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Book Marketing Challenges for Self-Published Books in Multiple Formats

Heidi Thorne is a self-publishing advocate and author of nonfiction books, eBooks, and audiobooks. She is a former trade newspaper editor.


An author on social media asked about releasing both the eBook and print editions of her book on the same day. She wondered if she should release the eBook first with a message announcing an upcoming discount price on the print edition. Maybe offer a Kindle Free Book promotion with the message included? I understood why she was questioning. It was a book that could ideally be sold in volume for use by groups.

Lots to unpack about issues when selling various book formats when self-publishing.

An eBook Is a Real Book

The concern that immediately jumped out at me was that the author might hold the eBook in lower regard because it wasn’t the print edition. I could see why she would. The eBook wasn’t the ideal format for the market she was trying to reach and the book’s intended purpose.

But that doesn’t make it the eBook any less of a book than the print edition. It’s the exact same content. The lower price for eBooks is due to the lower cost to produce and distribute, not a lower value of the content itself.

Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that an eBook edition of your book is less valuable than print just because it is lower priced and digital.

eBook Readers Are Not the Same as Print Readers

The author in the opening example was unique when compared with most self-published authors. Her book was geared for a particular audience and group environment. But let’s talk about more typical eBook readers and print readers.

As I’ve discussed before, print book reading and sales are still very strong, even though eBooks are making some gains. However, it is less likely that eBook readers will also buy the print edition and vice versa.

There is some possibility that eBook readers may buy an audio edition on Amazon because of the Whispersync tech that allows readers to consume as both text or audio, and switch back and forth without losing their place in the book. But I would say that’s even rare due to the added cost. I also feel that there are dedicated eBook readers and audiobook listeners.

Understanding Markets for Different Formats

On top of your ideal reader for the actual content of the book, you may have sub-markets based on the format.

Here’s an example from my own books that I’ve offered in multiple formats. One of my books on small business, Small Business Failures, has performed dismally as an eBook and print book. However, to date, it’s been my top seller as an audiobook on Audible. The target market for the book is small business owners and solopreneurs. Many of them are juggling multiple priorities and may be multitasking in their personal and professional lives. Audiobooks are perfect for multitaskers.

These sub-markets based on format may also require different marketing messages and approaches.

eBooks as Giveaways to Promote Print Sales?

I felt that in the example author’s situation, the eBook would be used as a throwaway giveaway, merely a vehicle to deliver a discount offer to buyers of the “real” book. If the print edition provided more value to the market, that could be a valid point. But there is more to consider.

Promotions for other formats within an eBook can also cause extra work for you and annoyance for your readers. For eBooks, you’ll have to keep updating the links to these other formats if the promotion is for a limited time. Since many people do not update the eBook version of their Kindle eBooks (though they can), you could annoy them with dead or bad links in your book. I’ve had this happen with my eBook links to newsletter signup forms.

eBooks that are loaded with links and promo copy can annoy readers who actually do pay for the book, whether through a purchase or Kindle Unlimited subscription. This could also lead to bad reviews. Even though I keep promo references to a minimum and try my best to artfully and helpfully embed them within the book content, I’ve even been chastised for writing a “brochure” book.

Because you cannot collect email addresses or contact information from those who download your eBook through a Kindle Free Book promotion, I don’t think using those promotions in this way offers much value. It would be better to offer a preview chapter as a reader magnet incentive to build your email list.

Remember, too, that readers who take advantage of free eBooks are often people who just want free eBooks. They may not be your ideal audience.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2022 Heidi Thorne