Tangible vs Digital – the Difference in Promotion

As Ruth has discusd lately, there seems to be a difference in the mind-set between people who prefer ebooks and people who prefer “paper” books. (Perhaps this is why they don’t get along?)

This difference in mind-set also means something else; you need to use different promotional tactics on the different people.

Eh, what?

A friend asked me the other day why I haven’t paid the yearly $40 to make my paperback book cheaper. I could then sell it for the $11 price tag and make $4 a book, or drop the price significantly and keep my paltry royalty fees, but I choose not to. Why? Because, realistically, I’m not going to do the kind of campaign that sells paperbacks beyond the circle of “people I know”.  Many of the people who prefer paperback do so because they are tangible, and they also respond better to what I’m going to call “tangible advertising”. By this I mean that you take the books, set up a table and there you are, in person, real and in the flesh. You hang up real, tangible flyers. You hand out tangible business cards. You give talks, you make real life appearances, you are “seen” and could be touched, assuming you’re that popular and don’t have any body guards.

The flip side to this is what I am going to dub “digital advertising”. This is where most of your campaigning is done online – whether through blogs, or on Facebook (not that I’ve figured out how to market there, mind you) or on forums, etc. The people who are most likely to respond to this kind of advertising are the people who are online a lot, and who use their computers for more than just checking their email.

(That isn’t to say, of course, that you’re not going to get cross over people, but no one group of people anywhere can ever be completely defined.)

In short, the kind of campaign you plan to do/want to do/are better at will be an indication of what you’re more likely to sell. So, why don’t I spend that $40? Because I doubt I’ve made $40 off of the paperback version, that’s why. I don’t like “in person” advertising. I prefer to hide in my cave and run amok online, and so ebooks are where I am going to be – and have been – more successful.

What are your strengths? Are you better “in person” or “online”? Have you sold more ebooks or paperbacks?


  1. mariminiatt says:

    Better in person. Problem with that, not enough personal appearances. But the upshot is that my book travels well through word of mouth.

    1. I’m always so jealous of people who do “in person” well! In the end, though, you’re right. It’s word of mouth that makes the best promotion 🙂

  2. The only reason I even did a paperback version of my first book, a mystery set in the world of dog rescue, was that the National Specialty Show for my breed of dog was being held this year only 2 hours from my home. I am on the Board of Directors for the dog breed club that hosted the show, and the show always includes a parade of rescue dogs. I wanted to have paperbacks to give to the people who participated in the parade, and I thought I could sell enough paperbacks at the show, with the proceeds going to our local rescue group, to be worthwhile. More information than you wanted, probably. Anyway, since the paperback was printed through Create Space, it went up for sale on Amazon, and to my surprise, sales of the paperback account for over 13% of sales of that book.

    For my second book I saw no reason to do a paperback – until enough potential readers asked for one that I figured what the heck. Since it’s longer, it had to cost more, quite frankly more than I want to pay for a paperback. However, enough of those paperback people are buying it that in the future I’m going to put out both paperback and ebook of all books at the same time until and unless paperback sales diminish to where it’s no longer at least a break even proposition. I haven’t promoted the paperbacks differently from the ebooks, but I do take a few of the dog books to any dog event I attend and usually sell one or two each time.

    I have paid the $40 (it’s a one time charge, after that it’s something like $5 a year) and I also skinned my royalty down to less than for an ebook to keep the price as low as possible. For me it’s been worth the cost and effort.

    1. Ellen,
      I’m really glad you did a paperback version for your romance because I wanted a paperback copy of it. 😀

    2. It sounds like you’ve done a good job of marketing both versions! Congrats!

  3. Excellent post! I never thought about the differences in marketing you might do to attract ebook vs. paperback buyers, but it makes a lot of sense. My friend sells more paperbacks, but she goes to fairs and sets up tables, gives speeches, etc. All of that is not me. I hate events and would rather stay home to hide out. So this is probably why ebooks and marketing online makes me comfortable. It’s probably why 9 times out of 10, people mention my ebooks and are surprised that I have a paperback version for them. LOL

    I pay the $40 to lower the cost for me. I buy a lot of copies to hand out to some people for the heck of it. 😛

    1. Exactly. The idea of sitting at a table and being surrounded by people with questions and ink pens fills me with a sort of cold dread. I am so bad that when my father in law tells someone “she has a book!” and they look at me and say, “Oh yeah?” I just manage to go “Um, yeah. It’s about vampires.” Instead of going “Oh yes! you should read it! here’s my card” etc. etc. that I know I should do. But knowing and executing are two different things!

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