65. Print, Ebook, or Audiobook?

If you plan on self-publishing, you have more options available to you now than ever.

You can publish your book in hardcover, paperback, ebook, and/or audio versions. 

But do you need them all? And which are most important to reach your unique audience?

In this episode, discover what you need to consider when choosing the format(s) you should use to publish your book.

For more writing tips and inspiration, follow me on Instagram @candiceldavis.

Mentioned in This Episode

Jump-Start: A free guide to help you jump-start your nonfiction book.

Episode Transcript

Hey there and welcome to Nothing but the Words. I’m your author coach, Candice L Davis.

I hope your week and your writing are going well.

For years now people have worried about an expected decline in the general population reading books.

So before we talk about what formats you should publish in—and the pros and cons of hardcover, paperback, ebook, and audiobook—we have to ask the question: Do people still read books?

With constant access to social media, streaming channels, online videos, podcasts, video games, and more it’s easy to believe no one wants to read books anymore.

Fortunately, that’s not true.

A 2019 study by Pew Research Center found that 72% of the adults surveyed had read a book in the last 12 months.

The same survey found that the “typical” American (whoever that is) had read 4 books in the previous 12 months.

And those numbers hadn’t really changed over the previous decade.

So people are indeed still reading books.

Some of this is common sense. If you’re a reader, it’s safe to assume you’re not alone.

Do other people in your household read books?

Do any of your friends and relatives read books?

Do your friends on social media post about books they’re reading?

I’m surrounded by people who want to tell me about the latest book they’ve read, so I’ve never questioned whether or not people are still reading books.

But it’s nice to have my assumptions confirmed by survey results.

According to the survey, people with bachelor’s degrees and advanced degrees are more likely to read books than folks who don’t hold a degree.

The one result I didn’t quite understand was the decline in men who reported themselves as book readers. 

Reading increased in some groups, but among men it declined. 

In 2018, 73% of the men surveyed said they had read at least one book in the past 12 months.

But in 2019, that number dropped from 73% to 68%.

Who knows if that change was a fluke? 

The bottom line is that the majority of Americans report that they still read books.

As an author, you need to keep in mind that some of these readers are married to the format they prefer to read in.

Most self-published authors skip publishing in hardcover for a couple of reasons.

#1: Publishing in hardcover can be cost prohibitive. You have to charge more for the book or accept that you’ll make a smaller profit from each book sale.

#2: As of right now, the big publishing companies don’t offer print-on-demand for hardcover books.

Print-on-demand means that a publishing company like Amazon doesn’t store copies of your book. Instead, they print a copy whenever a customer orders the book.

So if you can’t do a print-on-demand for your book because you choose hardcover, then you have to figure out another method of distributing your book.

It’s definitely possible to distribute the hardcover version of your book, but it’s also more work.

So most self-published authors go straight to paperback books which makes perfect sense and it’s definitely a smart move.

According to the survey, 37% of Americans say they read only printed books.

They don’t mess around with ebooks or audiobooks at all.

And another 28% said they read both print and digital books, which included ebooks and audiobooks.

I fall into that second category. There are certain books I want to hold in my hand—I want to flip through the pages and underline and make notes in the margins.

Other books I read on my tablet—these are often books I get on sale for $3 or less—but I also read books on my tablet when I’m doing research and might want to search through the book later.

The cool thing for authors is that people like me will often get the ebook and if we love it, we’ll also order a paperback version.

Even though print books are still big with readers, there are a few circumstances under which you might skip the print version.

A highly interactive book, an incredibly short book, or a tech book that needs to be updated frequently all might do well as an ebook exclusively.

But for most authors, a printed book is a must. 

If you’re speaking from the stage, you want to have books in the room for people to buy.

If you want to give your clients or potential clients a copy of your book, you’re much better off giving them a printed copy. It’s something they can hold and see sitting on the shelf. An ebook is too easily forgotten.

So what are some reasons to publish ebooks?

I highly encourage my coaching clients to publish an ebook version of their books.

7% of Americans surveyed said they only read ebooks.

And that doesn’t include any of the 28% of people who read both digital and print books.

Unless you’re writing a journal or workbook, there’s no reason not to publish a digital version of your book.

The cost for ebook conversion is so minimal and is often included in the layout cost for your book.

So why not give people who prefer ebook the opportunity to read on their device?

The most interesting result from this survey was the number of people reading audiobooks.

In 2016, only 14% of people said they read audiobooks.

But by 2019, 20% of people were reporting as audiobook readers. And 30% of adults in affluent households said they’d listened to at least one audiobook in the past year.

I have several coaching clients who only read audiobooks. Some because of vision issues, but most because they simply prefer to read that way.

I have no energy for the debate over whether or not audiobooks “count” as real reading.

Audiobooks are not my preferred format.

I don’t retain information very well from audiobooks unless I’m taking notes.

But I still listen to audiobooks on road trips, and yes, I consider that I’ve read the book when I’m done listening to it.

Audiobook readers are taking in the same information as someone reading from the page.

It counts, friend, as reading.

As a self-published author, you will incur additional expenses to make an audio version of your book.

To publish through distributors like Audible, you have to meet their standards, which means you can’t just throw together a recording.

And not everyone is cut out to serve as a narrator, even for their own book, so if you decide to hire a narrator, that’s an additional cost.

Most self-published authors won’t invest the time and money to create an audiobook.

And for most authors, that’s perfectly fine.

But it pays to get to know your audience.

If they’re listening to audiobooks more and more, it might be worth the investment for you to produce an audiobook version of your book.

With some exceptions, most self-published authors should absolutely publish both paperback and ebook versions.

If you want a hardcover version of your book, I suggest doing a limited run. Some of my clients have done a hardcover printing for pre-sales or to give as gifts to specific clients or audiences. Just make sure you have a purpose for those books before you order 500 copies.

As for audiobook, you can absolutely be a successful author without publishing an audio version of your book. Just keep in mind that you’ll be leaving out some small percentage of your potential audience when you do.

That’s all for this episode my friends.

For more writing tips and inspiration, follow me on IG @candiceldavis. And if you’re wondering if your story would make a great memoir, DM me and let’s talk about it.

Thanks for listening to Nothing but the Words. I’m Your Author Coach, Candice L Davis. And I’ll see you next time.

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