My publishing company, Caramal Publishing Inc. has been going for over ten years now and we’ve published hardcover, softcover, ebooks, Kindle books, CDs and DVDs.
I’ve found that for shorter books (up to 100 pages, but ideally not more than 60 pages) people don’t mind an ebook. But for anything longer, they often want the physical book.
Kindle and Other e-Readers
The exception to this rule is Kindle (or other e-reader books). Although, regardless of book size, you cannot assume that people like to use an e-reader device, as many do not.
The other consideration with publishing on Kindle or other e-readers is readability and ease of navigation. So, if you have a fiction book, then it’s usually fine on Kindle, regardless of length. However, if you have a non-fiction book; any kind of how-to, or reference, or anything else that involves the person dipping in and out, or looking for specific information, then the e-readers can be very unenjoyable if the book is longer than 100 pages or so. In this case, you would want to offer a printed version of the book.
I have a lot of customers who purchase BOTH the hardcover and ebook (which I offer at a substantial discount) so they can get started right away while they’re waiting for the hardcover to be delivered. Or some customers want to also have the ebook so they can access it on their mobile device if/when they want to.
So What Should You Do?
In an ideal world, you would offer your book in all 3 formats: ebook, Kindle (e-reader), and printed (softcover or hardcover). In reality, you should start with whichever version you can afford.
If you have a website with good site traffic, or a good-sized email list, then start by selling an ebook. Ebooks in pdf format are the easiest to format and sell.
Kindle formatting, uploading, entering the SEO keywords, description etc. is more work because it can be quite buggy and then the glitches are time-consuming (and frustrating) to fix. But if you don’t have a lot of visitors to your site, or a decent size email list, then who are you going to sell your ebook to? In that case, it’s better to do a Kindle book and invest some time (or money to hire someone) to do it right, with excellent SEO (search engine optimization) elements so that your audience can actually find your book on Kindle, or Barnes & Noble. BookBaby is an excellent company that can handle all of this for you at a reasonable price.
Of course, you could also just link to your book listing on Kindle from your site. The only downside to this is that you are sending people off your site. But the upside is that you don’t have to set up PayPal or any kind of shopping cart on your site.
There are lots of security options for ebooks – but at the end of the day, once someone has bought the ebook, if they want to send it to someone else they can (and why not, we can lend our physical books anytime we want).
How Do I Sell My Ebook From My Website?
If you’re just starting out, 1ShoppingCart is a system I can recommend (that I used myself for several years) that will take you to mid-level sales/complexity.
They have an ebook sales facility automatically included – immediately upon purchase of your ebook, the customer goes to a download page for your ebook (which you have uploaded as a pdf). They also receive an email giving them the link to the download page. However, the security feature is that the link/download is only live for 24 hours. This makes it harder to ‘share’ an ebook, since many email providers won’t let people email large files to each other. Just adds a layer of hassle. Go to the site and check it out as you can signup and test it for a month for only $4. Once you see how easy it is, you’ll be hooked.
Oh yes, and they also have a built-in affiliate program – so that you can have other sites advertising/offering your book and whenever a sale comes from them (your affiliates), they will automatically get a commission on the sale (you can set the commission at whatever percentage you want). They offer many more useful features, so go to their site and check it out.
I used 1shoppingcart.com for about 5 years and was really happy with it, until we outgrew it and our marketing got too complex/extensive for it. Now we use a CRM (customer response management) system called InfusionSoft, since we also have the LTYG Holistic Health Shoppe with over 300 products:
Getting Your Book Printed
48hour Books is a company in Ohio that is really good for short-run, softcover or hardcover books (no minimum order) – that way you can have books in stock if someone wants the physical book, with minimal investment. I recently published a 136-page softcover book on natural healing for constipation with them and they did a great job – production, communication, delivery, etc. – everything was no hassle and delivered as promised.
If you’re planning to sell on Amazon though, then your best option may be a company affiliated with Amazon called Create Space. This service allows you to print-on-demand only the number of copies you need. You submit your book design files and they will keep them on file and just print and bind the number of copies you request – and the print cost is very competitive.
Once your book is printed, you then have two options. You can sell your books through Amazon (i.e. the customer has ordered your book through Amazon) and Amazon will handle shipping and fulfillment of that book to the customer, plus any customer service issues.
Or you can order your books to sell on your own website, at your seminars, workshops etc. To do this, you simply place an order of your book with Create Space and again, there’s no minimum order. So you can order 10 books or 100 books. Here’s quick look at the pricing guidelines on Create Space. They also do DVDs and CDs as well.
Since companies change their pricing, you would do best to compare the pricing of 48hour Books and Create Space – taking into account Create Space’s affiliation with Amazon, and then choose the solution that will work best for you.
Hardcover Book vs Softcover Book
If you are printing any kind of book that your readers will be in and out of, or refer to again and again, then you’ll want to go with a hardcover. And ideally with a smythe-sewn and glued binding. This will ensure the book can stand up to repeated wear and tear.
I have a 500-page book called Listen To Your Gut that my readers repeatedly refer to as their ‘bible’, or they tell me they carry it everywhere with them. Yet I have never had a complaint that the book fell apart because it is hardcover, and both smythe-sewn and glued.
The other occasion where you might want to print hardcover, is if your book has a prestige, or showcase element to it. Think of a coffee-table book – it just wouldn’t be the same in softcover.
Hardcover also has a much higher perceived value than softcover. So if you’re positioning your book as an elite or premium product, or again, playing on the prestige, or design element, then hardcover makes sense.
For all else, softcover is usually fine. Keep in mind that most readers of fiction books prefer softcover books, because they are more comfortable to hold and carry. Books that are meant to be stuffed in a purse or pocket, or taken traveling, are also better as softcover, because they’re lighter.
How Many Should I Print?
Don’t even think about printing 500 or 1000 copies of your book until you have established a sales record. It’s not uncommon for a niche publication to only sell 20 books per month. At that rate, it would take you over 2 years to sell out a print run of 1000 copies, by which time some of your information will probably be out of date.
Also, another big reason to print small runs is that no matter how well you’ve edited your book, after it’s published, your readers will call your attention to all the errors you missed! If you only print 50 or 100 books at a time, you can easily fix these errors before the next print run.
Book Cover Design
Okay, last nugget to share (my publishing company: www.caramal.com has been running for over ten years now so I’ve had a fair bit of experience) when you want to get your ebook formatted and a cover design done, definitely use Elance.com to source a cheap-as-chips designer from India, Russia, China, etc. In fact, due to the competition in this marketplace you can often find a North American designer who will quote for only a little bit more.
I once had an ebook design template done for me for only $70 (using Elance) and then I just changed the title and the photo for each of the eight ebooks in the series. Here’s 3 of them, so you can see the kind of quality you can get for a very cheap price:
You can also use elance.com to source your website designer, etc. The cost differential is astounding. There is no charge to you to post your project and receive quotes for the job (the provider pays Elance the brokerage commission). I outsource everything now. My long-term computer programmer for $20/hour is in Pune, India, my latest logo design project was done in Buenos Aires, my forum management (to keep out porn, spam etc.) is done in Assam for $5/hour, my virtual assistants for customer service are in Los Angeles and Washington, etc. etc.
If you use www.elance.com it will be very cheap to get your ebook ready and available. You can also use Elance to have your book formatted and uploaded to Kindle.
Another great place to get your book cover design done, is at BookBaby. They have simple or deluxe design packages at different prices, with a very fast turnaround time.
Both Kindle and CreateSpace host free eBook cover creators – where you login and create your own cover from templates they provide.
You’ll have to balance your design esthetic with your budget and then choose the best design service you can afford. If you can’t afford to pay for design, then don’t let that stop you! At the end of the day, your site visitors and people from your email list KNOW you and they know the quality of your content. They will not be put off purchasing by the fact that your book has a plain cover.
Test Different Formats
Then, when your book or eBook or Kindle book is ready, just test it and see which version your market prefers! You can’t know anything for sure until you test, as each person’s market is slightly different. The good news is, if you follow my tips here, you can keep your production cost really low, so if you find that Kindle works better for you than selling ebooks off your site, no problem. Either offer both, or just link to Kindle from your site instead.
I’m going to close this article, with a quote from Jack Cheng, a debut novelist who used Kickstarter as the platform to raise money (crowdfunding) to publish his first novel. Keep in mind, that Jack’s day-job is as a designer and advertising copywriter in the technology field:
Why I’m Printing a Physical Book
For all the distances we travel between the pages of the book, the physical object itself is a souvenir of that experience. Like all souvenirs, the object is a memory device, so that when our eyes glance over the cover on our shelves, we are pulled momentarily and subconsciously into these past worlds and emotions. The nicks and creases and tea stains that patina the object over time further ground it in our memories, reminding us of where we were when we read the book, what we were doing, who we were with. The object is a conversation hook, an invitation to friends who stop by before going out on Friday night, and strangers you meet on the train in the sweltering New York summer. And the object is a ticket to return, a ticket that never expires.
I buy physical books. I buy e-books. Both have their advantages, but I believe that at this moment in time, a physical book is still a vastly superior interface for the stories I cherish. These are the books I find myself reading over and over again. These books have hard covers but they are also soft and yielding—they are forgiving to our different ways of highlighting and annotating. They can be dog-eared and marked up and still work when you drop them. They may not have search boxes, but their contents are imminently discoverable, especially when you’re not sure what exactly it is you’re trying to find. And they never run out of batteries.