If you follow publishing news at all, you’ll have read that the Association of American Publishers announced revenue was down 5.1% in 2016 (from 2015). Adult fiction declined 0.9%. But children’s and YA grew 5.9%, and almost 90% of those sales were in print.
My current WIP is a YA novel, and I won’t give it to anyone who won’t do a print copy. In fact, I’ve decided I won’t give any book to anyone who won’t give it a print run. If that means I self-publish, so be it. I’ve had more success with my self-published books anyway.
Some of it is simply that I want my books to be, well, books. Sure it is. I think many authors want that. But some of my motivation stems from the fact that it’s much harder to market just an ebook. I can’t show it off at conferences or put it on author tables for people to peruse. No one browsing a bookstore or library is going to stumble across it if it’s only in electronic format. And I can’t do a Goodreads giveaway for something that isn’t a physical book.
Also, ebooks fell 16.9% in 2016 from 2015. Almost everyone I talk to who reads prefers actual books. Many will read ebooks if they have no other choice, but most still show a preference for the “real” deal.
Yes, yes, a book is a book no matter its format. I agree in theory. I also read both physical books and ebooks. More and more books are only in e-format, so . . .
But if I examine my own behavior, I will almost always reach for a real book over trying to find something to download. My Kindle is full of books I may never read because I’d rather have a physical book in my hands. This article talks about how we don’t take in information the same way from a screen as from a page, which explains why some of us have such a strong preference for the printed word.
I don’t think ebooks are going away, and I’ll continue to put my books out in e-format as well, but I do feel as though I’m cutting my potential market short if/when there isn’t a physical book on offer. So often at author events I’ll have a my printed books on the table and a sign posted presenting my other works (ebooks). And people will point at the sign and ask, “Do you have this one?” And I have to tell them it’s only online. Then one of two things happens: (a) they take my card and say they’ll look it up, which may or may not ever happen, or (b) they say, “Oh, I don’t have an e-reader.” Either way, I’m left with disappointment and so, in a sense, are they. And I don’t want people walking away from my table feeling disappointed.
“So don’t post about your other books,” you say. But I don’t think that’s fair to me, curbing my ability to showcase my work. I write a lot of different things, and don’t want readers to miss out on something they might enjoy, might even be looking for.
“Print books don’t sell.” I hear that a lot too. But they can and do if you find the right places to market them. I don’t sell as many print books in a year, possibly because I don’t attend as many author events as so many other authors I know. But I find my print books to be great for giveaways and to get my name under people’s noses in a way ebooks just don’t. Readers still prize a physical book above an electronic one. For as long as that’s true—for as long as my readers would rather have a “real” book—then as an author it must necessarily be true for me, too.