Self Publishing Tips: Should You Publish a Print Book, eBook or Both?
Should you publish a print book, an ebook or both? Before you answer, consider these pros and cons.
If you self publish, do you prefer publishing your book as...
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 Createspace) 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. Click here to learn more about print on demand and book binding and technologies.
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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. Click here to learn more about self publishing platforms.
- 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.
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