Publish & Prosper

Are Print Books Dead?

January 24, 2024 Matt Briel & Lauren Vassallo Season 1 Episode 9
Are Print Books Dead?
Publish & Prosper
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Publish & Prosper
Are Print Books Dead?
Jan 24, 2024 Season 1 Episode 9
Matt Briel & Lauren Vassallo

In this episode, Matt & Lauren discuss some of the most important questions asked by authors and creators - is it worth it to publish my books in print? Are readers still buying print books, or is print dead?

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Sound Bites From This Episode

🎙️ [16:35] “I just assumed people really kind of understood the statistics and metrics around print books and the popularity of it. And the fact is that's not true. A lot of people don't realize that print books are still so popular that they consistently outsell ebooks and audiobooks.”

🎙️ [24:39] “Most people when asked would prefer to buy directly from their creator of choice, whether that is an online course or a book, they would prefer to buy directly from the creator and support the creator and their efforts.”

🎙️ [32:46] “At the end of the day, I think as a creator who is creating content for others to consume, that should be your goal. Maximizing not only the channels to which you get your content to market, but you know, really turning followers into fans and then fans into super fans. And the only way to do that is to offer them more of your content, whether that means more content, or more formats of that same content, or special editions.”

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Show Notes Transcript

In this episode, Matt & Lauren discuss some of the most important questions asked by authors and creators - is it worth it to publish my books in print? Are readers still buying print books, or is print dead?

Dive Deeper

💡Review the Data

💡 Learn More About

💡 Watch These Videos

Sound Bites From This Episode

🎙️ [16:35] “I just assumed people really kind of understood the statistics and metrics around print books and the popularity of it. And the fact is that's not true. A lot of people don't realize that print books are still so popular that they consistently outsell ebooks and audiobooks.”

🎙️ [24:39] “Most people when asked would prefer to buy directly from their creator of choice, whether that is an online course or a book, they would prefer to buy directly from the creator and support the creator and their efforts.”

🎙️ [32:46] “At the end of the day, I think as a creator who is creating content for others to consume, that should be your goal. Maximizing not only the channels to which you get your content to market, but you know, really turning followers into fans and then fans into super fans. And the only way to do that is to offer them more of your content, whether that means more content, or more formats of that same content, or special editions.”

Send us a Text Message.

💀 Can’t wait for our next episode? Check out our Resources page for links to our blog,
our YouTube channel, and more.
💀 Find us on Facebook, X, Instagram, and LinkedIn at luludotcom!
💀 Email us at
💀 Sign up for our mailing list.

Matt: Welcome back everybody to another episode of Publish & Prosper. Today we're going to be talking about print books, and are they dead? 

Lauren: I hope not. 

Matt: That's an appropriate answer from you. 

Lauren: Yeah, I would think so. I've kind of based my entire personality off of this, or at least a fraction of it, and most of my career as well. 

Matt: Me too. I think I've put enough hate out there in the world, around ebooks, that there's no way that I don't die on that hill of print books, so. If print books are dead, I'm in big trouble. And actually, so are our jobs. 

Lauren: Yeah. Yeah. Maybe a secondary concern. 

Matt: Yeah. Not to scare you prematurely, but yeah. 

Lauren: Well, I don't know. Are we going to sit here and talk about the fact that we think print books are dead? 

Matt: No. 

Lauren: Do we think that print books are dead? 

Matt: Well, some people do. 

Lauren: But do we? 

Matt: Do we think print books are dead? 

Lauren: Yeah. 

Matt: No, absolutely not. 

Lauren: Oh, thank God. Okay. I thought we were going to have an argument for an hour. 

Matt: I mean, that's not what we're saying, is it? 

Lauren: I hope not. 

Matt: Okay. I just want to make sure. Yeah. Because I don't think they're dead. But I mean, not to give you the impression that I did not look at today's outline, but I'm assuming you do not think they're dead either and that the data that we have in front of us will prove that they're not dead.

Lauren: I certainly do not think that print books are dead. 

Matt: Good. Okay. Then let's move forward.

Lauren: Alright.


Matt: I think the reason why we're talking about this today is: on the heels of several events that we were at last year, – and even the big one in November, 20Books, which is now Author Nation –  I kept finding myself in conversations with authors around their desire to start selling direct, to experiment with direct sales, to be able to sell their books directly to their readers and fans and kind of cut out the middle man. And you know, that's the big thing right now. So a lot of them were really wanting to learn more about that. But what I started to realize too, was that many of these authors have never sold a print book, never created a print book. They've always just delivered ebooks into the market. So they're kind of experimenting with both at the same time, or considering that. And a lot of them were a little worried, like ‘is anybody gonna buy a print version of my book? Do people still read print books?’ And I think we kind of take it for granted that we get this sales data all the time. Like, we know that print books are alive and well, and not only are they alive and well, but they vastly outperform and outsell ebooks on a yearly, monthly, and daily basis. 

But once I kind of put those two together, it dawned on me that this is an extra level of fear and insecurity that a lot of authors have, because not only are they wanting to experiment with selling direct and they want to push into that, but many of them have not ever created a print book or sold a print book. So that's new to them too. And really the easiest way to get into direct sales these days as an author is with print, especially if you're using our tools. It all just kind of made sense and it clicked. And I think that's why we should talk a little bit about print books today and just how not dead, just how alive they actually are. 

Lauren: Yeah, I think we should definitely dive into this topic. Not just because it's something that our hopefully listeners and people that we meet at conferences are interested in, but also because it's something that we're interested in. And it's fun to get to talk about a topic that we are actually personally interested in.

Matt: I agree. 

Lauren: Which is, I guess, all of them. But I'm a little bit more personally invested in this particular topic, as it is something that is very near and dear to my heart. 

Matt; Yeah, no, I agree. 

Lauren: And my wallet. 

Matt: Yes, I think both of our wallets are tied very heavily to the print book industry.

Lauren: I – actually just this past weekend – ordered an exclusive set of a trilogy that I love. One of my favorite trilogies of all time. I ordered an exclusive edition set of the three books that are UK exclusive editions. So. Um. I think I spent more money on the shipping from the UK than I did on the books themselves. But it was uh…not a small amount of money that I spent on these. So if you're asking me personally, I'm very invested in possibly singlehandedly keeping the print book industry alive and well. 

Matt: I also personally can tell you that I have never once purchased or downloaded an ebook, ever, in my life.

Lauren: Oh.

Matt: I've never owned an ebook reader device. I mean, my phone, you could obviously read an ebook on it if you wanted to, but it's just never been my thing. I could never get past the idea that I'm turning pages in my hand, that I don't have something that has a spine, and a cover, a front and back cover. Like it's just the concept. I can't stand it. I don't like it. 

Lauren: I actually can't agree with any of that. Um, but I think that's actually probably a great thing for us to be able to be clear about the fact that throughout this episode, if you're listening to this and you're like, well, you two have already established that you’re book nerds, you're giving a biased opinion on this. I am. I actually read books in all formats. Like I – 

Matt: Boooooooo. 

Lauren: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Okay. I do actually really enjoy audiobooks. I listen to a lot of audiobooks. I have a fairly massive print book collection. Sometimes I'll bounce back and forth. Actually over the weekend, I was working my way through a book series and I was listening to the audiobooks and reading the print books at the same time. So I was doing some stuff around the house, so I put the audiobook on, and then I was like, mm I’m gonna, you know, sit for an hour and read the print book because I can get further in the print book in an hour than I can in an hour of audiobook listening. 

Matt: That sounds like a car crash. 

Lauren: Why, it was great? 

Matt: That is so chaotic. I - that is just making my brain hurt.

Lauren: But I had a really productive weekend. I got so much stuff done around the house, and I read two books. 

Matt: Hmm. Okay. 

Lauren: Yeah. And then I also do read a lot of ebooks, whether they're print-on-demand that are ebook first, or just ebooks are easier to borrow from the library because I can just do it using Libby instead of having to physically go to the library.

Matt: So if there's anybody out there that would like to apply for Lauren's job as the cohost of this podcast with me, you can send those resumes to... I'm just kidding. That's fine. You can have your own opinions. That's cool. Even if it does include ebooks. 

Lauren: We're going to do a whole episode on this one day. 

Matt: I feel it coming. 

Lauren: I'm going to keep pushing for it until it happens.

Matt: I don't like it. 

Lauren: Format wars. 

Matt: Alright. 

Lauren: I'm here for it. 

Matt: Alright. 


Lauren: But let's talk about this one specific format for a little while. 

Matt: Since it's the one we agree on, let's talk about it. 

Lauren: Alright. So. Is print dead? Discuss. 

Matt: Well, let's bring in some statistics here so that people don't think we're just completely opinionated and we're not bringing any data to the table.

Lauren: If we must.

Matt: If we must, yes. Well, we actually love data, so. 

Lauren: We do, we are both data nerds. 

Matt: That's right. Some of the most recent data though, just so you guys realize that we're bringing some actual statistics to this thing. A Pew Research study in January of last year noted that print books remain the most popular format for reading. It goes on to say that of the US adults who reported reading a book in the past 12 months, 23% listened to an audiobook, 30% read an ebook, and 65% read a printed book. And if you're Lauren, you did all three of those at once. That's a pretty big number 65% read a printed book versus the 23% that listened to an audiobook and the 30% that read an ebook. 

Lauren: It's more than double what the ebook readers were. Also just a general disclaimer, as we start talking about these statistics and stuff like that, we are recording this episode in January of 2024 – time is still not real. We don't have a lot of the data from 2023 yet. A lot of these sources that aggregate and publish this data have not yet published 2023 data. So you're going to hear us citing a lot of 2022 and 2021 data, but it hasn't changed that much.

Matt: Yeah. 

Lauren: There's trends in a lot of these. 

Matt: There is some data from the first half of 2023, because a lot of businesses and publishers will report their first and second quarters and even some third quarter numbers, but definitely no Q4 numbers for 2023 yet. But yeah that’s a good note. A lot of this data is really 2022, and trends leading up to 2022, and some will include 2023 in their data as well, but. 

That tells you a little bit about reading habits, because I know a lot of people also, when we would talk to them at shows, would bring that up. Everybody I know reads ebooks, or that’s all I sell is ebooks. And I don’t know if anybody’s reading print books anymore. My kids only use iPads or whatever. Well, the rest of the world is still reading print books. 

Lauren: Yeah. 

Matt: You and your kids might not be, but the rest of the world is. And then when we talk about the sales side of things, so again, for those authors who really want to make that jump and they want to start potentially experimenting with direct sales, but more importantly, print books from the sales side, those numbers have continued to trend up since the mid 2000s. US publishers and several other outlets have reported upwards of over 825 million print books sold in 2021, and roughly almost that same number for 2022 has been recorded as well. For clarification or just a little more context, that's almost a 9% increase from 2020. And anecdotally, for those of us in the industry, we saw massive spikes in print book sales and readership starting in 2021, even more so than what was already happening, a lot of it obviously spurned on by COVID and the lockdowns.

Lauren: Yeah, I think that's a really important point to highlight here, is that if you're hearing some of these more recent numbers and you're saying like, oh, yeah, well, there was this massive spike in reading and people buying books during COVID lockdown and people were home and reading. These are numbers from 2021 and 2022. The height of the lockdown was in 2020. So there were spikes in sales reported in 2020. And now we're continuing to see those numbers rise. So it's not like there was this spike in 2020 and then things went down and that's skewing the numbers. We're reporting numbers here that are continuing to go up from the initial spikes in 2020. 

We've even seen a little bit of preliminary data for 2023 that does indicate that print book sales did drop in 2023 slightly, not as much as they were originally anticipating, or as trend reports initially suggested. But even then, according to Publishers Weekly, they were saying that despite the fact that print sales fell in 2023, they are still higher than the numbers from 2019 and the pre-pandemic highs. So even with, like, a decrease in print book sales this year, or I'm sorry, last year, we're still seeing higher print book sales in the 2020s than we did in the 2010s, I guess? Oh, hate that. 

Matt: Yeah. And I'm even looking at some of that data right now, like charts and things. If you go all the way back to like 2004, 2005, you were looking at – in the US alone – sales of print books were a little over 600 million. And that just kept increasing. There was a small dip, you know, around the time period of 2011, 2012. And then just started jumping right back up again and bring us to now, again, last two years, over 800 million print books sold. And honestly, that number is not all-inclusive, because most of what's in that number is reported by the big five traditional publishers and some other outlets. But you gotta remember, there are so many other smaller publishing imprints that their numbers don't get included in a lot of this data because they're privately-held companies. There's a lot of self-publishing companies where those books and that data is not included. Realistically, it's probably a number that's closer to 900, 900 and a half million, something along those lines. I would say that print is not dead and those books are selling.

Lauren: Absolutely. Would also assume that that would not include direct sales, right? Those numbers aren't including direct sales because most people that are selling books direct are not reporting that data to any of these sources. 

Matt: Yeah. In most cases, if you're not reporting your sales to somebody like BookScan, Bowker, those entities that are tracking and keeping track of book sales and units sold, then yeah, that does not also include all of the creators and authors these days that are selling direct. That number – while large, 800 and some million units sold just in the US alone – is not all-inclusive. It's in reality a much larger number. So money is there to be made on print books if you're somebody who's not tried it yet, or if you're just getting into it and you're still not convinced that people will buy print books, people are buying them. For sure. And if you're also one of those authors who has invested in translations or wants to get into translations, lest you think that the US is the only place where print is alive and well, let me reassure you that your book will be well received in the print version in lots of other countries. 

For example, Germany, we were just looking at when you look at the share of the population that purchased an ebook versus a printed book in 2021 and 2022, 10.8% roughly purchased an ebook while over 58% purchased a print book. Same for a lot of other countries. I mean, you can look at the UK, France, Spain, Australia, many of these markets, you're seeing the exact same delineation or breakup between the two formats. Print is alive and well, not only in the US, but definitely outside of the US, especially in markets like the UK, Germany, France, and a few others. Yeah, I wouldn't limit yourself, especially if you're not afraid to go after some translation, international rights stuff.

Lauren: You know, when we're looking at all this data and even just talking anecdotally about this, there's a whole wide world, literally, of opportunities for sales of print books, especially if you're self-publishing, or using global distribution, or even selling direct, a lot of the self-publishing companies out there, and a lot of the distribution options out there, will print worldwide and will send their books worldwide. Even if you're not interested in doing translations, even if you're just writing in your native language, there are probably readers all over the world that can have access to your books.

Matt: Yeah, that's a great point. We oftentimes sort of gloss over that here at Lulu, but it's only because we do print and ship all over the world and it's just kind of a commonplace thing for us. So, I hadn't thought about it that way, yeah. 

Lauren: Yeah, for sure.

Matt: That's a good point. 


Lauren: So you mentioned that this was initially inspired by some conversations that you had with authors and creators at some of the conferences that you went to last year. I'm sure these are conversations that we'll have again throughout conferences that we attend this year. Were there any specific questions that stuck out for you that people were asking you about this topic that kind of inspired you to be like, ‘oh yeah, let's talk more about print not being dead.’

Matt: I don't know if it was specific questions more than it was probably the first time that it had dawned on me that, you know, when you're talking about a genre, let's say like fanfiction or really any type of fiction where content is being generated fairly quickly. The idea that any other medium besides an ebook would be well received by their audience. I had just never thought about that and didn't realize that was a thought that those authors were having. I'd never thought about it and didn't realize that was so much of an issue or a topic. 

Lauren: Before you keep going, this just connected in my head. Do you mean serial fiction? 

Matt: What did I say? 

Lauren: Fanfiction.

Matt: I did mean serial fiction. 

Lauren: Okay, so we're just going to add a point of clarification here. You're not allowed to publish fanfiction. So, we're never talking about fanfiction, unless we're specifically talking about how you're not allowed to publish fanfiction. 

Matt: Yeah, I didn't say fanfiction. You said fanfiction. 

Lauren: You're totally right. I definitely said fanfiction.

Matt: Don't rewind this. 

Lauren: No. That was a really valuable point. I don't want to lose that and I don't want to try to recreate it. So I'm not going to cut this out. 

Matt: Well, you're going to cut some of it out. 

Lauren: No, I'm not. No no no. This episode is going fully unedited. 

Matt: Oh my God. 

Lauren: Just to clarify, what Matt is talking about here is serial fiction, which if you're not familiar with it, serial fiction is kind of exactly what it sounds like. Serialized fiction where it's more episodic, like TV shows. Where, while there is a satisfying story arc in a single book, there is also a larger overarching story element to it. You're using the same characters, or somebody who's a minor character in book one might be the main character of book two. And in book two, you'll meet the character who'll be the main character of book three and so on and so forth. So it's a little bit more episodic in nature and it tends to be published on a more frequent schedule.

Matt: Yeah, when we use the term serial fiction, we're referring to that and the frequency of which they publish these books. So somebody who's publishing pretty regularly, sometimes even monthly. But yeah, more episodic, your trilogies, things like that. That's what we're talking about. We are not talking about fanfiction. I'm not sure how that came out, but thank you for catching that. 

Lauren: It's okay, it's only because I have, like, an immediate radar. Someone says the word fanfiction, I'm like, ooh. 

Matt: Yeah.

Lauren: It's either my favorite subject to talk about or something that I have to repeatedly say, we're not allowed to do that. Please stop trying to do it. Depending on the context. 

Matt: Well, I think the point there was that it wasn't any particular question that stood out for me that made me feel like we should talk about this. It was, again, just the concept that we take it for granted. I just assumed people really kind of understood the statistics and metrics around print books and the popularity of it. And the fact is that's not true. A lot of people don't realize that print books are still so popular that they consistently outsell ebooks and audiobooks. And so that's why I felt it was important enough to talk about it, because right now in the world of publishing, selling direct is probably the – probably not the hottest topic, now that AI has really entered the picture or the conversation. 

Lauren: True. 

Matt: But in most instances, if you're talking with an author who's very active, they either want to talk about AI or they want to talk about direct sales. When we are talking about direct sales, print naturally comes into that conversation. And so understanding now that a lot of these authors that we talk to have never done a print book, have never thought about putting their books into print or taking their back catalog and pushing that out in print with a really cool new cover or some cover variants. And, you know, there's so many cool things you can do with print. I think the realization of that was just like, oh God, we really need to talk about this because a lot of them are really missing the boat here, like. There's so much they could do with their content in the world of print and direct sales that could keep them busy all of 2024 alone without creating any new content.


Lauren: That right there, that is a key point. If you are already publishing books, but you're publishing in an ebook format and you're not, you haven't experimented with print sales yet, this is a great way for you to monetize your content in a new way, that you haven't been doing in the past, without writing a single new word. If you want to take a break from writing, or if you don't want to take a break from writing, but you want to figure out some ways to put new life into your backlist while you're working on new projects. This is a great way to do that, to start putting together print copies of your content. Or even, for the example of serial fiction authors, my first thought whenever that ever comes up at a conference or in a conversation around Lulu office or anything like that, when someone says something like, is it worth it for serial fiction to be published in print form? Yes, absolutely. If you don't wanna publish the individual copies of your books, put together a couple of anthologies. I've got a ten book series that's told in an arc of three books and three books and then four books. Put together three anthologies with all three of those bundled together in a single print copy for each one of them. You can sell them at a higher price point because they're not just ebooks.

You know, Matt and I were talking about this while we were getting ready for this episode. I will always be willing to pay more money for a print copy of a book than I am for an ebook. I get really offended when an ebook is anything more than like $5 or $6, honestly. Like really pissed about it. But I won't think twice about dropping $30 on a print book. 

Matt: Yeah. 

Lauren: It's been it's been a hot minute since we brought up Taylor Swift on this podcast. So I would like to remind everybody about the massive success that Taylor Swift has had in republishing her old content and just, you know, rerecording and putting out new versions of the albums that she has already created and already won awards with and already broke sales records with. And now she's doing it all over again with the same content. And why wouldn't you want to do that, too?


Matt: Yeah, I agree. Back to this idea that you could take…let's say your best performing trilogy, smash that up into one book, one volume, throw it on a Kickstarter, or not. Just prepare it with a nice, really cool cover, call it a limited edition, throw it up on your website, experiment with some direct sales. And now you have another stream of revenue coming in and it's content you've already created. You get to put it out in a new format. Your fans will be happy. They will buy it, for sure. And the profit margins on that are going to be sky high compared to those ebooks that you're selling. You could sell a hundred ebooks to every five print books and you're still going to make more money off those five print books if you're selling them direct. 

Lauren: We were actually just looking at some sales data that emphasized that point too. I think we've referenced before for publishing industry statistics. They have some really great aggregate data on here, but I was just looking at this chart and it's actually kind of funny to look at it because it's global book sales by format in revenue made, and the massive bulk of each of these bars on this graph is print book revenue.

Matt: For each area 

Lauren: So we're looking at 2017 through 2023. This is global book sales in revenue in billions of dollars, and for all of them the print book revenue is between I think the lowest is 62 and the highest is 73 billion. And the ebook sales is between 11 billion and 15 billion.

Matt: Yeah. 

Lauren: So just like a fraction of what the print book revenue is. And that's not by unit sales. That's not saying the number of books that were sold, that's saying the revenue that was made on those sales. So, like Matt said, if you make $10 on a single print sale, you would have had to sell how many ebooks to make that?

Matt: Oh, a ton if you're selling them on Amazon. 

Lauren: Yeah, for sure. 

Matt: I think you're getting paid…

Lauren: We're talking pennies. 

Matt: Yeah, for sure. Another reason I think, or one of the strongest reasons to really push into print if you haven't already, including direct sales and that strategy at some point, if not immediately, is purely your profit margin. Especially if you're just talking about taking some books that you've already sold in ebook format. You've already made some money off of those. Repackage those into print and just watch your profit margins increase, it's crazy. And selling direct, you're cutting out the middleman too, so really all you're paying is the manufacturing cost on that book to print it and ship it and that's it. So if you're selling that book at $25.99, and it's your most popular trilogy and you've created a really cool print version of it you're selling it for $25.99, let's say it costs you around $6.00 to produce, the customer's paying the shipping already, so you're not even worried about that. I mean, you're making almost $20 profit on that book. Your ebook there's no way, there's no way you're ever making almost $20 of profit on one ebook. And in fact, to make $20 of profit in ebook sales, you would have to probably sell at least 20 to 30 ebooks. So I mean, the math adds up. 

Lauren: It absolutely does. And I know for a lot of people, it kind of begs the question ‘but are people actually buying these books?’ We seem to be claiming that your fans and readers are going to want print copies of your books, even if they've already read the ebooks or perhaps listened to the audiobooks in some cases, if you have those. I'm sure someone out there is doing some kind of data on that. I have not come across it, but anecdotally…have you been on TikTok lately? Have you been on Instagram in the past decade? People that are into like niche genre fiction absolutely want print copies of their books. Absolutely. We've talked about me being an exception and an outlier because I'm a huge book nerd and also insane. But I mean, I will buy print books of audiobooks that I've already listened to, because I want the physical copy on my shelf to prove that I've listened to it, and because I want to be able to go back and reference it again. And whether that's an audiobook that I listened to, if it's an ebook that I want the physical copy of the book, because I've already read it, whether that's print-on-demand or traditionally published, I will absolutely order print copies of books when they become available to me. And I know I'm not the only one of my friends that does that. There's definitely a small group of us at the very least, but in case you haven't been on TikTok recently, I can say it's a much larger group of us that are heavily invested in having print copies of the books that we love. And in fact, we'll get a little fussy about it if there are not print copies available of books that we really, really love. 

Matt: I think that while we've definitely gotten that question on many occasions, this idea of will my fans actually wanna buy print? You know, I'm worried about that. And a lot of authors, they're very good about communicating with their fans and their followers and asking them questions like, hey, if I was to put this out in you know, a really cool print version, would you buy it, or…? There's no guarantee that you're going to get enough feedback to warrant all that work, but sometimes you just kind of have to take that leap of faith. And hopefully that faith is also underpinned by some data and some statistics. 

There is data out there to support that these days, when you talk about ecommerce and you talk about the advent of selling and buying online, especially since COVID, most people when asked would prefer to buy directly from their creator of choice, whether that is an online course or a book, they would prefer to buy directly from the creator and support the creator and their efforts. And so when you think about the market and what you're trying to accomplish there, even think about yourself. If you're an author and you're wondering, will my fans buy from me? Put yourself in their shoes. As an author, there's still people that you support that are creators, whether they're authors or podcasters or musicians, and given the opportunity, or if asked by the creator to purchase directly from them. In most instances, nine out of ten times, you're gonna do that. Otherwise, maybe you're not as big of a fan of them as you thought you were. I think anecdotally, whether there's data to support it or not, which there is some, at the end of the day, everybody wants to support their favorite creators, their favorite authors, their favorite musicians. This isn't just applicable to the publishing industry. This is applicable to all industries where creators are involved in making something for sale, for the consumption of by their fans and followers.


Lauren: That reminded me of the 1,000 true fans theory, originally by Kevin Kelly. We've definitely talked about that. We have some blog posts that have talked about applying that as an author or content creator, we've even probably talked on this podcast about that idea of being like an instant-buy author for somebody, or an instant-buy band. I know Matt and I have talked about this, 

Matt: Yep.

Lauren: About how we have bands that we love that we don't have to hear the album first. We just know we're gonna buy it as soon as they announce that they have a new album coming out. I absolutely have authors that as soon as they say they have a new book coming out, I don't even need to read the cover copy on it. I don't care what it's about. I'm gonna buy whatever it is because I've established this relationship with this author where I have trust in them. I have trust in their work. I know I'm gonna be interested in whatever they're selling. And that is like the ultimate goal, I think of any content creator of any kind, especially when that is monetizing their content is that you want to have that core fan base of fans, readers, followers, whatever it is that are going to unwaveringly engage with your content no matter what. And since that's hopefully the goal that you're working for anyway, as an author, this should slide right into that mindset.

Matt: Yeah. I wish I'd taken a screenshot of this, but there are actually groups for particular authors. You know, an author might have a Facebook group that's private for all their fans and readers or things, but I've literally seen comments left by readers and fans that say, ‘is there any way to buy this direct from you? Can I buy this direct without having to go to Amazon or some of these other third-party retailers?’ And again, if you ask for it, if you want them to buy it directly from you, they're gonna do it. And in many cases, they're already out there asking for it. I wish I'd taken that screenshot though. I should frame it and put it up. As many people as we talk to that they’re so worried about selling direct in print, if they only knew, you know, some of the things that we've seen here, if they only knew how badly a lot of these fans and readers really want to be able to support these authors directly, I think that would change some of that mindset, but maybe that's why we're here. 

Lauren: Maybe it is. If we convince one person to give it a try after this, then maybe that's worth it.

Matt: Mom, that doesn't mean you.

Lauren: I don't know. You have a good story to tell, maybe?

Matt: Well, she raised me, so yeah. 

Lauren: That would be a story that I'd be very interested in hearing. 

Matt: Stories. Plural. 

Lauren: Oh, I'm sure it's a never ending story perhaps.

Matt: Oh my god.


Lauren: But I actually want to circle back a little bit on something that you just said there, which is this idea of is it worth putting all of that work into turning your existing books into print books? And I want to maybe challenge the idea that it's really all that work, especially if you're self-publishing. If you already have the content – I'm not talking about you've decided that you want to publish a book and you have never published a book before – but if you already have the ebook content, if you're already an author that has some kind of established fan base, you have content already published, you've done at least 50% of the work. You're already probably more than halfway there. I mean, at this point, what you'd probably have to do in order to turn your existing content into a print book is some interior page formatting, because you don't have to worry about formatting when you're publishing an ebook. Hopefully you've already done some editing, so hopefully you don't have to worry about that, you can jump right into the formatting portion of it. You've probably already done a cover design for the front cover, you will have to expand on that cover design to create the spine and the back cover, but you've already gotten started with that, you already have a fan base, you already have an audience to sell your new book to, so really you only have a couple of steps to get through to turn your ebook into a print book. And especially with an option like print-on-demand, if you're doing something where there's no upfront cost to you. So, you know, we're talking about not ordering bulk copies of your print books and not having to worry about selling through an inventory that you paid out a flat rate for X amount of print books ahead of time, but you're just making your existing books available in a print-on-demand format. Is there really that much of a cost to you to just try this?

Matt: Yeah, I think the answer to that is going to vary from author and creator to author and creator, but it's a great point. And it's also again, a good opportunity for people to experiment with maybe baby steps of selling direct, ie. Kickstarter. So again, if it is a little bit of a financial investment for you to have a new cover created – which you should. Do something really cool with it if you're going to relaunch some content that you published a year ago, six months ago, three years ago. Have a really cool new cover created. Take that trilogy and combine it into one and pay a designer to do a really cool cover. The beauty of using Kickstarter is you can get those funds upfront to support that project and to pay the cover designer and maybe have it reformatted, obviously. And that gives you some experimentation with selling direct. Kickstarters are a form of selling direct. 

Again, there are lots of tools at your disposal. You could bring your Kickstarter CSV file, once it's all done, bring that CSV file of all your backers over to your Lulu account, and we have a really cool tool that will let you upload that CSV file. We will literally print and ship every one of those books out for you. You never have to touch anything. So again, you get the money you need to pay a designer to create a really cool cover. Since all you had was the ebook, you get the money you need to pay somebody to format that for you. You've got money left over, and then all those books get printed and shipped out. It's a real easy way to dip your toes in there and experiment with that. 

Lauren: If you haven't considered experimenting with Kickstarter, or at least looked into it a little bit, especially if you have an existing audience of fans, that's definitely something to consider. There's been some really incredible success with specifically authors on Kickstarter. I mean, famously in the last year, Brandon Sanderson, but if you want a more Lulu-specific example or self-published author-specific example, we've had an artist, Lorenzo Etherington, did a record breaking Kickstarter. 

Matt: Couple of them. 

Lauren: Couple of them for his…he's got, I think, three art books that he's done. They're drawing how-to guides and art books and collections. They're awesome. They're really cool books. And they were all done through Kickstarter. And he's had some great success with those. So it's absolutely possible. You don't have to be New York Times bestselling author Brandon Sanderson to find success as a Kickstarter author or with a Kickstarter campaign. And if you want to learn more about that, I'll drop some links in the show notes for this. 

Matt: Somebody else that does it really well is Katie Cross. She writes a lot of different fiction genres and she is really good at utilizing all forms of sales channels. So she does have books on Amazon. She does sell direct. She also attends a lot of events where she signs and sells her books. She also does Kickstarters. There are so many ways that you can reach your fans and followers directly to capitalize on the benefits of selling direct using printed books versus ebooks and audiobooks. And again, we'll take Lauren's stance. It's not that you shouldn't sell ebooks and audiobooks, obviously, but if you are not already, you should definitely be selling print books. Your fans and followers will thank you. 

Lauren: I just keep circling back to this idea of like, why wouldn't you wanna maximize your options if you have them available to you?

Matt: I think we addressed a lot of that.

Lauren: Yeah.

Matt: I think for some people it's the idea that doing it is a workflow that they're not familiar with and they're scared to get started. For others it could be something more that they don't understand around the idea of selling direct and some of the things that come along with selling direct. But you know, at the end of the day, I think as a creator who is creating content for others to consume, that should be your goal. Yeah. Maximizing not only the channels to which you get your content to market, but you know, really turning followers into fans and then fans into super fans. And the only way to do that is to offer them more of your content, whether that means more content, or more formats of that same content, or special editions. There is no super fan that's not gonna buy any version of that book that you put out, any version of that trilogy, no matter what it is. And all of them would love to have it sitting on their bookshelf versus sitting inside their iPad somewhere that they have to three clicks in, pull it up for somebody to talk about how great you are. Wouldn't it be much cooler if they could just pull that book off the shelf and hand it to a friend and go, you should really read this new book by Katie Cross. You're going to love this. Just bring it back when you're done or I'll have to hunt you down. So print books are definitely, I think, in my opinion, the superior format. We'll argue that on the episode of format wars soon to come. 

Lauren: Yes. 

Matt: According to Lauren.

Lauren: I will win this eventually. And the format wars. 

Matt: Yeah. 

Lauren: But no, I completely agree with literally everything that you just said. I was just nodding along the whole time. Cause I was like, yeah, all of these things are true and not even just true in a vague way. Like all of that is stuff that I've done. That is all absolutely like, yeah, I love to pull like I'll have friends over and I'll be telling them about a book that I read recently, and one of them will say, oh, it sounds really interesting. And I'll say, wait, let me go get it. And you can borrow it. Just make sure you bring it back when you're done, because I will hunt you down if you don't bring it back. But just in general, like absolutely agree that fans want copies of your stuff. We've said it and we're going to keep saying it. Fans want copies of your books. As somebody who owns multiple editions of the same books because they have different covers, or they're different formats, or it's an exclusive edition, or something like that. Collectors of stuff, real fans of your stuff are going to want those available to them. So why not make it possible? 

Matt: Yep, 100 percent. And then from there, once you learn the process and the workflow, you can start introducing other types of products and merch too, should you be so inclined, you can fully expand that empire of your characters or those, those worlds or those story arcs, or if you're nonfiction, do your thing too.

Lauren: Oh yeah, just to be very clear about this, I feel like we've actually given this episode more of a fiction angle than we usually do. 

Matt: In a weird plot twist, no pun intended. 


Lauren: So true. But I do actually think this is very applicable for nonfiction too. Possibly more so because nonfiction, as much as it's nice to have an ebook available if you want to reference it at some point, it's also really nice to have a print copy available that you can keep at your desk or you can take notes in it. Maybe. Is that – 

Matt: Have you ever walked into anybody's office and not seen a print book on the shelf? If you have, turn around and walk out. Nonfiction, definitely, having printed versions, or a printed format of your content is a must. If you create nonfiction content for the purposes of helping other people in business, marketing, doesn't matter what it is, and you don't offer that in print, we should have a conversation. 

Lauren: I actually really thought I was just about to get yelled at for suggesting that people write in books. So that was a much more pleasant turn than I thought it was gonna take. 

Matt: No, no, no, no, I write in books all the time. I highlighted them, I dog ear the pages. They're my books. I love them. That's why –  you can't do that on an ereader. 

Lauren: You're absolutely not going to get any argument from me on that one. I do not believe in the sanctity of books. I think there are, there's value in having like a nice edition of a book that you want to preserve. 

Matt: Right. 

Lauren: But books aren't precious objects, you should love it. You should do whatever you want with it. Don't worry about breaking the spines or dog-earring the pages or writing in it or making notes in it or leaving teardrops on a page because you started crying when a character died. Not that I've ever done that before. 

Matt: That's all you. 

Lauren: But it's fine. It was definitely not fine, but it's fine. 

Matt: We should end on that note. It's fine. 

Lauren: It's always fine. 

Matt: The tear-stained pages of Lauren Vassallo. It's fine. 

Lauren: That's the title of my memoir. 

Matt: Oh, there you go. Well, thank you everybody for joining us for another episode of Publish & Prosper. 

Lauren: Thanks so much for listening, if you're still listening. See you next week.