In the past, printing a book looked like this:
Luckily, it’s a lot easier these days, especially with ebook publishing. Obviously, the economics are quite different: to set up a print run of a book like that in the video requires a large team of people, many resources, and expensive machinery. To set up a new ebook for sale, it costs a few pennies worth of storage space on a server, which can be easily recouped by the publisher’s percentage of sales.
In trying to learn more about my customers for LiberWriter, I’ve been reading several internet forums where self-publishers congregate, and a common question that seems to come up is how to do the “complete” self publishing thing: both print and ebooks.
With the incredible growth of ebooks lately, to me that seems like the wrong approach. Having a run of your books printed involves a lot of “sunk costs” for something you’re not sure will sell well. Even print on demand costs a bit more to get set up, especially if you want your book to look nice. Ebooks, on the other hand, are all about content – they all look pretty much the same on a device like the Kindle, so it doesn’t matter if you don’t have someone to do a beautiful layout for you. Your only sunk costs are going to be tools, a cover, and some editing, which you’d need for a printed book in any case.
This suggests a strategy: why not publish your book using an “incremental” strategy? Get it out there as an ebook – it’s faster and cheaper. Then start concentrate on marketing it, and seeing how much interest there is. If sales are going well, then invest the time in getting set up to have it printed. If you’re not selling a lot, go back and work more on your marketing, and avoid, in the meantime, the costs involved in a print version. In this way, you spend money only when it’s needed, not in anticipation of demand for your book that you’re not sure will materialize.