Turkish author Atulya Bingham explains why she's going against the flow in self-publishing circles by producing only a print edition of her first book and disregarding ebooks.
‘Don’t do a print run!’ They cry. We’ve all heard the stories of authors cowering under towers of their first novel, the debt incurred, the usurped garage space, the mildew. Yet, if there’s one rule in the author-publishing world (and yes I admit, I’m fresh off the boat) it seems to be, there aren’t any rules.
Why Only Print Books?
Last April, I ignored the advice and gamely ran off 1000 copies of my debut novel Ayse’s Trail. Admittedly, I had two things in my favour. First, the novel had won the One Big Book Launch and second, I live off-the-grid in a mud hut in Turkey, so life is cheap. Under normal circumstances the print run would have been unnecessary as I’d published it P.O.D. with Completely Novel. Unfortunately, Turkey – the primary market for my novel – didn’t accept the ISBN, so I was left shunting my sofa into a corner to squeeze in 30 brown boxes. My stomach lurched at the sight of them. Yet as it turned out, the print run was the best thing I did.
Any business expects to invest both time and money in order to leverage a return. If you have invested in a print run then your print book (if it’s a quality read with a winning cover) is the cheapest, most effective marketing tool your novel could have. It beats ebooks hands down. Here’s how:
- While you may see readers in cafés or on the beach hunched over electronic devices, you can’t (unless you are intrusively nosey) see what they are reading. A print copy, on the other hand, advertises itself. It loiters in train stations, sits attractively on coffee tables and is readily plucked from bookshelves.
- The chances of a blogger or a journalist reviewing your book increase dramatically with a print-copy. I found I was in a position to bargain for reviews, and thus managed to glean reviews from Istanbul Time Out and a number of popular blogs. I obtained free advertising space on blogs this way too.
- Author-publishers report little financial benefit from working with bookstores, yet shops are offering us free visibility and endorsement. A customer may flick through your book and slide it back on the shelf, but this doesn’t mean it was forgotten. Two months later they spot it on a blog and purchase it online. It could be better than one sale. This summer, a manager from a major hiking trail operator in Turkey spotted Ayse’s Trail in a local shop. He contacted his general manager and hey presto, I have gained a powerful affiliate seller.
- Offer your distributors a free print-edition and watch how more motivated they are to sell it.
Other reasons author-publishers should seriously consider print-copies are:
- There is a market for them. The print-copy market differs from the ebook market; it’s older and wealthier. It also suits some genres more than others. If you write literary fiction, travel, or non-fiction, then print-copies with beautiful covers are a must.
- In any print run there are damaged copies, and these can be left in strategic places. Hotel foyers, coffee shops, libraries and waiting rooms all host visitors with time on their hands to start reading your book, and . . . not finish it.
- Once you’ve covered your costs, the profit from a print run is impressive.
I will be honest. A print run is not for the faint of heart. It’s a long-term strategy to gain visibility for a new author.
For me, the sight of those 1000 books spurred me to organise a string of local events which kick-started sales. It also pushed me to establish a chain of distribution sites the length of the Lycian Way hiking trail in Turkey – the setting of my novel.
How My Unusual Strategy is Paying Off
This was initially labour-intensive, but it worked and propelled my name into recognition. My initial investment was returned after just 3 months. I currently sell something in the region of 30 copies a week, and that number is climbing with every review or talk. Five months after the launch date, the towers of books have halved, and I now have space for my sofa. I live from my work. I’m on the edge of doing more than just live from it. And I still don’t have Ayse’s Trail on Kindle.
OVER TO YOU Have you ever used this strategy, or do you travel the “ebook only, no print” route? Has Atulya persuaded you to give it a try? Please join the conversation via the comments section!
EASY TWEET “#Authors – interesting case study of a print-only #selfpub author: https://selfpublishingadvice.org/in-praise-of-print-books/by @AtulyaKBingham via @IndieAuthorALLi”