Friday, May 20, 2011

Never Say Never to the Print Book

Yesterday I went searching for children's bicycles at Toys 'R' Us, and what should confront me in the entrance but a life-size cardboard cut-out of Justin Bieber, promoting his movie Never Say Never (click on this link at your peril). Whatever your opinions on the man, the myth, the legend, "Never say never" is as good advice as any to apply to my so-called writing career. I will explain.

The printer emailed to let me know that my new Everliving books are ready and waiting, all 250+ of them. Why only 250? Because, despite printing and selling 1000 copies of Mourning Becomes Cassandra, I've sold the same amount of MBC in ebook format (Kindle, Nook). Moreover, ebook sales continue strong (for me--I'm no Janet Evanovich), while paper copies have slowed to a trickle. In the case of The Littlest Doubts, I printed and sold about half as many. Meaning, about 50% of the people who bought the first book hated or didn't read it because they didn't go on to buy the sequel. However, after lowering the ebook price of TLD to the same bargain-basement $2.99 of MBC, I find the read-through percentage has shot up to 80%. Do Kindle and Nook readers enjoy my books 30% more than physical-book readers, or are physical books just too stinking expensive? Expensive to produce, and therefore expensive to purchase.

Without a traditional publisher to practice economies of scale for me, there's no way I could ever print enough of my books at one time to make them cheap. Heck--even traditionally-published paperbacks aren't cheap anymore. Before I'll spring for one, I want to know I'll like it enough to justify paying $10-15. This happens about five times a year for me, and they're usually gifts of books I've loved.

All of which is to say, Everliving might be the last book I print up. More and more of my readers are buying Nooks and Kindles and iPads or even reading on their phones. Why not save them and me a little money? I could always go with Amazon's Print-on-Demand service to provide physical books to physical-book diehards.

So when Everliving comes out next month, I might be looking at my last print book and my last book signing parties! Strange to think. How quickly things change--in 2009 when MBC came out, I put up the Kindle edition purely as an afterthought. Now, in 2011, it's the print book that seems like it will be troublesome to sell. Will I never do another print book? Never hold my current WIP, The Pretenders, in my hands?

Only time and sales will tell. And, as Justin tells us, we should never say never.


  1. Interesting, as the news reported just yesterday that amazon's Kindle books are now outselling the print books that they sell:

  2. Two thoughts:

    1) THANK GOD you are not Evanovich.

    2) You said, "My readers". How cool is that! You have readers! Lots of them!

  3. Please publish at leat a few copies so the libraries can get them. I am a hold out on the whole ebook thing but I love your books!

  4. Call me a Luddite, but I DO want a print copy of Everliving. I can't make it to the signing party, but maybe we will cross paths once Woodridge practice starts.

  5. I'm amazed that the tide is turning this fast for ebooks vs. POD. Thanks for sharing all your publishing wisdom!