid aka Clark Kent 

    3 years ago from Mississauga, ON

    Definitely a useful hub!

    If at all I get to that level, I will go for print version ha-ha.

  • Larry Rankin profile image

    Larry Rankin 

    3 years ago from Oklahoma

    Great overview. Both formats have pros and cons, but in the current climate, I think you're best to employ both forms.

  • KoffeeKlatch Gals profile image

    Susan Hazelton 

    3 years ago from Sunny Florida

    I have decided that publishing both way is a good idea. Very useful and interesting hub.

  • heidithorne profile imageAUTHOR

    Heidi Thorne 

    3 years ago from Chicago Area

    Hi billybuc! Yep, I think we're all debating the pros and cons. For a few books, I've gone strictly ebook. But for all the others, I've done both print and ebook. I'm always anxious to hear more about your publishing adventures. So I'll be looking for updates. In the meantime, have a delightful weekend!

  • billybuc profile image

    Bill Holland 

    3 years ago from Olympia, WA

    Nice summation as always. I'm still struggling with this....well, maybe not struggling. I'm still debating the pros and cons. I'll let you know how it turns out. :) Have a great weekend!

  • heidithorne profile imageAUTHOR

    Heidi Thorne 

    3 years ago from Chicago Area

    Hi purl3agony! Glad you found the discussion helpful. True, there are so many issues when deciding where and how to publish a book. Thanks for your kind words, as always! Have a lovely weekend!

  • heidithorne profile imageAUTHOR

    Heidi Thorne 

    3 years ago from Chicago Area

    Hi word55! Indeed, re-releasing an earlier book in a new format like an ebook is a great way to revive interest... and maybe royalties, too. Glad to see that you saw the ebook opportunity for your work. Thanks for stopping by and adding your insight to the conversation! Have a great day!

  • heidithorne profile imageAUTHOR

    Heidi Thorne 

    3 years ago from Chicago Area

    Hello Jodah! Glad you found it helpful. Thanks so much for the vote and support! Have a great day!

  • heidithorne profile imageAUTHOR

    Heidi Thorne 

    3 years ago from Chicago Area

    Hi emge! Thanks for the kind words. Have a great day!

  • purl3agony profile image

    Donna Herron 

    3 years ago from USA

    Great hub! This is a very helpful discussion of the pros and cons of each medium. I had never thought about some of these issues. Thanks for this great information and thoughtful discussion. Pinned, voted up and useful!

  • word55 profile image

    Al Wordlaw 

    3 years ago from Chicago

    Hello Heidi, this is a great hub! I agree that internet marketing is a great advantage for any type of promotion especially books. I released a book in 1982 as a hard back. Now, I have re-released it as an ebook on ebay. The ebook is more economical and broader today. Thanks for sharing. Voted up!

  • Jodah profile image

    John Hansen 

    3 years ago from Queensland Australia

    Very good rundown and advice on the pros and cons of print books and eBooks Heidi. Voted up.

  • emge profile image

    Madan 

    3 years ago from Abu Dhabi

    Great hub with excellent suggestion

working

This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

Show Details
Necessary
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Features
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Marketing
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Statistics
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)