Print is not dead, hurray!

Hi, remember me?

I started this blog a couple of months ago, full of ambition to keep it updated on a weekly basis. And now it’s been two months since the last post. Let’s attribute this delay to travelling, moving office, book launches, taking courses. Definitely not to fear of the blank page, or even less to laziness…

For the first post in this new attempt at regular blogging, I thought I would write about print books, and how they have become more important to us recently. You see, Ladylit reached a milestone in June. For the first time in our history we sold 100 print copies in a month. This may not seem like a lot, but to us it was a significant number.

We have always produced a print version of books above a certain length through Createspace, ever since we started publishing. Even though our focus is on (and our income comes from) ebooks, there is something quite magical about being able to hold in your handScreen Shot 2016-07-06 at 10.30.33 AMs a hard copy of a book you wrote or had a part in producing. Maybe it’s because we grew up with print books; it’s quite possible the younger generations who grew up in a mostly digital world will not have the same feeling. So, in the beginning the main purpose of producing the print version was just personal satisfaction. Holding the book in our hands made it somehow feel more real, I think.

We soon also started using the print version as a promotional tool, for giveaways or for gifts. After all, quite a bit of work goes into producing the files for the printer, both the cover and the interior. Especially at that time, when we still used the Createspace Word template file. Too much work just to stroke our egos…

We also realised that having the print version on the Amazon page next to the Kindle version, gave the book a more professional look, and made the Kindle version seem like a good deal, as Amazon helpfully shows how much money you save by purchasing the Kindle version.

We always sold a few copies each month, but never enough to get a monthly royalties cheque from Createspace (the payment threshold is US$100). As we put out more titles, the numbers increased slightly, but were still pretty insignificant. We also never put any marketing efforts towards selling more print books.

In the last few Screen Shot 2016-07-06 at 10.30.08 AMmonths however, since Harper started publishing regular full length novels, we have seen a considerable increase in the number of print books sold, especially newly published titles. Whereas before a new book would sell maybe 5 to 10 copies in its first month, the last two Harper Bliss novels we published each sold about 30 in the same period of time. As I write this, on July 6th Hong Kong time (but it’s still July 5th in the US), Harper’s most recent book The Road to You has already sold 6 copies this month, and we’ve sold 17 print books in total. (That’s more than 3 per day!)

This means that nowadays, instead of getting a $100 cheque every few months, we now get a few 100 dollars every month. It’s not enough to live off, but it’s a nice enough extra, especially since we still don’t do any promotion or marketing specifically for the print books.

We can’t really pinpoint what the increase in numbers is caused by. Of course, the print books benefit from our marketing work for the ebooks, since their visibility is improved by being linked to the Kindle version on Amazon. Harper’s reader base is increasing steadily and surely some of these new readers enjoy reading print books as well as or more than ebooks. We do know the extra sales do not come from bookshops, as they tend to not order books from Createspace. Additionally, at least one of the more successful titles is not even available to them to buy, as we are in the process of distributing through another company that does sell to indie bookshops more easily (hopefully more on that once the book is available.)

Screen Shot 2016-07-06 at 10.31.34 AMIn any case, these increased sales are starting to make me wonder if we should maybe look into promoting our print books more. And they are a confirmation that print is definitely not dead. It takes a bit more work than an ebook to put it out there, but it is definitely worth the effort.