Saturday, November 11, 2017

Thoughts on Publishing a Paperback

A paperback copy of a book signals completion in a way no digital book can. Frankly, most family, friends, and colleagues won’t consider you ‘published’ until they see a hard copy.

Besides self-satisfaction, a paperback enables you to:
  • Provide review copies to local media
  • Donate (or sell) a copy to the local library – which is also a form of marketing
  • Conduct a book signing
  • Submit a copy to the Library of Congress (via their LOC Identifier Number)
  • Adapt the print copy to large print, which broadens your audience
  • Have more flexibility with photos (which can only be so large in an ebook)
  • And …ta daa..
  • Share your book with people who don't read ebooks
 As a self-published author, your first choice is probably going to be the size of the book. The cheapest to produce is 8.5 by 11 inches, because the printer does not have to cut the paper. That’s fine for a cookbook or family history, perhaps some children’s books, but it is not appropriate for fiction and most nonfiction

When I first began self-publishing, I used the 6x9 size for regular paperbacks, but for shorter books I have converted to 5x8. I find the smaller size closer to that of mass-market paperbacks.

However, because smaller books require more pages, they cost more and you may need to price them higher. Thus, I only do the smaller size for books less than about 55,000 words.


I do the paperback, at least in near-final draft, weeks before publishing the ebook. Since you aren’t rushing to get a book published (because that guarantees errors), you have time. Your formatting might not be perfect for the first round, but that’s why you order a proof.

You might choose to do the paperback (in draft form) even earlier so that you can use it as a tool to consider revisions. If my critique group and I are happy with my (probably fifth) draft, I may format the paperback before sending the book to a copyeditor. Usually I do it after editing is complete, but perhaps before proofreading.

You have a choice for a digital or printed proof. I have a proof printed, and it arrives quickly (at least from Create Space). I can review the proof to see how it looks and spot typos. Then I fix the typos in the ebook and paperback.

The discipline of doing this also means the revised paperback can be ready prior to the ebook. Some authors may have an ebook available for preorder but make the paperback available. That way, people can write reviews before the ebook (usually the bigger seller) is formally issued.


You are the publisher, your choice is which firm to pick to print and distribute. I prefer Create Space, an Amazon company. If you think you will sell a large number of paperbacks, you can consider Ingram Spark; working with them facilitates placement in bookstores.

Ingram Spark's process is a more complex one than Create Space's, and you need to price a book higher to make the same amount of money. I've used both. Most self-published books tend to be sold in local bookstores, with the author providing the copies, and online.

An important difference between the two companies is that Create Space has no fees.

Recently, Amazon began offering a paperback option after you publish a Kindle book. Because Create Space offers more sizes and additional flexibilities, I plan to stick with them.

Some people think Amazon (which owns Create Space) will eventually close Create Space and force authors to go only through Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP). Though Amazon is ending customer ordering through Create Space, I find it hard to believe they would fully merge paperback publishing with KDP. They are different animals.

For more information on the two firms, check the help pages on their web sites. You can also download my paper on publishing a paperback with Create Space.\
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