Disclaimer: This article was originally published on my other website and I’ve been moving my articles across to here. Some of the information in this article is no longer accurate as KDP have changed some of their policies and practises. This information was accurate at 23rd October 2019.
Some Indie Authors don’t want to offer print books and that’s fine. Ebooks are popular and it’s completely possible to make an author career without offering print copies. But some authors want to offer both. Why wouldn’t you, according to the statistics given by Mark Coker in Book Marketing Guide 2018 Edition (Mark offers the book free at https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/305 (or at least it was up till 23/10),
“Today ebooks account for around 25% of overall trade book sales. In genre fiction, ebooks command a larger share. Since ebooks are priced lower than print books, this 25% market share understates the dramatic shift to digital reading that has occured over the last decade. From a unit market share perspective, the percentage of words read digitally as ebooks vs. print is probably near of above 50%. If you want to reach more readers, make ebooks central to your publishing strategy”
(Coker, M. Smashwords Book Marketing Guide 2018 Edition)
Thanks for doing the legwork on that one Mark. You might look at those figures and think, that if you don’t offer print books then you’re effectively cutting yourself off from 50-75% of the potential market. Remember though, these statistics are from the 2018 Edition of the guide, and that ebooks, and especially Indie books are gaining popularity. Perhaps a 2020 edition would reflect Indies taking up a 50% market share instead of 25%. I was listening to a podcast (I can’t remember but I think it was Author Like A Boss or The Creative Penn) where it was suggested that Indie books are already at 50% market share. Personally, I don’t recall buying a book for myself in the last 3 years, unless it was from a second-hand bookshop. All my printed book purchases have been gifts for others, or to stock my own book. I prefer to read physical books, though I do most of my reading on my tablet or from physical books I’ve borrowed from libraries. I could even list a chunk of my friends who only read ebooks. They’re easier to store, easier to carry around (with the creation of apps like the Kindle App, Kobo App and Audible) and obviously don’t take up much room. All my personal purchases have been Indie books, both fiction and books on Indie Publishing.
I’m not really making a good case for print books here am I? Print books will always hold a special place in my heart. I love the physicality of reading a book, and in some cases, print books are easier to handle than ebooks. The Emotion Thesaurus is a fantastic resource. I have a ebook copy, but I would love a print copy because flicking through a resource book like this is much harder on a tablet.
So what are some of your print options if you’re an author based in Australia? When I first published The Kingston Chronicles I really wanted to offer both print and e-copies. The market for ebooks was still growing and I knew a lot of readers who did not read ebooks. This was back in 2017, when the Amazon owned options were Createspace (for Print) and Kindle Direct Publishing (for ebooks). Createspace and KDP were exceptionally easy to work with, a huge bonus, and my author friend Nina Smith (you can check out her awesome Urban Fantasy and Thriller books here) had used Createspace/KDP for her own books. That meant that I had access to someone who knew the Createspace/KDP well, and who could answer my questions (mostly). I was really nervous about publishing my first book (it’s a big step!) and having Nina as a bit of a safety net really helped my confidence.
Since 2017, some things have changed. Amazon merged Createspace and KDP into one service (KDP), which in a lot of ways streamlined the process. Now, what I say next is relevant to Australian Indie Authors; between 2017 and 2019 Australia changed its GST laws (I think in 2018) and those changes have created big changes to how KDP operates in Australia.
When I published The Kingston Chronicles I was able to order proof copies of the book to check formatting, quality, etc. I wrote about that adventure in Indie Publishing Part Two and Part Three. I was also able to order “Author Copies” which were copies of the end product, the same book people would order off the Amazon website, at a much cheaper price than paying list price. As I understand it, that “cheaper” price was essentially just the printing cost of the book. When I ordered copies for my pre-orders and for my own physical stock, it worked out to something like $5 per book for printing and $5 per book for shipping.
Since the introduction of new Australian GST Laws these copies are no longer available to me from KDP.
I’ve queried this with KDP and they indicated that due to these changes in Australian GST law, proof copies and author copies are no longer available to Australian Authors. This creates difficulties for me in my author business (I wrote about it here). KDP advised me that if I wanted to order copies of my book(s) I would have to order them from the Australian site (instead of through my KDP dashboard) and would have to pay full retail price plus shipping. They also advised me that they are working on this issue.
I’m hoping KDP offers author/proof copies to Australia soon, because it is not financially viable for me to order my books from the retail side. Currently I’m offering The Kingston Chronicles for $23.07 AUD (It’s calculated from the USD list price and it often changes without my being aware of it due to the exchange rate) with $14.98 delivery. So, if I order copies that means I’m paying $38.05 for a single copy (not sure if there’s a discount on shipping for bulk orders). I sell them in physical stores/markets for $30. Now it is my belief that no one is going to pay $38.05 at a market or physical shop for my book. Quite frankly, I wouldn’t, and I think it’s a great book. I’m even seriously considering dropping the USD price again because now that shipping is basically $15 I’m not sure that people would even order it online at that price.
Still not making much of a case for print books am I? I don’t mean to sound negative, I really want to offer print books, it’s just that the pathways to print publishing that I know about are not suitable to my needs or they have changed dramatically. I’d like to get into writing kids illustrated books, at which point having print copies will be essential, and of course I’d love to be able to do things like author signings. But until things change at Amazon for Australian authors, I just don’t see it as a viable option for me to stock my own book. Although I still think it is important to offer print books. My Target Audience for The Kingston Chronicles was 18-45 women, and the majority of my sales have been in the 60+ female demographic… Readers in this demographic have a tendency to prefer print copies over ebooks, and although I hadn’t intended these women to be my readership, I’m not upset that people are reading my book. But it means that I definitely need to keep print books as an option.
So, what are some of your print options in Australia?
To try and find a work around I asked some questions in the Indie Author groups I’m a member of on Facebook (sidenote: Indie Author groups have been fantastic for my career development. I can assure you, whatever your current issue is, someone has already been there. People in these groups are extremely helpful to other authors with questions and I, personally, try to give more than I take). Some of the following ideas were suggested to me as alternatives (while still publishing at Amazon through KDP):
- Mail forwarding services
- Printing my physical copies through another service like Ingram Spark (based in Melbourne)
- Shipping them to a friend/relative in the US to be forwarded on
I looked into Ingram Spark and decided it wasn’t for me. Unlike KDP Ingram Spark charges a fee to set up your manuscript in their system. As of 23/10/2019 that cost was $49AUD (https://www.ingramspark.com/features) and to get 40 copies sent to me in WA was $385.16 (which works out about the same as what KDP charged when they sent print copies. Not including the $49 set up fee).
I should also point out that another reason why I decided not to publish my print stock through Ingram Spark is that I still intend to offer print copies through Amazon (I’m just not going to stock them myself). I would still need to order full priced print copies from Amazon to check print quality for Amazon customers, and I didn’t want the potential for differences in print qualities from two different distributers.
I decided I didn’t want to spend that much as my publishing fund is extremely limited. Next, I looked at mail forwarding services. Australia Post offers one such service called Shopmate. Shopmate acts a local delivery for an American service, then Shopmate/AusPost forwards the product on to the Australian user. After looking at their shipping rates I immediately knew this wasn’t a viable option for me. One copy of my book weighs 500gm (ish). To order 40 copies of Samhain Sorcery (as of 23/10/2019) I would be paying $25.25 (base shipping) + $109 (weight rate) + $5 (GST of Value of Good – not sure if this would be per book or singular) + KDP’s charges to be delivered in the USA (paid to KDP not Shopmate). That’s a minimum of $139.25 (not including the KDP charges (which would be print cost per book + local USA shipping), and assuming the GST of Value of Good is a singular fee). It’s not really a bad price, but as I said before, I don’t really have much of a budget at the moment. The Kingston Chronicles sold okay for a first book but I’m still running the business at a deficit, because I’m a new author and I don’t have a following yet, and because my other author services aren’t really getting any clients. This is completely normal for any new business. Building a fan base/clientele takes time. It’s incredibly rare to be an overnight sensation (although it is what every author dreams of).
I didn’t look for other mail forwarding services because at this point I decided that I needed to focus my energies elsewhere. My family is American, and I still have a lot of relatives in the states that I could have asked to forward me my books, which I expect would have been cheaper than the Shopmate option, but I decided that it wasn’t my place to routinely annoy them with such requests.
Where does this leave me now?
Well if you’re reading this as an Indie Author, you’ll need to make your own decision on what you want to do and what you’re willing to spend. I’ve chosen to offer print copies only through Amazon for now, meaning that once I run out of the copies I already had on hand I will not be able to sell them to people I meet at markets or stock them at local bookshops. If Amazon changes how they operate their proof/author copy service I will eagerly order books again for such purposes. As I don’t have the budget for buying these print copies I’m focusing on ebook copies of my work in the hopes that I can grow my fan base into a profitable clientele so I can once more investigate the financial incentives to ordering print copies. I’m also promoting my author services to build up my business; Children’s Entertainment, Workshops, Author Talks, Mentoring, and Beta Reading.
In addition I’m looking at “going wide” with my next series. If you’re new to the Indie Publishing scene “going wide” means offering your title at multiple ebook sites (ie, Kobo, Amazon, Smashwords etc) instead of just one online store. I’m hoping by going wide, I can increase my reach and attract new readers.