The Pros and Cons of Physical Copies

illustration-of-books-pvBy Cecilia Lewis

Self-publishing authors often focus on electronic ebooks, and for good reason. Yet, by using ebooks exclusively, you might be missing out on a significant market. Many authors also want to own physical copies of their book, but aren’t sure if the financial costs are worth it. Should you spend the money on a print run or print-on-demand? If you’re considering a physical copy of your book, here are some pros and cons to consider:


  1. Reader preference

Many readers still prefer physical books to digital. Not all readers own an ereader, and not all readers enjoy reading on their phones or computers. By offering print copies of your book, you’re expanding your readership. You may find that many book reviewers prefer print copies as well, which means even more exposure for your novel.

  1. Price

Of course, you can charge more for a print copy than a digital one. Granted, your profit may or may not be larger depending on the cost of printing physical copies. But it’s worth considering that many readers are willing to pay much more for a physical copy than an ebook. Someone might balk at the idea of paying more than 99 cents for an ebook, but won’t think twice about $9.99 for a physical copy.

  1. International market

While ereaders have become more and more common in the U.S. and the UK, that is not the case in other countries. International markets are still driven almost entirely by print sales. By offering physical books, you can expand your potential market considerably.

  1. Credibility

Unfortunately, there is still a stigma regarding self-published books. The truth is that anyone can publish digitally. By offering print copies, you’re proving your dedication and lending credibility to your novel.

  1. Signings

Having print copies available will allow you to do book signings and other author events that will help publicize your book. Additionally, an author’s signature adds to the perceived value of the physical copy, which makes signed books a great option for other promotions like giveaways, contests, etc.


  1. Cost

Of course, the major drawback to having physical books is the cost of printing them. There are many options available to self-publishing authors, but all of them can be pricey, and many include hidden fees. Print-on-demand books will cost more than a print run, as you’re paying for the built-in distribution and convenience. But with a traditional print run, you risk not being able to sell the copies you’ve already paid for.

  1. Distribution

Distribution is one of the biggest challenges facing self-published authors. If readers can’t find your book, they won’t purchase it. Without the ability to get your book in bookstores, it will be difficult to sell many physical copies. You’ll probably need a distributor to get your book in stores, and finding one who will accept your book can be challenging. Some printers, like Ingram and CreateSpace, can list your book in catalogues, but when it’s one among hundreds, it can be hard for readers to find it.

  1. Harder to sell

Because print books are more expensive than digital, they can be harder to sell. And without a great distribution system in place, you’ll probably end up handselling most of those print copies one at a time. You might end up with hundreds of unsold copies from your print run—or you might pay more for POD only to have low sales.

  1. Narrow margins

Despite the higher price of physical copies, the profit margins are often narrow. In addition to the actual costs of printing, there are things like distribution fees and the cost of shipping to consider. When all those costs are added up, you might end up not making more money per book after all.


If you’re considering offering print versions of your book, I recommend that you consider all of the above carefully to determine the best strategy for you, your book, and your goals. Ultimately, it’s up to you to make the best choices for your indie career.

What do you think? Would you offer physical copies? Are there any pros and cons I’ve missed? Let me know in the comments!

Interested in professional editorial services for your self-published book? Check out my Services page for more information about working with me.

This post is part of my Self-publishing Series. Check out other posts in the series here, and follow the blog to see future posts!

Related Links:

-The Pros and Cons of Self-Publishing

-When to Hire a Freelance Editor

-What to Include in Your Backmatter

-Ebook Formatting: Conversion Options


3 thoughts on “The Pros and Cons of Physical Copies

  1. brittneysahin says:

    I am going to have printed
    copies – even though my profit will be half that of an ebook! I agree with your rationale fo having a printed book. I am just debating about using both createspace and ingram (or just Createspace).

    Liked by 1 person

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