Monday, November 17, 2014

Help! Need feedback!

Q: As a reader, e-books or print? As an author, e-books or print?

-from Susan

Both and both.

Even though my first two Dani mysteries were already out in e-book form, I hadn’t succumbed to a digital reader until I began to plan for my recent trip to France. My dear American friend living in Burgundy had begged me to schlep a handful of books she couldn’t get there and I realized there was no room for my own necessary quota of reading material in the one small suitcase I was determined to limit myself to. To offset the cold, hard feel and look of the device, I bought a leather-like, embossed cover. I had no problem reading off the screen – I bought a Kindle “paperwhite,” which I can even read in bright light.

But, I find I don’t use the e-reader much unless I’m traveling. It can never take the place of books if only because the walls in my house are already lined with hundreds (thousands?) of books still begging to be read. I enjoy real book covers, I relish the feeling that each book is a gift waiting to be opened.

As a writer, this is a question I’ve been thinking about a lot recently. My first Dani mystery, Murder in the Abstract, came out first as a hard cover. My friends were pleased for me, but it’s harder to sell a $24 book than a trade or mass paper edition, both versions of which followed a year or so later. My second Dani mystery, The King’s Jar, came out as a trade paper but also as an e-book simultaneously, and the e-book sales were quicker and more robust, in part because the distribution system my publisher used was weak. The paper version was $14 and the e-book less.

My third Dani mystery, Mixed Up with Murder, is in production now and I have asked my publisher to release it only as an e-book, at least for a first edition. My take on the pros is that people can decide instantly, that they’ll try reasonably-priced books with instant downloads, that online e-book promotions are pretty successful (see BookBub), and that libraries now buy e-books too. Since the other books in the series are also available electronically, readers who like one can easily download the others. The cons: no professional reviews (I got wonderful ones for the second Dani), fewer blog reviews, no in-store readings and book tours, nothing to sign when people do buy it. I’ll miss the interactions with readers, the best part of this whole process. It’s a gamble and I’m not at all sure what will happen, but I am pleased my publisher is willing to try it, and to do a print edition later if we decide it’s a good (read, profitable for them) strategy.

Fellow Minds, what do you think? Readers, are you aboard the e-book ride? I welcome your feedback. The book industry is shifting under our feet and the pathways are not always clear.


Paul D. Marks said...

I agree with you, Susan. Pluses and minuses on both sides of the issue. But overall if forced to pick, I'd pick a "real" paper book, just for the overall feel of it.

Meredith Cole said...

I love to read real books. I've tried the Kindle and it's just not the same. Of course, friends of mine who travel quite a bit swear they could never do without ebooks. Definitely great when you have to pack light!

Alan Orloff said...

As a reader, I prefer paper (the sight, the feel, the smell). But you can't beat the convenience of ebooks, especially when traveling. So I read books in both formats. As a writer, I like having books available in both formats--give people what they want, right? So there's really no need to choose. (That's my wishy-washy story, and I'm sticking to it.)

RJ Harlick said...

Susan, you are being very daring by having your next book only published as an ebook. Certainly my royalty statements tell me that ebook sales outpace printed books, but I love being able to interact with fans and new readers at store signings and other books events with my trade paperbacks. Rather difficult to do this with ebooks. And I do find that people are quite happy to pay that extra amount for the printed version, either because, like me, they want the feel of a real book or they want the author's signature.

Susan C Shea said...

I hear you, fellow Minds, and I resonate with the "both" answer for personal and professional reasons...up to a point. But the cost of visiting bookstores, conventions, and anything far away can quickly overwhelm the balance sheet (for me, anyway). Robin, I am not sure if it's "daring" or "foolish"!

Having just gotten home from Bouchercon (YAY Art, who won the short story McCavity!!!) and seeing a sea of books everywhere, I am nervous about the e-book exclusive. Will report back.

Peter DiChellis said...

I read both, but prefer print, which just seems more comfortable in the hands and on the eyes.

I’ve had my short stories published in e-book anthologies as well as in paperback. I’ll take it any way I can get it.

FYI, info I’ve seen, which combines fiction and non-fiction but not textbooks, gives e-books and hardcover each roughly 25% of the book market, with all paperbacks (trade, mass, etc.) taking about half the market.

So hard cover roughly equals e-books, and print overall still has about three-quarters total market share due to paperbacks. Some sources suggest fiction has a higher e-book percentage than the overall figures, which include non-fiction.

Also, the conventional wisdom for now says e-books are most likely expanding overall book sales rather than only cannibalizing print sales, perhaps with the exception of the mass paperback segment.

I guess the issue for many writers is that all e-books are sold online, but print is also sold in bookstores, and it's tough getting on those shelves.

Oops, TMI?

Susan C Shea said...

Thanks, Peter. It's really a puzzle, isn't it? Personally, I love bookstores and libraries and events where I can interact directly with other book lovers.