Is an ebook only publishing offer worth it?

Hi LDS Publisher!

A smaller, but quickly growing, publisher has very recently offered to publish my book (yay!). Because I am a new author, they want to publish it first as an e-book. If the book sells, then they would publish the book more traditionally. Is this a new trend in publishing? What are your thoughts?


I’ve seen this popping up more often. From a publisher’s standpoint, it’s a very safe offer to make. It limits the financial risk significantly. They don’t have to come up with the cash to invest in a full print run, the cost of warehousing and shipping the books, nor take the chance that they’ll end up with a stack of books they can’t sell and a loss in their profit margin. Too many wrong guesses and a small press is out of business.

From the author’s perspective, it’s not such a good deal. Yes, more and more consumers are using e-readers, but there’s still a large group of readers who want tangible print books. Your sales are limited right there. Also, the lower the financial risk to the publisher, the greater the temptation to give up if initial marketing tactics don’t work. Kind of the “cut your losses” mentality.

Here’s a checklist I’d go through with the publisher before signing:

    • What resources SPECIFICALLY are they going to put into creating your ebook?


    • Will it get a close edit?


    • Are they going to design a good cover that will help sell the book?


    • How will the book be coded? Are they just going to take your Word file and run it through an autocoder? (You can do that yourself.) Or will they actually take the time to have someone look at the code and clean it up?


    • What are their marketing plans?


    • How will they let the consumer know the book exists?


    • Will they set up a virtual tour for you?


    • Do they use the various social medias to spread the word?


    • Do they have a customer base they send emails to?


In my opinion, it’s better to stay unpublished than to have an unedited or poorly marketed book just sitting out there and languishing in cyberspace.

Another thought: If a publisher is going to assign resources to do a good edit, create a cover that will sell, and then typeset it enough to make a clean ebook, then they’re 90% of the way there for a print edition as well. They might as well do the little extra it takes and create a print version using CreateSpace (Amazon’s print on demand service) and at least have that available to online customers.

Readers, what do you think?

6 thoughts on “Is an ebook only publishing offer worth it?”

  1. I have to agree with you, if they aren’t going to do significant marketing, a good cover and a nice edit, then there’s no point going with a publisher for an ebook-only deal. And if I were going to sign a contract for ebook only, I would want the marketing specified *in the contract*. This is key, because if they don’t have it in writing and signed as part of the contract then they don’t have to follow through with anything they told you they would do via email or telephone. Most of the time they will do what they said they would, but if the PR director changes or the company switches their policy between contract signing and book release, you could be out of luck.

  2. What I did.
    I had an offer for ebook only, and I signed but kept the paperback rights.
    I’m about to release the two books in paperback, though my ebook sales have been pretty good.

    One thing I’d suggest for an author who is working with a publisher that might want to do print later, is for the author to work out specific terms. Maybe give the publisher X amount of months to decide whether or not they want to do a print run.
    IF the publisher decides at that time to NOT do a print run, the paperback rights would revert back to the author so they could use createpeace or lightning source or one of those places to put their book out in paperback, because, really, we ALL want to hold our book.

  3. You bring up great points. It’s not as easy as Yes you should or No you shouldn’t.

    My take is this: If a publisher isn’t going to get you into bookstores, what are they going to do that you can’t do for yourself? Make a pro/con list and weigh it out.

  4. Thanks everyone!
    I’m the question asker so I’ve greatly appreciated getting this feedback. As a new author, it is really hard to know what the right choice is. The publisher did offer print-on-demand, which sounds like that helps since there are so many who do want a tangible book still. I also know this publisher will set up media platforms and help a lot with marketing. That all being said, in this changing market, is that a good deal for a newbie?

  5. If you’re offered an e-book only contract, most authors would be better off contracting out for a professional cover and edit and putting the book out there themselves. The fact that a publisher is doing an e-book only shows the lack of confidence in the book and/or author. Odds are the author is doing to end up doing the same amount of work to promote it whether they go with a publisher or do it on their own. If they’re doing the same amount of promotional work, they might as well get a bigger piece of the pie.

  6. “…it’s better to stay unpublished than to have an unedited or poorly marketed book just sitting out there and languishing in cyberspace.”


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