Paperbacks; aren’t they nice to have? Recent events have made me think more about paperback (softcover) editions, and I thought I’d ask you for your thoughts.
Next month I’ll review my first year of selling my paperbacks at Craft Fairs.
This is my Insecure Writers Support Group post, in which we share our successes and failures as writers, our insecurities, in fact. Anyone can join in, just sign up at the IWSG Sign-up page, write a blog post on the first Wednesday of the month, and go back to that sign up page to link with everyone else–or a goodly sample. Our host is Alex J Cavanaugh, and cohosting this month are:
First: the question of the month
When you set out to write a story, do you try to be more original or do you try to give readers what they want?
Um. Neither? More original than what exactly? Not being a ‘commercial writer’, I don’t worry about what readers want. Maybe I would be more successful if I did either of these. But I don’t think my writing would reach its current standard.
Change of subject.
Why make paperback editions?
Well, I make them because I love books. And for the first three years or so of my indie published career, I said to people: yes, I have books, but they are ebooks, so I can’t show them to you very easily.
Then I investigated Createspace, with all its drawbacks, and decided maybe I could make some paperbacks after all. Then I found Blurb, who would have them printed locally, and shipped to me so I could actually review a proof and make changes within two weeks of setting the book up. Average shipping time from Createspace was three months.
So I started to make paperback editions routinely. Usually to fit pretty well with the ebook publication date.
I gave several away. Some as prizes, some just to friends or family, as gifts or because they showed interest.
Have I sold my paperbacks?
Selling them? That would be nice. Ebooks sold more, although at that stage, the thousands of downloads were on free days. Those are long gone! I rarely sell an ebook these days unless it’s discounted, and I’ve given up discounting them. I decided last year that I’d join the ranks of those hoping for sales to people who value them more because they’ve actually bought them.
I have dozens of free ebooks I haven’t got around to reading. I also have dozens of ebooks I’ve purchased I haven’t got around to reading. But I agree with this principle. I’ll almost certainly read the ones I’ve purchased first. Unless they are ARCs from Netgalley, which are a different category entirely.
How many do I sell at Craft Fairs?
It frustrates me that I don’t really cover my overheads at craft fairs. I’m beginning to cover the cost of the day–table hire and parking charges–but not the overheads like marketing materials, travel, insurance etc.
But… I’m selling paperbacks. Since March I’ve been selling between ten and fifteen at each fair. That’s far more books than I’m selling online–even when I invest in advertising (and my last foray into that was disastrous).
It must be worth it.
What’s my problem?
In December, the base price of the books went up, mainly due to paper costs. Consequently the base cost of the smallest ones nearly doubled. The fatter books suffered less, but about 33% more was typical. At least I can explain ‘cost of paper has risen’ and people understand that I can’t discount them.
My latest problem, though, is distribution costs. Ingram have said they won’t distribute books for less than 36% mark-up. I used to have them on that level before the paper cost went up. Now I have gone through the inventory, putting them all onto prices inclusive of 36% for Ingrams.
Result: I can only just set the RRP for the first couple of Princelings books below £9. Last year they were £5, and that gave me a small profit. The larger books are all £10.50. I can’t do the two fattest ones, Lost City and Willoughby, for less than £11. To me, this makes the cost of the series exhorbitant. Who pays that amount of money for (children’s) paperbacks? The Viridian series are now £15 each.
I know I need to just compare with the rest of the market. But I have a sneaking suspicion that the big publishers will discount heavily, because they can, and so indie books will start looking expensive.
The good thing?
I can undercut the bookstore prices at the craft fairs. I don’t have to put my prices up if I don’t want to. It gives me more ‘wiggle room’. Next time someone checks they can get the later ones on Amazon, I’ll say “yes, but it’ll include distribution costs – about three or four pounds more.”
So, I’ll be continuing to do craft fairs until I get bored with them. Or the market is saturated in my area, anyway!
What do you think?
- Has the cost of paperbacks gone up in your area?
- Do you think it puts people off buying books/your books?
- Are the big publishers undercutting the rest of us?
- Should we be saving paper and sticking to ebooks anyway?