Cozy Mystery Publishing, Writing

Ebooks, Print, or Both? | Cozy Mystery Publishing Process

Ebook or Print.png

This post is part of my series on “Publishing a Cozy Mystery.” This series isn’t meant to tell you how you have to go about it and dictate what’s right or wrong. Instead, I’m sharing my personal journey from writing my initial draft to seeing my first book, Murder at the Marina, be released. I’ll talk about the good, bad, and the ugly. And trust me, there was plenty of ugly along the way.

Last time I talked to you about my decision to go wide, rather than enroll in Amazon KDP Select / Kindle Unlimited. This time, it’s about my next big decision—should I publish ebooks, paperbacks, or both formats?

Ereaders and living on a sailboat

Several years ago, my husband thought he had come up with the best present idea ever—he was going to get me an ereader. Unfortunately, I didn’t exactly respond with the level of enthusiasm he was hoping for. I’m one of those people who loves print books. I used to spend hours looking at my bookshelves, rearranging my books, and visiting bookstores to add even more books to my overflowing shelves.

Then we moved onto a sailboat in New Zealand. An extremely tiny sailboat. It was time to downsize and one of the casualties was my collection of books. That’s when I discovered the joys of ereaders. I could have tons and tons of books that took up no space whatsoever. I became a full-fledged member of the Kindle revolution. So when it came time to publish my first book, having an ebook version was a no-brainer.

But what about a paperback version? Did anyone out there even buy them anymore?

The case for publishing paperbacks

I knew I was going to publish a paperback version regardless of whether anyone would buy it or not. I liked the idea of being able to hold an actual printed book in my hands that had my name on it, kind of like a “trophy” in a way. Plus, my family had requested signed copies and you can’t really say no to your mom, can you? And, it turned out that buying your own author copies through Amazon isn’t all that expensive (you just pay printing cost, not Amazon’s mark-up), although you do have to factor in shipping.

But there are other benefits to publishing print copies of your book:

1 – Pre-Orders on Amazon

If you go down the ebook pre-order route on Amazon and you publish the print version at the same time, the “look inside” feature will be enabled and people can check out the beginning of your book which might tempt them to click the Buy button. {By the way, you can’t do pre-orders for print books on Amazon, something I found out about the hard way.}

People you’ve given ARCs (advance reader copies) to can post reviews on the paperback edition and they’ll show up on Amazon before your ebook goes live.

2 – Getting a Bargain

Amazon displays the print list price and the Kindle list price and notes how much you can save by going with the ebook. For some people, this might make them feel like they’re getting a real bargain. For example, the paperback version of Murder at the Marina is $10.99, while the ebook currently sells for $2.99, a 73% savings according to Amazon.

3 – Getting into Bricks and Mortar Bookstores

Some folks want to see their books for sale at their local bookstore. So, making a paperback or hard cover version of their book is important to them and by using a distribution network like Ingram Spark, it’s possible. Probably challenging, but possible. I can imagine that it would be pretty exciting to see your book on the shelves, but, to be honest, that wasn’t a driver for me for going down the print copy route.

4 – Selling at Events

I’m thinking that I might put a sign up offering Murder at the Marina for sale at our marina in the autumn when cruisers start coming back and getting their boats ready for the winter season sailing in Florida and the Bahamas. I don’t know if I’ll get any takers, but I can offer the books for a lower price than they would pay if they bought through one of the online retailers.

Other authors do something similar, bringing print copies of their books to conventions, talks they might give at libraries, local events, conferences, book signings etc. Some people like buying books directly from the author and getting a chance to interact with them.

What about the cost?

I chose to go through both Amazon KDP and Ingram Spark for print-on-demand. {Print-on-demand means that when someone orders a paperback, they print it off then and there and ship it to them, rather than storing boxes of books in a warehouse waiting for orders.} I use Amazon KDP to distribute on Amazon and Ingram Spark to distribute elsewhere (like Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, and Book Depository). I’ll talk more about the set-up process in a future post, but for now, let’s just talk about the cost.

Amazon KDP doesn’t charge a set-up fee or fee for making changes, which is awesome. Ingram Spark charges $49 to set up your title, with a $25 fee every time you want to make a change. But they seem to regularly offer promo codes for free set-up. I happened to set up my book using one of these codes, so my cost was zero.

The only cost I incurred was for an ISBN (unique book identifier)—you need a new one for each edition you publish—which cost me $29.50 from Bowker (based on buying a block of ten). ISBNs are actually free for our lucky neighbors in Canada, but Americans have to shell out money for them. You can, of course, opt to use the free one provided by Amazon KDP instead, but there are pros and cons with that approach, and, if you go down the Ingram Spark route, I don’t believe they offer free ISBNs.

So, although I didn’t really expect to sell any paperbacks, I was okay with spending $29.50 to be able to hold a print copy in my hands and send copies to my family.

Much to my surprise, I found that a number of people (as well as one library system) have been buying the paperback version, despite how much more they cost than the ebook. I guess there are still people out there who’d much rather hold a real book in their hands.

Want to know more?

Just Publishing Advice asks the question, Should I self-publish in paperback?

Small Blue Dog presents case studies from several authors about their experiences publishing in both ebook and print formats.

Alliance of Independent Authors podcast on whether indie authors can make money with print books.

Description of how the print-on-demand process at Ingram Spark works on The Creative Penn

Derek Murphy on why you should launch your ebook before you think about creating a print version.

If you’re interested in digging into detailed numbers, check out the 2016 US Trade Publishing report from the Data Guy at Author Earnings.

Molly Greene looks at whether it pays to do print books.

Other posts in my “Publishing a Cozy Mystery” series:

Cover Design | Draft #743 | Beta Readers | Traditional vs. Self-Publishing | Editing | Going Wide or Amazon Exclusive | Ebooks, Print, or Both | Book Formatting| Distribution Channels | Book Release in Numbers | Blog Tours | ARCs (Advance Reader Copies) | Large Print Books

What about you? Do you prefer ebooks or print books?

Murder at the Marina Banner - Available Now

A dilapidated sailboat for your anniversary—not very romantic. A dead body on board—even worse.

Pick up your own copy of this lighthearted and humorous cozy mystery (ebook and paperback) at:

Amazon (US) | Amazon (CA) | Amazon (UK) | Amazon (AU) | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Apple iBooks | Google Play | Book Depository | Books-A-Million

You can also add Murder at the Marina to your to-read list on Goodreads and subscribe to my newsletter here.

17 thoughts on “Ebooks, Print, or Both? | Cozy Mystery Publishing Process”

  1. Thank you so much for the information on your experience. I am still in the writing stage so I’m gathering information for distribution as I go along. Your article is a great resource. I wish you lots of luck in your book success!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I go ahead and make print copies because I like having the “trophy” but also because there are people who don’t read ebooks and who have been wonderful enough to buy my books. I’m so thankful for that.
    Additionally, my mom and dad would never read an e-book and they like to read most of everything I write. (So, I have to keep things cozy and light in the romance department as well, even in fantasy fiction.)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s so sweet that your parents read your books 🙂 I’m really thankful for all of the people who’ve bought paperbacks as well considering how much more they are than the ebook version.


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