Monday, 12 September 2016

Do young readers prefer paper books? Let's find out...

Well, everyone's been saying it. Younger readers do not like ebooks. Or, more likely, their parents and grandparents don't consider an ebook a real book worthy of being a gift, and unless they've been let loose with a credit card or some kind of credit online, younger readers don't have the buying power to download their own ebooks. That certainly seems to be confirmed by my indie ebook sale figures (three figures annually) compared to my print sales figures with publishers (five figures).

On the other hand, this is hardly a scientific comparison, even as far as unscientific book sales go, since producing a title indie means no marketing or promotion aside from the odd blog like this one, little support from the traditional channels, and a totally different sales model. The only way to discover if my ebooks are not selling because young readers prefer paper books, or for some other reason (such as I am a totally pointless writer with rubbish stories and should give it all up and walk into the sea on a dark night?) is to publish a paperback indie and keep a record of both sets of sales. So over the summer, instead of walking into the sea, I stayed at my desk and tackled Createspace to produce my first ever indie paperback edition of one of my books:

This is the long-awaited sequel to my second book Spellfall, which was published in 2001 by Chicken House in the UK and Scholastic in the US. Chicken House decided that 15 years was too long between the two books (they have a point - some of the original fans of Spellfall will now have children of their own!) and I did not feel comfortable offering the sequel elsewhere, so it made sense to do this one indie.

Sense does not mean easy. As I suspected, publishing a paperback is a whole lot more complicated than simply uploading an ebook. The cover, as you can see above, needs a back and a spine of the right width for your number of pages. It also needs an ISBN and a barcode (not shown above, but Createspace will add that for you). That's after you've designed the front cover, which I managed for this project using and uploading my own artwork. More about covers in a later post.

Then there's the interior formatting, which I tackled in my ancient version of Word and then uploaded to Createspace for conversion into a pdf. This is not the ideal way to keep control of your book format, but as long as you proof your book carefully after conversion it works fine. (If you're interested in producing your own Createspace title on a shoestring, look out for the Muse's guide to formatting, coming soon.)

Since Spellfall had chapter illustrations, I decided to include a few in the sequel too. To avoid any problems with copyright, I created my own animal silhouettes by cutting out shapes from black paper, photographing them on a plain background, and then converted the digital pictures into transparent background png files for including in my Word file... transparent because I chose cream paper for the interior pages and didn't want the backgrounds showing.

Lord Hawk's familiar before she flew into the book.

Here is the start of Chapter 6, showing a squirrel called Chatterbox belonging to one of the young treemages chosen to join Natalie's spellclave:

You'll see from this page that the print is fairly small for a children's book. That's because both Spellfall and Spell Spring are full-length novels of around 70,000 words each meant for confident readers aged 10+. Having read somewhere that my default manuscript font of Times New Roman is perceived as 'boring' (Muse: maybe change that next time for submitting to a publisher?!), I used Garamond 12pt type, which made the text size about the same as it is in my 2007 copy of Spellfall. I chose a trim size of 5 x 8.25 inches, which is the US YA/teen standard and slightly different from the UK paperback standard but not much. That made the page count about the same so the two books are around the same thickness, and I carried the star theme over from the cover so if you already have Spellfall they should look okay together on your shelf.

Chicken House 2007 edition
Book 1: Spellfall

So here it is at last - the 'real book' version of Spell Spring! And if you want to buy these books as a gift for a young reader, a matching print-on-demand edition of Spellfall is on its way in plenty of time for Christmas.

Both titles are also available as ebooks.

SPELL SPRING (Earthaven Book 2)

SPELLFALL (Earthaven Book 1)
paperback - secondhand editions may also still be available

Interested in indie publishing? See further discussion of the Createspace process over at Authors Electric.


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