Monday, 25 July 2011

The Advantages of the Printed Book

Why Publish a Traditional Book? 

The power of the traditional book will always be being able to hold a physical product in your hands. Even with the cost involved in printing books in this digital age when everything can be downloaded online in a matter of seconds, the quantity of physical books being released is growing rapidly every year. Why?

I suggest it has something to do with the feeling you experience when you run your fingers along the first copy of your book. You touch the shiny, smooth glossy cover. Then you open it, recalling the amount of effort, time, sweat and tears that went into creating it. You then know that the baby you conceived and nurtured for so long has finally been brought to life.

Sentimentality aside though, Why publish a physical book? 

Well, firstly, because you want to. Most people who are producing a book for pleasure (what I refer to as'the dream book') will not be satisfied if their book is produced in any other format. They want to hold a copy in their hands, they want to give a copy to their family and friends, they want to see their book on bookshelves in bookstores, libraries and people's homes. Basically they want to see their book being used. You will be surprised how quickly your dream of writing a book becomes the dream of your book being read, when you have your first copy in your hands.

A personal book that you may have just wanted a few copies of to distribute to family members can very quickly create the desire for everyone to read your book after it has been published. If this is the case it is okay (and quite common) to change the aim of your book after it has been produced. You may want additional copies, need to adjust the content to a saleable form, need to adjust the page size to standard distribution sizes, need to register your book or various other minor changes. If the direction of your book ever changes at any stage of your publishing process, just refer to the relevant chapter and check your book has all the requirements listed, or otherwise edit it until it does.

Making changes afterwards will always be the more expensive/timeconsuming option. However, never think that just because a book is published it can't be adjusted or changed. Remember, with the printed book people always want the newest thing that is out, so printing a second edition with changes or something included in it that wasn't available in the first edition creates the opportunity for additional sales to people who have already bought your book.

There is a lot going for the ebook these days and rightly so. However, the traditional book will still be around for a long time, as not everyone is internet savvy or interested in a downloadable product. Many people still want to hold the physical product in their hands. Always keep your target market in mind when picking which format is right for your book.

For example: Many retirees can't use or aren't that familiar with computers. They may know how to send an e-mail or enjoy playing solitaire but ecommerce is something that would go way above their heads. They may be very interested in your book if they saw your book in a store down the road and it was on a subject matter of interest to them but hidden online where they would never find it they would be very unlikely to purchase a copy.

The physical book will never make you money. 
Well, that's not entirely true but it won't make you much money and it won't make you easy money. If you sell the book yourself it is a lot of hard work and if you put it in stores (and first you have to get it into stores which isn't easy) there is a whole lot of risk involved.

Traditionally, getting your book into bookstores is, first of all, an expensive and time-consuming process as you need to pay the right people (ie. distribution agents) who have the connections to do the ground work for you (cutting into your profit margin before you start) and then once you are in, the real risk starts.

The wholesale price for your average book is always less than 40% of the RRP as bookstores (depending on the chain) always take at least 60% of the RRP, heavily affecting your profit margin. Take out of that any agent fees you paid to make the connection, plus the cost of printing the book and you would be lucky to be left with a dollar or two profit from the book sales... and that's if it sells.

On average, if a book is accepted for nationwide distribution, the first order is around 3,500-5,000 copies to stock shelves all around Australia. That's great if your books sell, but while the bookstores pay you upfront to cover printing costs, they only keep your book for a 3 month trial period. If your books don't sell, 3 months later they are all shipped back to you (generally damaged and worn as a result of people looking at them instore) and you have to refund the bookstores. You now have 3,500-5,000 damaged unsaleable books and a lot of debt.

Of course, if your books do sell in the first 3 months, the bookstores reorder (usually around the same quantity) which is fantastic. Better yet, in Australia a book needs to have sold 10,000 copies to be classified as a best seller, so after your second or third print run is released, your book automatically meets this criteria.

While that would be fantastic, there is no guarantee that you will be in the second group of people and even if you are, it's a lot of risk for a mere $10,000-$20,000.That is why publicity is so important when it comes to bookstore distribution. Not just because bookstore distribution helps you to achieve publicity, but because if you don't keep the publicity up, you will lose the bookstore distribution.

Thankfully, times are changing and some distribution methods overseas no longer work like this.

If however, publishing a book for profit is your aim then skip ahead to Ebook, as publishing a physical book is not for you. Firstly, there is a cost involved in printing each copy and secondly, you need to have the stock on hand (paid for upfront) in order to fulfil future orders you don't even have yet.

Saying that, if your aim is to achieve publicity then, cost aside, having a physical book is a must. No matter how much money you may be making from selling ebooks, you will never gain publicity from writing an ebook. There are people out there right now making millions from authoring 50-100 ebooks and no one knows who they are. You can't do a television appearance and hold up an ebook, you can't buy an ebook from a bookstore when browsing for a friend, you can't wrap an ebook to give as a present and you certainly can't hold book signings once you have achieved your publicity for an ebook. There is no doubt about it, a physical book is an essential part of your publishing process if publicity is your aim.

Please see the following diagram for the pros and cons of  ' The Printed Book'. Work out what the requirements are for your target market and check'The Printed Book'meets your requirements.

Printed Book
Audio Book
The 'e' Product
Suitable for The Dream Book':

Suitable for The Passive Income Book':

Suitable for The Credibility Book':

You can physically hold it

You can give it away

You can buy it in a bookstore

You can buy it online

You can buy it in person

You can find it in a library

You can get it signed by the author

It can be obtained by anyone

There is a growing market

It is free to produce

You can keep the first copy

You can release multiple editions

It can be any size

It can be changed quickly and easily

It can be delivered instantly

It can be read online

It can be read while travelling on the train

It can be read while driving

It can be read in any location

It is suitable for any target market

There is no risk involved in production

There is no risk involved in distribution

There is no cost involved if returned

There is no need to be actively selling your book

There is no need to be actively distributing your book

It can be distributed anywhere in the world

You don't need to keep stock on hand

It is the most popular way to publish a book

Is it the right format for you?

Is it the best format for your subject matter?

Is it the best format for your target market?

Even with all the pros and cons the physical book is still the most popular form of publishing a book today and will continue to be so for many years to come. The question isn't whether it is popular, the question is whether it is right for you, your subject matter and your target market.

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