Sunday, May 13, 2007
Recent events have me thinking about epublishers that put out print copies. Writers want print copies, on the whole. Of course we do. Print books are real books, you can show them to your grandmother, take them to signings and so forth. Most of us would probably even sacrifice a degree of monetary income to have a print version of our books.
But print is hard. Print books are returnable pretty much in perpetuity. Returned books are not even a break even proposition, they are a financial loss for the publisher that trickles in years after they have already paid royalties. Print books are hell to get into stores and even more of a pain in the ass when they come back from them unsold. The profit margin on a trade paperbacks is slim. The cost benefit ratio not so great.
I see writers opting for publishers who guarantee a print editions and I understand that, I've done it myself. But emotional decisions, decisions to do with having something to hold in your hands and show off, are not sound business decisions. And small publishers who invest heavily in taking multiple books to print every week are taking a much bigger gamble than those that stick to e-books. A gamble that it seems, even for some of the front runners, does not always pay off.