Should I Put My Books in Print?

By Sean Platt

Today I want to talk about print books because we’re asked a lot by authors about whether they produce a print version of their book.

(If you prefer audio, you can listen to this episode on the Smarter Artist Podcast)

As always, we really need to start with why, because there isn’t a clear yes or no to this answer.

Our very first books we produced, before there was a Sterling and Stone, when there was just a Collective Inkwell and me nagging Dave for more, more, more, we had four different books that we put into print.

Available Darkness, before it was a serial and it was just a stand alone novel.

My very first book, which was a collection of twelve intersecting short stories called Four Seasons.

Penny to a Million which later became a Guy Incognito book, but was actually the first thing I ever completed.

And our first, it’s now a Smarter Artist title but it was just my first actual non-fiction book and kind of brain drain on all the stuff I learned in the first three years, Write It Online.

All four of those books we put into print, and all four of those books sold almost nothing in print.

It was a great exercise. It was a great learning thing for us. I’m glad we did it. It kind of got us going because Kindle was already out, but Kindle wasn’t a thing yet. It had not exploded.

It wasn’t the same now where you can get this kind of immediate reach, and to us indie publishing print was part of that.

We even looked into doing a full print run of a couple of our books just to see how that would go. I’m really glad we didn’t because all those books sold nil.

Now almost everything goes to print.

shutterstock_397576393We were really good about this last year, we got a lot of our stuff to print.

Now, we’re on pause because we’re doing the optimizing of all of our stuff, which means we’re getting 16 new titles, which means that we are going through our print versions one by one and having to update the print both soft back and had back, along with new audio book coves.

It’s a very, very big undertaking this year.

Yes, all of our stuff now goes to soft cover and hard cover, actually not all of it and I’ll get to that in a second.

You just have to ask yourself if it’s worth it.

Because for almost the first three years for us, it was not worth it. Now it is worth it. And not because we drive any huge amount of revenue from print, there’s just a few other reasons that really make it worth it.

To think about print globally, I don’t think print is going anywhere at all. You’ll hear it a lot that print is dying. I don’t think print is dying so much as changing.

What I do think is dying, if not close to dead, is the mass market paperback.

We used to see those everywhere. They were disposable. You’d buy them for $5, you read it, you throw it away.

E-readers have kind of replaced that. I’d much rather read on my iPad than buy a mass market paperback and I think it will be that way forever.

There will be a digital version taking over that mass market print in that way. But for us, that’s so not the reason that we’re doing it.

Our fiction accounts for very little of overall print sales.

Non-fiction is much, much larger. Write, Publish, Repeat does really well in print. So much so, that CreateSpace placed an order for copies before they were even purchased. I think it was 100 copies that they bought, just to have them in stock so there was no waiting period for the customer, which I think is really awesome.

I’d say Write, Publish, Repeat probably sells more than all of our fiction titles combined. That’s okay. That’s not why we do it.

shutterstock_387039913We do print so that our true and die hard fans who actually want to hold a tangible copy of our book can do that.

Print books are terrific for contests. If you’re running contests and you want to give books away to your best fans, that’s a great thing to do, or for in-person events.

The bottom line is print books make you look more professional. They make you look like a pro.

The bottom line is print books make you look more professional. They make you look like a pro. Click To Tweet

If you want your book to stand out in the marketplace and not look independently published, clearly a professional looking cover is a really important part of that.

If you go the next step and put your really professional looking cover on a print book, on an audio book, on a hard back book, these are things that make you stand out.

Honestly, as a creator, it’s wonderful to hold a book in your hand and say I did this, I wrote this. I know that I really love holding the books that we wrote, having that tangible ephemeral proof of what we created in my hand. I love it.

I love to share it with my children. I love to share it with my wife. I love to have them on the bookshelf staring back at me. It makes me feel great.

So, there is value in that.

But it’s not a one size fits all solution.

It’s a yes on all our books for Realm and Sands, Collective Inkwell and we’re getting all of Guy Incognito stuff into print, and Lexxi’s books.

Autumn Cole is a sub-pen name of Lexxi, which is our adult romance imprint and Autumn Cole is just pure erotica, and not in print. It’s sex before story, where Lexxi is story before sex. In that case, most people don’t want print versions of that. It is a disposable thing. They want to read it on their Kindle and probably bury it. Not even let people know they read it.

While those stories need to be really great, and they need to serve their purpose, print isn’t part of that purpose.

As far as getting your books to print, just know what you want and don’t be in a hurry.

We’ve put our first books into print, sold nothing and then didn’t bother with print for another two years, and now are aggressively pursuing it across almost all of our titles.

That’s what works for us. Do what works for you and just know why.

Sean Platt is the founder of Sterling & Stone and loves that he not only gets paid to make up stories and come up with crazy ideas, but that he gets to do so with his best friends. Together, they've also co-authored the bestselling non-fiction titles Write. Publish. Repeat., Fiction Unboxed, and Iterate & Optimize to help Smarter Artists get smarter, faster.

Sean lives in Austin, Texas with his wife Cindy and their two children, Ethan and Haley.

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