2016

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.

Print or E-book?

I saw a headline from the London Book Fair today touting that, in the UK at least, print books are on the upswing. For two years running sales of print titles have gone up. Now, the article doesn’t mention if some of that rise is due to adult coloring books (which is what accounted for similar boosts in print in the U.S.), so maybe it’s much ado about very little, but…

I think most authors dream of holding their book—an actual, printed book—in their hands. Maybe as new authors grow up in the digital age, this feeling will diminish. Younger authors will be happy to have their work “on screen” (and I don’t mean a movie). And while I can say that my e-books do sell more than my print ones, at least thus far, I’d still truly love to see some of my digital titles in print format. Not for monetary reasons (see above) but for concrete satisfaction and a full sense of accomplishment.

More and more, readers online tell me they prefer “real” books. By which they mean physical, printed books. An e-book is, of course, also real, but the experience is decidedly different. Reading from a screen versus a printed page, scrolling rather than turning, even just the feel of it in one’s hands is very different. Our brains certainly take in a screen differently than they do something printed. It’s why they tell you not to look at a screen before bedtime—the interaction with a screen fires your brain up when, in the evening, you’re trying to wind it down for the night. Which makes me think that reading from an electronic device must be, to our brains at least, less relaxing than reading from a printed book.

The pros of e-books: less expensive (for both reader and publisher), faster to produce, easy to revise, one can change the size of the type to suit one’s needs, and one can carry a substantial number of them on an e-reader so that one can basically have a portable library.

The pros of print books: a different kind of engagement with the text, and that great book smell. In short, while on paper (har!) the e-book appears to have more advantages, there’s simply something satisfying about a print book. And people will give up a lot for that satisfaction, including a number of seeming conveniences. We’re not rational creatures, after all, at least not wholly. When logically we should think e-books make the most sense, we still find ourselves buying and reading physical books.

Anyway, I do have an e-reader that I sometimes use, but not nearly as much as I could. I’ll almost always reach for a print book before thinking to check my e-reader. I must have dozens of titles on the e-reader that I might never get around to actually reading, and I’ve heard the same from many other bibliophiles. They download e-books when they see a good deal (read: free, or maybe 99 cents if the books sounds interesting enough to risk a little money) and then promptly forget them. Leaves me to wonder how many of the e-books I sell remain in a never-ending TBR stack…

What about you? Do you buy e-books or print or both? Which do you read more of? Are there other pros and cons to either format? Let me know in the comments!

Virtual Book Fair

Today the Virtual Book Fair kicks off on Facebook. Visit my “booth” here. You can win prizes: an Amazon gift card, an ebook of your choice, or a signed copy of Manifesting Destiny. Enter two ways, (1) Liking my Facebook page and (2) signing up for my newsletter. If you do both, you get two entries. See how easy it is? Winners chosen at random on November 18.

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And, yeah, The Fall and Rise of Peter Stoller is just 99 cents on Amazon (both US and UK sites) throughout the weekend. So go grab it now if you haven’t already!

While you’re here, I’m going to enter another plea for your help with these kitties. They’re not looking for homes, just looking to stay in the home they already have. Please consider donating, and if you can’t do that, at least spread the word. Or buy the shirt and, as I’ve mentioned, if you email me a copy of your receipt I’ll send you a copy of one of my books as a thank-you.

Look, Tom Hiddleston loves kitties. You should, too!
Look, Tom Hiddleston loves kitties. You should, too!

(Note that Mr. Hiddleston has in no way endorsed this gofundme. But maybe he would if he knew?)

Peter On Sale & Sherlock Holmes FREE

For a limited time, you can pick up The Fall and Rise of Peter Stoller for just 99 cents on Amazon! Click here to grab it.

In 1960’s London, British Intelligence agent Peter Stoller is next in line to run the Agency—until he falls in love with cab driver, Charles, and his life goes off the road. When Charles is accused of treason, Peter is guilty by association. Peter manages to extract them both, but the seeds of doubt have been planted, putting Peter’s mind and heart at war. Is ignorance truly bliss or merely deadly?

If you like John Le Carré and stories of that ilk—”upmarket espionage” in which the plot is there but character is central—then give Peter a try!

Also, you can grab a couple of my Sherlock Holmes stories (written in the style of Doyle) for FREE on Amazon this weekend. Click here to visit my Amazon author page, and feel free to follow me there so you know when new stuff is out!

Free Sherlock Holmes Story!

Today through the 17th, my Sherlock Holmes story “The Adventure of Ichabod Reed” is free on Amazon. It’s an e-book, but remember that you don’t need an actual Kindle to read Kindle books. Amazon has apps for your phone or tablet, and you can even just read it on your computer. Click here to grab a copy. And thanks for being readers!