Friday, October 01, 2010

What's the best format?

In this time of tremendous change in the publishing industry, many authors, including myself, have been left asking what formats we should be trying to get our books published in: hardcover, trade paperback, mass market paperback, e-book, audiobook, downloadable audiobook, large-print, and so on.

According to a recent Shelf Awareness, e-book sales have exploded 163% and now comprise almost 5% of the total trade market, while sales of mass market paperbacks have plunged almost 15%, though their sales are still twice that of e-books. Also, downloaded audio sales and hardcovers are up, though both are still a small fraction of the market. Sales of trade paperbacks dropped just a fraction, much less than mass market.

And to add to the discussion, here's a quote from The Wall Street Journal:
"In recent weeks, a number of leading publishers have indicated that e-books today account for about 8% of total revenue, up from 3% to 5% in the same period a year ago. Some expect that e-books will account for as much as 20-25% by the end of 2012."

I made the move last year from Five Star, which published my books in hardcover and large-print, to Midnight Ink, which publishes trade paperback and e-book formats, partly based on format. Of course, the ideal situation is to be published in ALL formats at the same time, so readers can choose to read your book in whatever format suits them best. But, no publisher currently does this, and each one produces only a subset of formats for each of their books.

If I could choose, what three formats would I select for my books? I think I would pick trade paperback, e-book, and downloadable audio. These are the formats my readers most often request from me. What about you? As a reader, which formats do you prefer and why? If you're a writer, what would your ideal publishing mix look like?


Terry Odell said...

Only three, eh?

Given the economy, I'd go for mass market so they'll be at a lower price point (more sales, more distribution outlets), e-book in as many formats as possible, and maybe audio, since I've had some people ask if mine are available that way.

It's tough to sit at a book signing with someone selling a mass market book for 7-8 dollars and the trades are running somewhere in the 15 dollar range. They may look prettier, but the words inside are the same.

And why is my spamword "porks"?

Terry's Place
Romance with a Twist--of Mystery

Vickie said...

As a reader, I prefer audio and traditional handheld in TPB or MPB. Both are for convenience both for storage and reading. I have a commute of 50 miles roundtrip for work and I love having someone tell me a story as I drive, keeps me mellow.
MPB size, especially the slender cozy mystery, is perfect for my purse book so I am ready if I get a sip'n'read time at a coffee shop or have to wait for an appt. TPB is good at bedtime, fairly light to hold while I lie in bed.
I will maybe get an e-reader at some point, my sister is giving me one of her Kindles. She received one from her husband and also one from her friend. I will get the older one which is the one from her friend. He bought the newest version and doesn't need two.
I think your choices are perfect.

Beth Groundwater said...

I, too, prefer trade paperbacks for reading in bed.

Fred Zackel said...

I have all my writings on Kindle & smashwords. Can somebody self-published get into the downloadable audio market? Where should I start to learn more?

Beth Groundwater said...

I don't really know the answer to your question, but I've heard that is a good downloadable audio company. Not sure what their submission policy is.