Should You Ever Print Your Book On Demand?

Make Paperbacks with CreateSpace: Sell More Books on AmazonThis guest post is by Reedsy writer, Desiree Villena.

In this digital day and age, it can be hard to know whether printing physical books is a worthwhile endeavor, when ebooks have become so prominent and accessible for readers. As an ebook entrepreneur, you probably haven’t spent much time considering the possibilities of printing your book on demand. After all, why spend money on additional design work and printing costs when ebooks are so much easier to format and distribute?

However, some authors may not realize the unique advantages of printed books, especially if you’re an indie author who could benefit from a bit of above-and-beyond marketing! That’s not to say printing on demand is a wise choice for every indie author, only that you shouldn’t rule it out. To that end, here are four reasons you might consider printing on demand, at least for a limited run — along with a few final considerations for those of you on the fence.

You should consider printing your book on demand if…

1. You struggle to attract early reviews

Because reviews provide concrete social proof that other readers will enjoy your book, it’s crucial to have them as soon as possible, or else readers may hesitate to buy it. In order to display reviews on your Amazon and Goodreads pages in the first days of your book launch, you’ll need to attract early reviews from a handful of reliable people.

Yes, it’s true some ebook authors find it easy to rake in tons of reviews. But more often than not it’s a serious challenge, especially when there aren’t any current reviews urging people to pick up your ebook (you might think of it as a positive feedback loop). The good news is it only takes a couple of reviews to get the ball rolling… and this is where print-on-demand comes in.

Sending physical copies of your book to select reviewers can be incredible in terms of convincing them to write and post reviews as soon as your book comes out. Not only is a physical book more aesthetically appealing and difficult to ignore than an ebook, but reviewers who receive them will be touched by the gesture, making them more likely to reciprocate with a review. (Pro tip: check out this directory of book review blogs to find reviewers who might appreciate a physical copy!)

2. You’re attending a writing conference soon

You may also benefit from printing a small number of books if you’re attending a writing conference anytime soon. Between panels and workshops, you’ll mingle with other authors and publishing professionals, and one of the most effective ways to network is to offer them a physical product — in this case, your book.

The logic tracks from the previous reason as to why this approach works so well. A printed book is a beautiful, tangible representation of yourself as an author, and giving it to someone is much more memorable than emailing them an EPUB or MOBI (though you should still have this option available). In addition, having physical copies on hand signals to literary agents and publishers present that you’re serious about your work, and take great care to present it well.

Needless to say, if you’re in pursuit of a traditional publishing deal, the stakes are high at writing conferences — hence why you should at least consider the potentially career-changing tactic of handing out printed books.

3. You want something more to offer devoted fans

On the other hand, if you’re committed to self-publishing (as most ebook authors are), you may already have a foundation of loyal readers to help you thrive. If this is the case, the third reason to consider printing on demand is simply to maintain that loyalty. Not that you wouldn’t be able to do so with ebooks alone! But from the perspective of a fan, being able to order a newly minted physical book from an author you love — whose work has heretofore existed only as ebooks — would be pretty cool, right?

So if you’ve established a strong fanbase, and especially if you’re writing a series of books, think about printing your next title on demand for readers to buy. You’re almost guaranteed to get at least a couple orders; plus your biggest fans won’t mind paying a little extra for a physical copy, so you can increase the price a bit from the ebook price. (Royalty percentages are another story, but hey, you’re hopefully not doing this entirely for the money.)

You might even combine this reason with reason #1 and send printed — and signed! — copies to your especially huge fans, with the aim of accumulating those invaluable early reviews. Not only are they more likely to have positive feedback, but again, the personal gesture will solidify them as a fan forever.

4. You’d just like a physical copy or two

All that said, you don’t need a specific, calculated reason to print your book on demand. As long as you can afford it, you can print your book anytime you want! You may simply want to hold a physical copy of your book in your own hands. If that’s your dream, don’t wait until you have a “good reason” — in the words of Nike, just do it.

You may find it gratifying to print your book for family and friends. Yes, they’ll all be proud of you for publishing in the first place… but won’t they be even more excited to see your book in the flesh? To that end, it’s never a bad idea to have a few printed copies available to give as gifts. (Not to mention that, if you want to get a sense of how other people will perceive it, reading a physical copy of your book will give you fresh eyes!)

Reasons not to print on demand

This post has covered a few common reasons to consider printing your book on demand. But these reasons depend on fairly specific situations, and if you’re unlikely to encounter any of these in the imminent future, I wouldn’t blame you for sticking to ebooks.

Also, even if the aforementioned reasons do apply to you, there are still potential drawbacks to printing on demand. Cost is perhaps the most prohibitive — not just the cost of the printing itself, but also for a spine and back cover design (which you obviously don’t need for an ebook) and reformatting the text of your book in a print-friendly manner. If your budget is already stretched, it may be best to refrain from printing your book for now.

Another consideration is which print-on-demand service you use, and the reality that you can never be 100% sure what your proofs will look like until you get them. If the spine bleeds, the text is off-kilter, the pages are too thin, or any of countless other issues arise, you may have to pay for another round of printing or opt for a different service altogether.

Finally, if you’re still tweaking your book — for example, if you published a slightly rough ebook and plan to revise the current version after an editor takes a look — then you’ll definitely want to hold off on printing it. Typos in an ebook are bad enough, but typos in a physical book are dire; they practically leap off the page and poke you in the eye.

Even if you’re not worried about typos, you never know if you might want to redesign your cover, or change a certain plot element that you regret. If you feel at all uncertain about the contents of your book, you’re definitely better off waiting to print it — rather than manifesting that uncertainty into an inescapable (unless you pull a Fahrenheit 451) physical form.

***

Desiree Villena is a writer with Reedsy, a platform that connects authors with the world’s best resources to help them publish a book. She’s very passionate about self-publishing in particular and making it possible for authors everywhere to achieve their dreams! In her spare time, Desiree enjoys reading contemporary fiction and writing short stories.


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My Babelcube Experience (part 3) Translated Paperbacks with CreateSpace

Babelcube CreateSpace paperbackThe plan for part 3 on Babelcube was scheduled for sales, but translated paperbacks just became an option deserving a look. It’s a logical step since Draft2Digital is their main distributor. D2D has included the choice of a CreateSpace paperback on top of ebooks to retailers. It also makes sense because ebooks aren’t mainstream in many nations, so having a translated print version might be wise. Sales will be pushed to part 4 while we talk paper now. (also see Part 1 and Part 2 on Babelcube experience)

Using the automated system, making a paperback with CreateSpace via Babelcube is an absolutely bare bones experience, nothing like making one directly through CreateSpace yourself. The current system has a long way to go if it wants to produce quality looking paperbacks, but there is some good news which we’ll get to.

(Save 92% Format MS Word for CreateSpace)

The problem with the automated system is because Babelcube and D2D simply upload the ebook version formatted for print with a program that is below reasonable expectations, so the opening page of the print book is likely to be a Table of Contents and it continues downhill from there. Page 2 of my TOC was numbered with the author name in the header as you can see in the photo below.

Babelube CreateSpace translations

Their system makes choices for trim size, font, layout, you name it, not allowing for personal preferences. Here’s another example below where the conversion process oddly assigned a page break after a first line that translates to Part 2, then was followed by a couple paragraph returns, then the chapter title and then the chapter text, which are obviously missing.

Babelube CreateSpace translations 2

That page should have looked like the one below, which is from my formatting.

Babelube CreateSpace translations 3

However, the good news is you can supply and upload your own PDF interior and cover files, which is clearly the way to do this. You will need to be familiar with formatting interiors and covers with CreateSpace beforehand because you won’t have access to the CS digital previewer through Babelcube.

My advice is to first create the book yourself at CreateSpace, even as a mock draft, so you can use the digital previewer and order a physical proof if you want. You won’t be legally allowed to publish it that way since it would be against Babelcube’s terms of service. But at least you’ll feel confident once you do submit those interior and cover files to Babelcube, which will hand them off to D2D which will hand them off to CreateSpace which will publish them into paperbacks and place them on Amazon. As soon as it’s available, order a copy and double-check it matches your original.

What do you think, is this worth the effort especially without being able to use the CS previewer? For the right author and the right book, perhaps. Please share any comments.


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CreateSpace Digital Proof Streamlined

Love what CreateSpace has done for the digital proofs of books. Gone are the days of waiting on snail-mail to see what a book will look like pre-publication (although that can still works wonders for editing, etc). Now you can get a feel for everything online thanks to the new design. Here’s a video showing the digital proof process in real time.

What are your thoughts?


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New Enable Distribution with Amazon Europe for CreateSpace Books

CreateSpace has just added a new distribution option for paper books: Amazon Europe. If you already have POD versions of your books for paperbacks and/or hardcover with CreateSpace, you’ll want to check this distribution option through your CS dashboard.



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CreateSpace Offers Proof Skips for Limited Time

CreateSpace by Amazon logoFor a limited time, now until May 27, 2011, CreateSpace is offering experienced authors the option to skip the proofing process and just upload live POD books which can be purchased by the public so long as they pass initial inspection. If you’ve been waiting to update your Print On Demand paperbacks with them, now’s the best time. From their announcement;

As an experienced CreateSpace author, we need your help. In our continual effort to improve the book setup process, we want you to try a new option in your account. When you upload files from now through May 27, you can choose to order a book proof or skip the proofing process altogether.

As part of this limited trial we’ll ask you to complete a survey about your experience. Your feedback is important, and it will help us decide if we should keep this option and invite more authors to try it out.

We look forward to hearing what you think!

Warm Regards,
CreateSpace  

What does this really mean? Okay, normally when an author makes a paperback book with the free, no assistance beyond the forums, do-it-yourself style of CreateSpace, Amazon’s POD (print on demand) publishing company, there are few steps to the process. Steps 1 and 2 are uploading proper formatted interior and cover files in pdf format. Step 3 is submitting those formatted files for review. If your files pass inspection, step 4 is normally ordering a proof copy. The proof copy gets physically made as a paperback and mailed to the author at cost including shipping, which typically runs around $10. Step 5 is either approving the proof copy (which means you like it and want it on sale now) or disapproving it and starting the whole process again with corrected files. (The first couple of times I did this, it was a real chore! Now it’s very familiar and much easier.)

In essence, CreateSpace is saying, “we trust our experienced authors to know if they’ve done the process correctly and would like to avoid the $10 and the week of waiting.” It probably came about from the veterans getting tired of going through the whole process every few months when they fixed a few typos pointed out by readers.

Sounds like a good deal to me and I hope it lasts, especially after having done 5 titles with CreateSpace (plus updates or fixing typos) and feeling comfortable with the method. I happen to LOVE this company and am very happy with their set-up, finished product, customer service, pricing, royalties, checks directly deposited to my bank account, everything. They’ve really perfected the art of self-publishing paperbacks at no cost for do-it-yourselfers like me. Highly recommended, even in my book on making and selling ebooks.

For a less experienced author, it’s probably still wise to order a proof copy and make sure you’re happy with it. Can’t wait one week and shell out $10? Better that than having a book with mistakes go out and sell a dozen copies before you realize it.

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