I need advice and if you’ve ever bought a book, you’re qualified to give it
Four months ago I self-published BACK TO CREATIVE WRITING SCHOOL – an ebook of 30 writing exercises that I’ve developed over nine years of teaching on university undergraduate courses and in chilly church halls, on lottery funded community projects and in adult education evening classes. Self-publishing was a new experience for me and that was part of the reason why I did it. I knew from what I had read in other blogs and through talking with fellow writers that we are at a cusp where the relationships between authors and publishers and authors and readers is undergoing an extraordinary change and I wanted to see what it felt like.
Others are proud – and rightly so – of their ability to take control over every part of the process, but I decided that I wasn’t even going to attempt formatting my ebook. I’m very glad the technology exists but I have no desire to learn new skills to master it. It was a service I was happy to pay for and I also paid a little extra so I could have my hand held over the easy-peasy business of uploading the finished book to Amazon – that’s how confident I felt.
I also listened to good advice and engaged a designer to produce a cover and I am so glad I did. Nothing shouts beginner and I-don’t-know-what-I’m-doing more loudly than a book that looks as though it were part of a GCSE art project.
So what has it felt like?
To be honest, it’s no longer an interesting experiment and I can see self-publishing in some form becoming part of my writing strategy (which is a grand phrase to cover all kinds of haphazard lurches).
Encouraging daily sales mean that BACK TO CREATIVE WRITING SCHOOL has been number one in the Kindle education and reference section for something like two and a half months and in the top twenty for books about writing (that’s print books and ebooks) for even longer. It’s gained 36 five star reviews on Amazon UK and eight on Amazon US, but now I’ve been thinking about bringing it out as a print book: one that you can pick up and feel, turn the corners down on and scribble in the margins. (That’s not sacrilege as far as I’m concerned – this a working book, not an Austen first edition. The occasional underlining and penciled question mark would be like grease spots on a cookery book – proof that it was useful.)
If I did bring out a print version I would want to add to it, rather than make it an exact replica of the ebook, I was thinking of including about twenty per cent more in the way of exercises and guidance so it was genuinely a new edition.
This is where I need your advice.
I’m not asking if you would buy a paperback copy of BACK TO CREATIVE WRITING SCHOOL, although of course I would be thrilled (and mildly surprised) if you jumped up and down and declared that this was exactly what you were waiting for…
No, my question is a bit more general. I want to know if you would consider spending more on any print book (how much more I don’t know because it depends on the number of pages, but I’m assuming about £5 more) when an easy to download and cheaper electronic version was available.
It shows my deep-seated technical ignorance that it was only after publishing BACK TO CREATIVE WRITING SCHOOL I realised that Amazon has a free app that allows readers to download ebooks to computers, tablets and smart phones. In other words you don’t need an ebook device to read an ebook.
To put my question another way:
are ebooks and print books the equivalent of CDs and vinyl, especially when it comes to paying hard cash at the check out?
Or is Stephen Fry right when he says that the two are not in competition and that ebooks are no more a threat to real books than elevators are to stairs.
I know what I’d like the answer to be, but what do you think?
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