This post was prompted by a reader email asking me when I was going to make all of my books available in paperback. I've been receiving variations of this question more and more frequently lately, so I thought I'd lay it all out there, and hopefully clear the air on what's available and how.
True Fact: Unless I self-publish something, the issue of format is not up to me.
Format is the way in which the book is presented for sale. Format possibilities include: mass market paperback, trade paperback, hardcover, digital, and audio (plus a lot more that are way too expansive and make my eyes cross a little bit when looking at a contract). But for the moment, these are the most popular formats.
For-sale format is, in the end, up to the publisher and what they contracted the book(s) for. This means that Bantam picked the format for Dreg City, and Pocket Star picked the format for MetaWars.
The first four Dreg
City books (Three Days to Dead, As Lie the Dead, Another Kind of Dead,
Wrong Side of Dead) are all available in both digital and mass market
format, through any major retailer. If you can't find the books on the
shelves at your local bookstore, the bookstore can still order them.
It is no secret that book sales directly influence whether or not a publisher will contract an author for more books in a series (or if they will take a chance and buy a new series from the same author). And while Three Days to Dead did and continues to sell well, interest in the rest of the series has....well, dwindled. A lot. Readers weren't finding books two, three, and four, for whatever reason, so Bantam chose to not issue a
contract for more Dreg City books.
I chose to digitally self-publish the fifth book (Requiem for the Dead) so that the
story could continue in some format. And yes, I am considering a paperback format through Createspace. Why haven't I done it yet? Because self-publishing costs money. I have invested not only my time, but also money into the cover, the ISBN, and formatting the book for various platforms (because Kindle does not take the same formatting as for Nook). File formatting is beyond my capabilities, so I had to pay someone else to do this for me, and it isn't cheap. I will have to pay someone to format for Createspace. And I honestly can't tell myself that the cost for creating a printable file will be recouped in sales.
I hate having to think like a publisher and worry about money, but when you self-publish that's what happens. I have to hope I sell enough copies to recoup my investment and maybe go have a steak dinner.
MetaWars is a
Trance and Changeling were contracted together for
mass market and digital release. But the sales were pretty terrible. I'm being honest here. Maybe superheroes simply don't translate to print as well as comics or movies. Maybe the books weren't marketed correctly and people wrote them off as more fluffy urban fantasy. I don't know. In terms of availability, I believe Trance is still available in both
mass market and digital, but Changeling did not go back for a second printing, so
those copies are dwindling.Changeling is available in trade format through a print-on-demand service, but once the mass market copies are sold out, that's done.
When it came time to submit a proposal for more books, Pocket chose to only offer to publish books three and four (Tempest,
Chimera) in digital format. I accepted the offer because I love these characters, and I love their world, and I wasn't ready to say goodbye. Digital only is better than nothing at all. Did I know going into it that I would lose readers? Yes, and I'm sorry for that. But I was going to lose readers no matter what.
Again, it's all about
sales. Publishing is a business, and despite good reviews across the board, my books
aren't selling well. When that happens, publishers go to a simpler format, or they don't offer another contract. Sometimes with digital first imprints, a book may be offered in
print at a later date if the digital sales are good. This type of
contract is happening more and more frequently for mid-list authors, as evidenced by a recent Publisher's Weekly article. This is the type of contract offer I received for my most recent submission to New York publishers (which I will talk about more when I am able). It's an interesting shift that reflects our changing times, when ereaders and smartphones are taking over our lives and our society.
I often have folks tell me they don't own a Kindle, or another e-reading device. The good news is that even
if you don't have an e-reader, there are lots
of free apps that allow you to read digital books on a smart phone,
tablet, and even on your personal computer. For a long time, I read digital-only books on my laptop, because being able to read those stories was more important to me than having a paper book in my hands (then I finally saved up and indulged in a very basic Nook). There are ways to read digital books without buying an e-reader.
Digital is simply another
format, much like hardcover or trade paperback. And digital is not going away. For some writers, it's becoming our lifeblood and our only source of income. Do I wish I could make all of my readers happy and give them the format they want? You bet your ass, I do. Can I? No. I don't wield that kind of power.
The only real power I have is to craft the most entertaining stories that I can possibly tell, and then do my best to get them into the marketplace.
After that, it's out of my hands.