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In Praise Of Print Books

In Praise of Print Books

Photo of Atulya at a table with print books on it

Atulya Bingham – and her print books – at a storytelling event in Antalya, Turkey

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Once you’ve covered your costs, the profit from a print run is impressive.
Photo of her book on a display table in a bookshop

Atulya Bingham's book in a bookshop

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”




Author: Atulya Bingham

Atulya K Bingham writes both fiction and non-fiction, and enjoys the grey area between the two. Themes in her writing include journeys, foreign lands, inner and outer worlds, magical nature, female power and rebels. Find out more about her on her website: www.atulyakbingham.com


This Post Has 6 Comments
  1. I printed 1000 too (though did an ebook as well although that really isn’t selling as well) because my target market (farmers) are more comfortable with paperbacks than ebooks. I’m finding the books make their way around whole families. Mine was a bit of a ‘dip into’ book too although some read it in a couple of sittings.
    I sold 750 of first print run in 3 weeks as got good PR and it was coming up to Christmas. I’ve sold about 2000 in total. I did a third print run of 1000 which is still sitting there so I know where you are coming from re those brown boxes but my second book will be out in September and people tell me that the second book helps sales of the first so here’s hoping.
    Interesting to read your perspective on it as so many authors are going the ebook route only

    1. Impressive Lorna! Yes, the target market is the deciding factor. I’m nearing 1000 sold now, so not quite as successful as you, but it was definitely worth doing the print run. I released it on Kindle in January, but it’s still selling better in print than it does on ebook (currently about 2 to 1).

  2. Very interesting. I have done print versions of my two business books – but I did a survey first around business folks in networking groups I’m in and found they were interested. I did do them POD although I’ll get copies printed to sell at the back if I do any presentations, etc. I haven’t sold huge numbers, but it is good to have something tangible, in my opinion.

  3. Jules, very interesting to hear you were also picked up by the mainstream media, and I think this is much more likely to happen when you have a decent, attractive print-copy at the ready. Ayse’s Trail received a number of great reviews from mainstream media in Turkey which would never have happened if it had been ebook only.

    I think the main fear people have regarding print books is how to get rid of them. Independent bookshops are definitely the way forward with print books, and I enjoy supporting them. While Amazon may offer author-publishers an open platform to sell from, I’m nonetheless hesitant to throw all my literary eggs in that basket. Personally, I’ve sold about 10 times more books independently than from Amazon. Like you, I set myself a time limit for promotion and getting distribution organised. But you only set up distribution once, after you’ve made your connection that shop always sell for you, book after book.

  4. I don’t have an e-book live yet for various reasons. I printed 2000 hardback/coffee table style, children’s poetic picture books (RRP. £15.99) last December 2013. I have sold approx 1500 copies, had great press and author opportunities, BBC radio and have recently won a highly commended award for Best Picture Book of The Year.
    The publication and promo film is currently featured on the guardian website http://www.theguardian.com/childrens-books-site/2014/oct/21/trailer-hounds-of-falsterbo-jules-nilsson and is sold in good independent bookshops.

    I decided to print 3 new versions, paperback & board book & a translated version in hardback. I soon will have 6000+ books at my disposal and though I have created an ebook version it is still not available as I am uncertain about the quality & the message it sends. I have published an audiobook & soon an EP of 5 songs inspired by the book in download & CD format.

    I am a Brtish mumpreneur, based in Sweden, running my publishing house alone out of my garden office selling in two countries currently. I left Amazon as it was costing me more to send the book than they were paying me ( it weighs 1.2kg) and now sell through my website to independent bookshops, online stores, interior stores and soon Waterstones, WHsmiths etc. My UK book tour starts in the South of England start Nov15. I am reading in bookshops, libraries & schools. 15 venues in 50 bookshop visits planned over 2 weeks.

    I’ve given myself until December 2015 to make it a success, I want to publish book two of the five part series by next July so am working towards selling as much as I can and keeping the PR and press rolling.
    Deffinately think e-books are easier to launch but for my format in picture book there is no other way than traditional print based publishing.
    Learning a huge amount each day & are greatful for your great advice & webposts Thank you, Jules Nilsson

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