Diary of a Novice Literary PublicistBy Amy Holland, with Guest Andrew Norton of Surfer Dad: Surf Blog by a Wave Starved Father

With technological advances in the digital age and the relative ease of self-publishing, many self-published authors lean toward publishing e-only titles rather than both print and e-books. Of course, one reason is the added expense of producing hard copies. Preparing a print file also requires extra work: laying out the book block, getting the spine measurement correct, and preparing a back cover.

But for the self-published author who is serious about marketing and promoting his book, the benefits of having hard copies are worth the added cost and extra work it takes to produce them, especially in relation to:

* Appealing to Reviewers

* Professional Image

* Utilizing Promotional Tools

Blogger Andrew Norton joins me in this post to help shed some light on the importance of hard copies.

Appealing to Reviewers

We all know how important reviews are, and not just on Amazon and Goodreads, but also from bloggers and other media sources. Some of those reviewers prefer hard copies, and for good reasons.

Norton: I spend my whole working day and most evenings staring into a computer screen. Reading from paper is a relief from the brightly lit screens. A paper version helps me detach from work as there are no emails, social alerts, or other distractions competing for my attention in the background.

As one reviewer explains in her post Why I Prefer Hard Copies Over E-Books, “I am more motivated to review a book when I have it in hand. Not only is it a visual reminder, but it is a visual stimulation that engages me.” She further explains, “Ebooks just do not provide this feeling to me at all. I find that if they are not in sight, they are out of mind. The more memorable an author or publisher . . . the more I am likely to recommend their work . . . .”

Providing reviewers with their preferred format not only makes their reading experience more enjoyable, but can actually be a deciding factor in whether some—particularly those who review as a hobby—will read your book in the first place.

Norton: If an author wants their book read, they need to make it as easy as possible for everyone to read it. I do not use Kindle, iPads, or iPhones to read books. So if a paper version isn’t made available, I won’t read it. If I were getting paid to review books, I would perhaps be a little more accommodating, but I’m not. I review books on my blog as a hobby, on my own time, without financial gain. I think if I started to read books on my electronic devices, reading would soon start to feel like work.

Professional Image

Self-published authors with e-only titles, ask yourself this question: what message am I sending to potential readers?

Norton: My gut reaction [to e-only titles] is that the author published the book half-heartedly. I know that isn’t always true, but I can’t help thinking it. If you have confidence in your product, give it everything you’ve got. Adopt a ‘print it and they will come’ attitude. Anyone can self-publish a book on Amazon, but offering a print version sets an author apart. If you can offer a print version, do it. Otherwise, you are potentially losing sales, and maybe credibility.

Like it or not, Norton is right. It’s hardly fair to expect others to take you seriously if you don’t put forth effort and show that you believe in your own work.

And as I mentioned in Challenging the Stigma of Self-Publishing, self-published authors already have difficulty getting people to take them seriously due to fallacies and generalized assumptions. But a factor that fuels the stigma is lack of professionalism. Making hard copies available helps with that.

Chris Robley (editor of BookBaby) mentions in Nancy’s Baumann’s e-Book vs. Print Book . . . It’s Not an Either/Or Situation!, that having print copies establishes “legitimacy in the eyes of fans, as well as industry professionals.” Robley explains that “[m]any in the publishing industry don’t take e-only titles seriously. Some folks also assume that if a book is only available digitally, it may not have been good enough to warrant a print run.” Robley advises, “[F]or now the print book is still the standard. So make yourself look like a serious contender.”

And producing hard copies helps with more than just appearance; there really is an extra degree of professionalism required to prepare a quality print edition. It will force you to pay more attention to details, which will help you present your self-published work in the most professional light possible.

Utilizing Promotional Tools

Having hard copies also allows authors to take advantage of certain promotional tools. The Goodreads Giveaway feature, for example, can really bolster attention to a book. But the Goodreads Giveaway program only accepts “physical editions” of books to participate; the terms and conditions expressly state, “eBooks and downloads are not allowed in the giveaway program.”

In running a Goodreads Giveaway for twelve copies of Psycho-Tropics, the first day we got more than one hundred participants, and even better, fifty people added the book to their “want to read” list. Again, that was just on the first day. The number of participants doubled within the first ten days. That’s a lot of attention in a short amount of time, and it wouldn’t have happened if Psycho-Tropics had been published as an e-only title. (Btw, you still have fifteen days to enter the Psycho-Tropics Goodreads Giveaway).

Moreover, as Norton mentions: You can’t sign an e-book!

Excellent point. A great way for a self-published author to promote her books is through signing events, whether at a book store or a flea market. AuthorHouse offers information on how to set up book signings for self-published authors here: Planning, Promoting, and Conducting a Worthwhile Book Signing.

Bottom Line

You definitely need to prepare an e-book version of your work. No doubt about it. Kindle copies, for example, outsell hard copies for most books. But don’t overlook the compelling reasons for producing print books.

Psycho-Tropics is like riding Pipeline with a hangover. It’s jaw dropping, heart thumping and addictively exhilarating, but with a hint of disorientation, dizziness and an unsettled stomach. But by the end you’ll be smiling ear to ear and bursting to tell your mates how good it was.”
— Andrew Norton, Surfer Dad UK

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