Indie Authors and the Paperback Market

Paperback MarketIn my last post, What Indie Authors Know – The Wall Street Journal Is Behind The Times, I teased you all with the question if the only way an indie author can make a buck is by publishing ebooks.  Well, my answer is a resounding No.  But the first thing the indie author must understand is the marketplace, so please read the previous post if you haven’t.  Done?  Good.  As you can see, there is a paperback market (we can get into hardcover vs. paperback publishing in another post).

Indie Authors and the Paperback Market

Catchy title, right?  But I’ll bet some of you are shaking your heads.  Ebooks are the future, they are taking over the market.  Right?  Maybe, but there is still a paperback market right now, if for no other reason than to earn back your editing and cover costs.  In my opinion, every indie author should be publishing paperbacks as well as ebooks.  It’s not about vanity, it’s about opportunity, specifically marketing and profit opportunity.  Let me use myself as an example.  For me, paperback publishing is as easy as CreateSpace and it’s been worth it.

The Paperback Market – The Simplicity of CreateSpace

I don’t want to get into a CreateSpace vs. Lulu or other POD publisher debate here – I chose to use CreateSpace because it was so easy to use.  Now, I am familiar with formatting for a 6×9 book because I self-published my novel Nephilim Genesis of Evil in 2007, so I had a template to work from.  It only took me a couple of hours to format my new books, This Doesn’t Happen In The Movies and Reel Estate Rip-off, for publication.  I have a nice book with formatting like you’d see in any other paperback.  I did have to pay for the spine and back cover (I had already had the front cover designed for the eBook).  Let’s get into some numbers.

The Paperback Market – Cost of My Book

I paid $175 for the cover, front, spine and back (I know, this may have been too much but, like the CreateSpace vs. Lulu issue, that’s another debate for another time).  It cost nothing for me to format the book, but I did pay $350 for editing.  So I’ve got a total of $525 for the book.  I have no up-front printing costs from CreateSpace, nor do I have any for publishing the eBook on Amazon.

The Paperback Market – Profits from My Book

Here’s where I believe many indie authors are missing the boat (and if you read my post about the Wall Street Journal, this is where indie author Darcie Chan is missing the boat as well).  I sell an eBook for 99 cents (I may raise this price later but since I’m trying to gain readers, I’ve kept it priced low).  So I get 35 cents per eBook sold.

Here’s how the pricing breaks down per paperback book:  book cost $3.56, shipping per book $0.60.  So each book essentially cost me $4.16 wholesale (I did pay $39 for CreateSpace’s premium catalog services, but to keep things simple, I won’t include that cost here).  I’ve priced the book at $13.95 so I make $9.79 per book I sell.  If I sell through CreateSpace or Amazon, I get $7.60 and $4.81 per sale respectively.  Other distribution channels pay $2.02.

The Paperback Market – It’s Working for Me

As you can see, I make a heck of a lot more with paperback publishing than I do for my eBooks.  Now, I don’t expect to sell tons of paperback books, and I do believe that the eBook format is what will sell for me in the long run.  But in the short-term, I have a lot of family, friends, neighbors and so on who enjoy getting a signed book from me (who am I kidding, some of them are delighted).  Your network of family and friends might too.

Once the paperback version was available, I bought 30 copies.   I’ve sold them all in less than two weeks – that’s a profit of $293.70.  I’m more than halfway to recouping the total costs for this book.  And I’ve hardly tapped into my social network.  I am also going to approach a couple of local mystery book stores to see if they’ll carry my books.  I can deliver the books myself and guarantee returns on the books that don’t sell.

Furthermore, some libraries will take books from POD publishers (like CreateSpace), and contrary to popular opinion, as an indie author, you can get your paperback books into Barnes & Noble (I did this in 2007 with Nephilim).  You have to show Barnes & Noble your marketing channels and how you can sell books, but you can get books there if you really want to.

The Paperback Market – My Conclusion

Will I be able to retire on my paperback sales?  No, but at least I can get into the black much sooner than if I was selling eBooks only.  As an indie author, I need to explore all the channels out there, and I need to be creative in how I sell books.  Remember, too, there’s no better advertizing than seeing someone holding or reading your book.  A great cover can go a long way toward selling your book, and there are still readers who want to hold a book in their hands.  So give them that option.

What do you think?  Is the paperback market for you?  Is it worth it or is it a hassle?  Let me know your thoughts!

PS – Thanks to everyone who is a fan of Nephilim Genesis of Evil.  It hit #75 on Amazon’s Christian/Books and Literature/Mystery section and it’s climbing the main charts!  Many thanks!

Image: Exsodus /

About Renée Pawlish

Award-winning author Renée Pawlish writes the bestselling horror book, Nephilim Genesis of Evil, the Reed Ferguson mystery series, short stories and non-fiction ghost stories.
This entry was posted in Indie Author Handbook, Promoting Your Books and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Indie Authors and the Paperback Market

  1. J.C. Martin says:

    There is definitely a paperback market for indie authors, and yes, one with a way bigger profit margin than e-books will ever have. Also, there are always people who prefer good old print on paper, with the author’s signature to boot.

    Congrats on NEPHILIM’s success!

  2. LL Muir says:

    LOVE it. I’m going to head over to Create Space and see if I can figure it out on my own. I’m dying to hold my book in my hands! Thanks for the confidence boost.

  3. I like the idea of having a choice between paperback and electronic. Although I am now buying mostly electronic, I do still like to give a book when I give a gift, or if I want to have it signed. Great post, Renee!

    • ReneePawlish says:

      Glad you liked the post, and thanks for commenting. There’s no doubt that ebooks are the wave of the future, but we have to consider now as well.

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