Friday, March 1, 2019

Print is undead, long live print!

When I first saw the notices last summer that Amazon's CreateSpace publishing arm for print books was going away and I needed to migrate my titles to KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) Print, I did what I often do when bombarded with unwelcome information: I ignored it.

The notifications kept coming, however. Every time I logged into CreateSpace to check my nonexistent sales, I was hammered with more messages. Move your books now! Eventually, I did click one of the links and made a half-hearted attempt to migrate one of the three titles I had published through CreateSpace. But the options I saw on the screen didn't match what Amazon said I should be seeing and I literally couldn't submit the changes. So I gave up.

After procrastinating a little longer, I tried again, ran into the same roadblock, and ignored the entire thing again, as if it might somehow go away. No surprise, it didn't. Finally, I contacted the KDP Help with my question, was told how to get past the obstacle I had encountered, and ... well, it wasn't so hard in the end. By Halloween I had moved all three of my books.

I'll chalk up my reluctance to bother with the entire migration ordeal to my pathetic print sales. Over the first 10 months of 2018, I had shifted a grand total of six print copies of my three books. Combined. That came after a whopping eight units were moved in 2017. To say print sales were a sore subject would be an understatement. While my Kindle sales were nothing to brag about, the futility of print was downright laughable. So why bother, right?

Well, a funny thing has happened since the migration to KDP Print. People have started ordering paperbacks again. I sold three in November and four more in December. If that sounds paltry, remember, that more than doubled my print sales for the year, boosting me from six through the end of October up to 13. Woo-hoo.

And then 2019 rang in, and things got even more hopeful. In January I moved eight print books. Zoo-Wee Mama! Hot stuff. At least it was until February. How about nine sales? Make that nine each of The Greatest Show on Dirt and Sorry I Wasn't What You Needed. Yes, a total of 18 print units in the shortest month of the year.

And to put this in even more perspective, I had sold a colossal seven print copies of Sorry I Wasn't What You Needed from the time I launched it in May 2015 through the end of 2018. That's an average of two per year for you calculus wizards in the back.

My newfound print success coincided with my improved click-ad performance on Amazon. So it wasn't like readers just spontaneously started buying paperbacks unprompted. But given the prompt (keyword ads), they were responding. And while my ads in the past were never as effective as they've been the past 3-4 months, there were times I had moderate success with them, particularly for Sorry I Wasn't What You Needed. It's just that back then almost all of the positive results were ebook sales.

My takeaway from all of this is that the demise of CreateSpace has been a very positive thing. Publishing both print and ebook formats through KDP has eliminated a barrier that seems like it shouldn't have existed but apparently did. (Based on nothing more than the anecdotal evidence of my own sales, which I'll acknowledge doesn't hold much scientific clout.)

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