The Role of Print In Independent Publishing

WILDOne of the things I really enjoy about being an indie author and editor who works with a lot of other indie authors is being able to share my experiences and knowledge about the biz with others. Case in point is something that occurred the other day. An old kayaking buddy of mine has written the first in a series of science fiction novels and wasn’t fully sold on which direction he wanted to take them: indie or traditional. We got on Skype and chatted about the gamut of things one needs to know and consider when making this decision, and he asked a question that tickled me pink on several levels. To paraphrase, he wanted to know if an author had more credibility to potential readers if they publish via print format, either in lieu of or along with an ebook.

The question caught me completely off guard. Can you guess why?

That’s right. Most of us have been book nerds for long enough now that we remember the days before ebooks when independent authors were (considered) the guileless, or worse, narcissistic, writer wannabes who used vanity press and print-on-demand services to publish their books. They were frowned upon and condescended because it was assumed that anyone who couldn’t get an agent or sell their books directly to a publishing house was simply not a good writer. And when they sidestepped the traditional route and printed their books on their own, they were considered delusional and even insufferable ego trippers.

We’ve come so far, you know? The thousands upon thousands of talents who are now self-publishing are often no different than those early vanity/POD indies (in that many of us are actually quite good writers, just not easy fits into traditional publishing’s mold). A few things have changed, true, such as the advent of ebooks, but the spirit of creativity and talent and skill that make a good writer has been among us all along, and now there is nothing to hold it back. The big picture has flipped, and having your books in print is no longer the route of the delusional but just another of the smart business practices of independent authorpeneurs.

Most of the indies I know have achieved their success through publishing ebooks, but that doesn’t mean print books haven’t also contributed. So, back to my friend’s question: Do indie authors with print books also available seem more credible to your average reader? My gut says no, but I don’t know of any studies or anecdotal evidence to support this idea. When ebooks exploded, print quickly became a distant consideration that had little to do with most indies’ rise to the top. The idea many of us had was to test the waters to see if there was a market for our books through the ebook channel, and if so, printing them became the next consideration. When I did my research, the overwhelming buzz from other indies I talked with who had achieved any success was that print books were still mostly just a fun thing to have but weren’t their main income channel by a long shot. You could extrapolate that to mean that readers aren’t even the tiniest bit concerned with/or interested in print books (enough to make them profitable), but again, I just don’t know.

So I want to throw it out to you all. What do you think? Now that indie publishing is a meaningful and permanent part of the overall publishing paradigm, and readers flock to us with nearly the same enthusiasm that was once only reserved for traditionally published novelists, do our major markets (readers) care about print books? Does it makes us seem more professional or credible if we have them? Leave a comment and let us know what you think.

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All content copyright unless otherwise specified © 2014 by Tammy Salyer, writer. All rights reserved.