Sunday, May 13, 2007

Print is Hard

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.


Imp said...

I have felt the pull of print as a stamp of legitimacy, but I've since shifted my attitude. You are correct in that there's more profit margin in digital publication for both the authors and the publishers. These days, I'm looking at print as a means of luring readers to ebooks. I want a publisher that will support this approach.

At the big-ass Bookfair at RT recently, I sold/signed more CDs than print -- and that made me VERY happy. I hope it's a trend!

Amanda Young said...

There's a very strong lure for seeing your book in print. I admit, I'm shallow enough to want to hold those babies in my hands and pet them a little.

Having two publishers, one who does print and one who only does it for top sellers, I've found that if I write something long enough to qualify for print, I'm more apt to send it where there's a better chance of having it come out in paperback.

That's a self-indulgent move on my part, because sales from a paperback are slim and take forever to come in (or so I've been told). Also, an epublished author makes more on the ebooks they sell, than what they'll bring in with print copies anyway. So, it shouldn't really matter, but it does...

Jules Jones said...

One of the reasons I'm in epublishing in the first place is that I tend to write odd lengths that aren't suitable for print publication (other than in an anthology). So it's actually irrelevant for a lot of my work. And because I write m/m, I've run into the "file it in gay and lesbian studies" problem on the one book that did go to print. It's nice to have a physical object I can show to people, but my real interest in print is having it in the bookstore where it gets my name in front of more people who might then go and buy some of the e-only titles, and that's simply not happening because it's m/m. It's not my publisher's fault, as they have a distribution deal with Borders, and I've seen plenty of their straight titles in the romance section in my local shop.