Ink or Liquid Crystal? – Why Not Both?

Ebooks are brilliant, but printed books are far from dead. If you are an indie author, you really should be maximising your options by going for both. Read on…
Rare Traits pbk v ebookMy previous post looked at going into print via a print-on-demand service – in my case, Amazon’s CreateSpace. Since that post was written, I have had a couple of very positive experiences with CreateSpace that I’d like to share.

The first is a general observation: paperbacks sell!!

Now, I should start out by saying that the overall sales of Rare Traits are not exactly earth-shattering at present, but at least the flow is still a trickle  – and I hope things will improve with and following the free promo over Christmas. But the interesting point is that for this month – December – sales of the paperback version have matched sales of the ebook.

This has certainly surprised me; I didn’t really expected to sell more than maybe one or two at best.

So, if you are a self-published indie concentrating on the ebook market and soaking up the wisdom put out on many blogs that physical books are dead, think again. My humble advice from my admittedly limited experience would be not to turn your back on the paperback market. It needn’t cost you a penny, apart from the very necessary step of ordering and checking your own proof copy. All it requires is a little time for formatting (see previous post) and you’ll have a physical version of your masterpiece available, and a much wider market.

Even if you have gone totally electronic yourself, dumped your library of paperbacks and hardbacks and are feeling very self-satisfied and liberated, remember: there are still many, many people out there who haven’t and won’t. Ever. They are potential customers. By ignoring them, you are doing yourself no favours.

Now, if you ‘go paperback’ you can stop here and just have the paperback version up there alongside the ebook on the Amazon site. But if you want a few copies yourself, either to give away or to sign and sell directly, then the next point is also relevant.

The second +++ experience with CreateSpace has been the unbelievable efficiency of their printing and shipping operation.

As the author, you can buy copies of your book(s) at cost from CS (well, it’s probably not cost, but it’s very reasonable) and ship them wherever you like.

When you order, you get a choice of three estimated delivery times depending on how much you pay for the shipping – Standard, Expedited and Priority. Outside the US, the standard estimated delivery time is in the region of 2-4 weeks depending on where it’s going.

I have now shipped four small consignments of paperbacks of Rare Traits to the US (NYC); the UK; Phuket, Thailand and Hong Kong. So far I’ve used both standard and expedited shipping rates and, interestingly, there was no difference between them. I say this because in all four cases it would be hard to imagine the overall time between ordering and delivery being faster!  (Remember that includes printing the book, binding it, boxing it up with its friends and shipping.

Here are the stats:

US order – time between pressing the button to order and delivery: 3 days

UK order –  time between pressing the button to order and delivery: 4 days

HK order –  time between pressing the button to order and delivery: 5 days

Phuket order –  time between pressing the button to order and delivery: 6 days.

For the Phuket order, one day involved transit through Bangkok.

For the HK order, I ordered on 17 Dec (Thai time) with standard shipping. Estimated date of delivery was 6 February 2013. Actual date of delivery: 22 December 2012!!


Now it might be that I am CS’s only customer and that the gang at the North Carolina facility where the printing is done are just hanging around waiting for my next order. But I doubt it.

The bottom line is that they are supremely efficient both on these orders and on orders of the book that individual purchasers have made from the Amazon site – again a few days max.

As a rider, just to show that nobody’s perfect, I should add that the only time the process wasn’t efficient was when I ordered the proof copy. I paid for expedited delivery, timed carefully for the book’s arrival to coincide with mine in the UK when I was on a brief trip from Italy. I was only there for a few days and the book arrived a week later than estimated! It finally caught up with me in Phuket, brought by visitors. (I chose not to suffer the vagaries of delivery to Italy where I live when not in Phuket. The local Italian couriers simply refuse to deliver anything, ever, to my house, preferring instead to negotiate by phone for a mutually agreeable delivery point – normally the village bar. OK, I live off the beaten track, but the postman delivers to the door!)

To summarise, there are still plenty of readers around who prefer ink to liquid crystal. Getting paperback versions of your titles to them is really very little hassle and for now at least, staggeringly efficient.

If you have similar (or maybe very different) experiences, I’d be delighted to hear about them.

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