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Which first: eBook or print?

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What to do? Your book is finally ready to go. Now the question becomes what should you publish first—your eBook, your print book, or both at the same time?

Every time I help an author prepare for a book release, we bump up against this question. And, it turns out there is no perfect answer—no one-size-fits-all.

One theory suggests that releasing all versions together allows you to make more efficient use of your marketing efforts: Visibility lasts only so long, and if both versions of the book are released at once, they will both be timed to best coincide with publicity, advertising, giveaways or other marketing approaches you already have under way.

But there’s also the thought that early release of an eBook can help build buzz for the subsequent print book release, which can be promoted as the main event. When I posed this idea on a writer’s forum, one writer suggested, “A new self-publisher might release only an eBook edition first and use promotional programs such as Kindle Select in an effort to build a reader base, and only produce a print edition if/when the eBook has gained some traction.”

Still others think the print book should be released first. Since print books usually are more profitable per copy, the idea is that buyers should be encouraged to buy the print book first and only given the option to buy electronic version afterward.

In the past the authors I work with and I have leaned toward that third idea; it seems intuitive. But as I’ve become a more frequent user of e-readers, my view has changed. Now I suspect that most people will decide to either will buy the print or eBook edition, but aren’t likely to change their decision based on which edition is available first.


This question has generated a lot of discussion, and no small bit of study in the book industry.

In July 2012 writer Joe Wikert reviewed a report analyzing the effect of eBooks on print sales, and concluded, “For popular books, delaying eBook release dates leads to a significant substitution toward print books. In contrast, for niche books, that do not have strong brand awareness among consumers, we find an insignificant substitution toward print books when eBook release dates are delayed. [Further,] the net effect of delayed Kindle releases is an overall loss in sales and, based on the best available data, a net loss in revenue and profit to the publisher.” In other words, it matters mainly in the case of bestsellers.

Wikert concluded, “All those other books out there with either delayed eBook releases or, more importantly, no eBook releases, are leaving money on the table. That last point is the most important takeaway for me.”

Evan Schnittman, a vice president at Oxford University Press, suggested back in 2009 that, “I don’t think you want to withhold content from the public. I’m pretty sure that when a customer decides to buy a Kindle, they are making a decision to start becoming an eBook consumer.”

Today, in most cases I would lean toward releasing print and eBook versions about the same time, unless you have a specific marketing strategy for using one or the other as a promotional lever. Most often,that would mean promoting discount eBook copies a little ahead of the print version.

You’ll want to think this through carefully. Every book calls for its own distinct marketing plan. There is no one-size-fits-all, but now, for me and for most of my clients, releasing the eBook and print book at the same time is the strategy that works best.

Readers & Writers: I look forward to your feedback, comments and critiques, and please use BookWorks as your resource to learn more about preparing, publishing and promoting self-published books. My blogs appear every other week.
– See more at: https://www.bookworks.com/2015/09/indie-author-dilemma-which-first-ebook-or-print/#sthash.x8n1OZGq.dpuf

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