What format should we publish on?

Ebook, Paperback, and Hardback – which is best? Is there a winner?

As an indie author, once you finish a manuscript the work is not even halfway done.

Aside from editing, marketing, and getting a proper cover, there is another important step.

I’m not going to go into Audiobooks because I know even less about those than I know about the printed options.

So, in no particular order, let’s look into a few of the pros and cons of each of these options.

E-Book: the modern less problematic option for publishing.

Ebooks are very forgiving, in terms of formatting. I can feel many eyebrows going up. It’s true. The formatting is hard, but not as problematic as the printed options. Furthermore, a lot of the formatting is going to be in the hands of the end-user. The font size, the background color, the color of the text, all are in the hands of the user these days in most modern devices.

So, you absolutely need to get it into a format as required by the outlet you plan to use, whether it is Amazon, KOBO, B&N, or any other. Then into the right file format, PDF, MOBI, etc.

However, there are many details the electronic device will take care of, adjusting the display to the readers’ preference.

Now, there are problems with this option. One which may not be immediately obvious is one we talked about before. The cover. It has to do a lot of heavy lifting. The reader will come across it in thumbnail form first, usually, and that means it has to be clean and on point. The color scheme, the font, the image, it all has a lot of work to do, in a very small image, as we discussed before.

Then, there is the number of competitors. A conservative estimate is that there is a new book published on Amazon every five minutes. So there are a lot of books out there, and ebooks are more common than paperbacks or hardbacks.

Why are ebooks so popular? Well, they are very convenient. You carry one device and you have a full library in it. You can carry hundreds of books with you and have access to hundreds more. No running out of shelve space, no “where did I put that book?” All conveniently at your fingertips. Also, you get to highlight, and even take notes on the books in a relatively easy fashion.

Paperback: This is the format of most of the books I own. I have a TON of paperbacks. First, because I have been buying books since the late sixties, so that was the only option available to me in terms of price and availability. Aside from this, it was an incredibly popular format at that time. The most common format for fiction was the paperback novel, for the compact and inexpensive pocketbooks, the size is usually around 4.25” x 6.87”, to what’s called “trade paperbacks” with sizes that range from about 5.5” x 8.5” (also called digest) to 6” x 9” (also called US trade). These are the go-to for fiction novel and non-fiction how-to and help books.

This means that your formatting has to be very exact. Your “Widows and Orphans” have to be minimized. “What is this?” you ask, well, I’ll tell you. When you finish a chapter, the end might leave just a line or two for the next page, and/or the program you are writing in will take a few lines from the end of the page and push them to the next page. So you end up with a “Widow”, a page that has a lot of space at the end of the page, or an “Orphan”, just a couple of lines at the beginning of the page and the rest blank. You need to adjust the height and spacing of your lines, to minimize your “Widows”, and make sure you avoid “Orphans.”

There are paid formatting services offered in such places as Fiverr, or you can choose a free (at the date of this post) formatting service such as the one offered by Draft2Digital.

Here, though, if you are purchasing the book at a brick and mortar store, the work that the cover had to do is taken over by a small area again, the spine. Unless you are lucky enough or have invested enough, to have a spot at the end of a shelve, or if the bookstore clerk placed your book cover out, what the reader will see first is the spine. Here the heavy lifting is done beforehand, your book has to be in the right place, along with the right genre and the title is going to have to do a lot of the work. If all the books are cover out, which is a great display option for the bookstore, your book cover still has to do the work we went over in a previous post.

This is a very sturdy and loyal format of book. According to one of Daniel Greene YouTube videos, the paperback is a lot more resistant and forgiving than the hardback. But more on that later. It is, indeed, the optimal book to carry around on trips, to take on hikes, vacations, to the beach, the mountain, etc. you get the idea, it’s a comfortable format.

So, it’s less expensive than a hardback and more forgiving, so if you have to book “just to read it”, then this is the ideal format.

Hardback books: There are three kinds we can readily identify. One, the cover is hard, as could be expected, but it’s printed with the cover image directly. So the graphics, usually glossy and bright, are on the cover itself. Then, there is the more traditional hardcover with a monochromatic embossed simple image and text on the material itself. Usually, it’s some sort of fabric texture and a muted “serious” color. Finally, we have the hardcover books with dust covers. Here the image is only on the dust cover and we take advantage of the flaps for additional text, usually a bio of the author and some comments or reviews.

These are considered luxury items and are ideal for books that are destined to be read in a library or dedicated reading area. Also, are the ideal format for serious textbooks of all sorts. And for magical spell books and religious texts, of course, but, you get the idea, not exactly the kind of reading you are going to take to the beach on a sunny afternoon.

They are also very decorative and their function here is several-fold, they are books, of course, but they may also be used as decoration and as props.

These books are usually large, from the standard American “letter” size 8.5” x 11” to other more exotic sizes custom made for a specific book.

These are almost always “spine out” on the bookstore shelves because of their large size, but the spines are big enough to afford either enough room for an image or the text is large enough that the heavy lifting the title has to do is offset by the size of the font.

So, there are then those three options. Which is best? It depends directly on what the reader wants the book for and if it’s for the reader’s personal use or if it’s for a gift and many other considerations. So none of them is the best and none is the worse, each format has a natural audience and that audience will make the right choice each time. Our job, as authors, is to make available the right format(s) for the audience we have identified as our audience.

For me, an old school bibliophile, there is nothing like holding a leather-bound hardback book. The weight, the smells, the rich print, it is all part of the experience. Alas, today, most of my purchases are ebooks, I simply don’t have the space to store more books and I have to move a lot, which is a lot easier if my books are electronic.

What is your preference? Please let me know and hope you enjoyed this brief peek into the choices we have to publish our work.

Published by tjmanrique

I'm a SciFi, horror and fantasy writer. I will publish sometime in 2021. Mean time, My web page has my book cover concepts and a few short stories and stories about my writing journey.

One thought on “What format should we publish on?

  1. Well it depends on the time and situation.
    I like to read at night and during those times I prefer ebooks so that I can see the words without having to turn on the light
    But the rest of the time I do prefer holding a physical book. I don’t have to worry about the glare from the screen. or accidentally turning a page by swiping too hard. I love to just smell, touch the book. It makes it more real than its digital counterpart.
    another type of book that should be mentioned is audio books. How do you feel about audio books? They are a great alternative to ‘reading’ when it’s just not possible like if you’re driving or doing household chores. I don’t read very many audio books though as I like to devote my entire attention to the book.

    Liked by 1 person

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