It doesn’t take a genius to realize why ebooks became so popular (and how Amazon built an empire, based on authors’
years of rejections getting screwed by publishers and others frustrations with matters like distribution and marketing) among authors who decided to bypass the traditional publishing route. It’s relatively cheap (depending on your tolerance for bad covers and poor editing) and it’s easy as can be.
But when it comes to print books, you need to know a few things.
The returnability issue
As a POD published author and a self-published author, the biggest hurdle you face to getting your product placed in bookstores is the infeasibility of allowing your books to be returned for a complete refund if they aren’t sold. Not to mention the penalty you as the publisher get socked with for shipping costs. The alternative is for the bookseller to destroy the books. Both a financial waste and hardly an eco-conscious approach. But it’s been standard practice for a long, long time. Unfortunately, booksellers continue to insist upon doing this and traditional publishers continue to follow this practice, cranking out large print runs instead of finding ways to use modern technology to create new solutions.
At one time, authors engaged with readers in any bookstore that would have them. They routinely did things like sell books out of the trunks of their cars, direct to readers, aka, consumers. Setting up signings at book fairs, festivals and other venues, going to individual bookstores and arranging events where and when they could. These methods, although they can bear fruit with enough time and effort, are a lot of work, time consuming, and not terribly cost-effective. Then, clever authors found ways to use the Internet to sell books of various formats online. A much less labor-intensive and time-saving approach. At one time, the problem was virtually eliminated (no pun intended) with the advent of ebooks.
Ebooks are the cheapest, easiest and most logical way for self-published authors to distribute and sell their work. However, since I first self-published my fiction in 2009, the ebook market has exploded.
More than ever, this means self-published writers need to “up their game” in terms of the quality of their work.
Writing and promoting a badly-written book is like walking around with a “Kick me” sign on your back. You’re also doing nothing to advance your writing career. In fact, you may end up derailing it, if you aren’t careful.
Much of this advice depends on what you wish to achieve as a writer. Always remember that your notion of success may not match that of other “influential” authors.
Remember also never to compare your start with someone else’s middle.
PS: I still think that if you want your work placed in bookstores and libraries, you should listen to Amy Collins’ podcast interview.