I Guess I’m a Print Guy
By Jeff Salter
There are several facets to our topic this week, but before I begin parsing them out for y’all, let me state things clearly: I love print. Since I was a kid (being read to by parents), I’ve loved the look and feel of the pages. While still a kid, but old enough to read by myself, I devoured books and collected books (many of which I still possess… somewhere). When I was just a fifth grader, I wrote a little story – Sci-Fi, if you can believe it – on small book-sized pages and stapled it together with cardboard covers. That was my first “published” book. I entered Library School in 1976, not because I loved library buildings, but because I loved BOOKS. Back then, “books” meant paper. Sure, we had microfilm, microfiche, filmstrips, and other media… but our stock in trade was books. The real stuff.
Yes, I have a Kindle and yes, I’ve read plenty of books on it. Usually that’s because I don’t have a print copy of a particular title or the print copy is 5-6 times more expensive. I’ve never found the Kindle experience to be as satisfying — too many glitches with the page not advancing, or advancing too far, or me trying to scroll back to something that I can never find again, etc. In other words, NOT user-friendly — at least not to me. Though I’m sure the newer generations are in hog heaven with E-books.
Okay, now that I’ve gotten that off my chest, let’s delve into this week’s sub-topics.
I currently have 17 fiction titles released (with another title in the pipeline). Of those, only 9 are in paperback. That’s not my decision. I work with three wonderful publishers and each has a different approach to whether and when to release paperback versions. I figure we’re riding on their vehicle and we go with their rules of the road.
That said, I love the feeling of holding my own book (in paperback) — to read my own titles a few years later, is so much better an experience in paper. [Note: in non-fiction, I’m co-author of two hardcover books from a different royalty publisher. Those titles, released in 1988 and 1991, in hardcover, were an absolute WONDER for me to clutch in my sweaty hands. I never cared for the cover design of either title, but a hardcover book with my own name on it… is a feeling I’ll never forget.]
It will likely shock any of you who are not authors, but there is almost NO profit margin in print books. If I sell an E-copy of a $3 title, my royalty is around 72 cents. Not bad, when you think of percentages. But if I sell a print copy of that same title (let’s say it lists for $15), I might receive 25 cents or even less. Shocked? I certainly was. But print has all those other costs involved: production, storage, packing, shipping, etc. E-books, on the other hand, are “delivered” with a few simple clicks of the mouse.
Now if I buy – at discounted author rate – a batch of a particular paperback title, I might get them for around $9 – $10 (or so) each. When I sell those at an author event for the Amazon list price of about $14 – $15, I can make a very decent profit from each book sold. But then I’ve got to acquire the inventory, lug it around, store it between author events, etc.
Preferences of Others
As at least one of the foxes (so far this week) has stated: there are quite a few readers who either don’t like E-format or don’t possess a device capable of easily utilizing those files. There are many others who are ABLE to read digital formats, but still greatly prefer print. I hate to disappoint them by saying, “I’m sorry, that title is not available in paper.” Someone else noted already this week is that authors attending book events need “real” copies of their titles on their tables to sell. Just having an enlarged color version of the title’s cover is not the same as having a small stack of that title in paperback.
No need to summarize — y’all know how I feel about print. But I will leave you with my own version of a quote I’ve seen in various places and attributed to various people:
E-books won’t REPLACE print books any more than escalators replaced stairs. We use both, interchangeably.
There are other versions of this quote, but I think that one captures it pretty well. Print and E-formats can co-exist and a goodly portion of our reading population may go back and forth, depending on circumstances, pricing, availability, and personal mood. I see no problem with that.
Which format do YOU prefer? Are there certain genres that you prefer to read in E-format?
[JLS # 452]