What format should I publish in?

Ebook, Print, & Audio. Three different ways to get your book into your readers’ hands. For some, it’s an easy decision. They know from the beginning what format they will publish in. For some, does the end justify the upfront cost? Hopefully, this post will answer some of those questions.


Ebooks give the greatest control to the reader. A reader can highlight passages to share with friends, can take a thousand books and magazines with them when they travel, and take up as much room as a single book. With the updates in technology, eBooks are also user-friendly because once bought, those same books can be transferred to whatever device they read.

Ebooks are the perfect format for those who do prolonged reading. There isn’t a “OMG my bookmark fell out” moment, their bodies don’t ache from holding a book over their head while they lay in bed, and the readers who need a slightly larger print don’t have to buy a special edition to read it due to the ability to resize on the reading devices.

For writers, eBooks are the cheapest to produce. There’s only a single cover and not a wrap around. With programs like Draft2Digital, it’s simple to format the books for retailers.

While it has pros for readers and writers alike, there are a few things to be wary of with eBooks.

The files are easier to share and pirate. The digital format can disguise how short or long a work is, leaving some readers feeling overwhelmed or underwhelmed depending on the length and how much they paid for it. Some writers undervalue their work, thinking they are pricing competitively when they are shortchanging themselves.

Ereaders are also deceptive for the book hoarder, leaving the reader with a large TBR pile that they might never realistically tackle.


Audio is by far the most expensive format a writer can produce. While that might be a reason for many to dismiss the possibility altogether, audio has some pros that might change your mind.

With all the commuting and travel a person can do nowadays, audio is great for on-the-go when they can’t read. What makes it great for the traveler also makes it great for those who are losing their eyesight or are recovering from surgery.

Amazon also allows eBooks and audio to be pairable, giving readers the ability to sync both versions. If you use Kindle on your phone or tablet and you purchased the Audible version as well, you can have the audiobook anytime time you want to stop reading and start listening. This can be handy if you want to continue the book you’re reading while you must do something else, which again, should be something your brain has already automated like washing the dishes.

Some books come alive when listened to in the dialect they were meant to be. Have a listen to Tom Sawyer or Huckleberry Finn, if you don’t believe me, or journey to the Highlands and hear the sexy voices like Sean Connery’s. It’s an experience that I would find hard to replace in any medium. On the same note, some things just sound better aloud—think Shakespeare.

Audiobooks are a time investment and not just for the writer. The average audiobook is 1.5 to 2x longer time-wise than reading the physical copy would have been, and they require the same focus to comprehend.


People swore eReaders would make paperbacks a thing of the past. Sales figures would determine that was a misconception. With common issues such as screen fatigue and enjoying the physical embodiment that comes from reading a book, paperback sales are steady across the board.

For some readers, being able to hold a physical copy is an experience they wouldn’t trade for the world. For others, it’s a mark of prestige to adorn their house with physical copies.

There’s a subtle difference between gifting someone the eBook and gifting them the paperback. It’s the same book but having something tangible makes it feel special.

Aside from the “don’t need batteries” memes that pit paperback against eBook, there are a few cons to paperbacks.

Some books look daunting. That can turn readers off because they feel overwhelmed. The reverse is true too. I know some readers who won’t give a book a chance if the book isn’t this massive tome.

They are more expensive to produce. The designer will need to craft a full wrap cover, the cost isn’t just a one-time thing. Every copy ordered, even at cost, is on average $3, and you might not sell the copies you buy, leaving you in the hole.

It’s harder to make changes to paperback files. Some minor changes can lead to a massive change in paperback size leading to the cover to be resized.

Different type of readership

Readers are as varied as the writers. Children’s books do best in paperback. Teens and young adults prefer eBooks. At the same time, screen fatigue is one reason paperbacks are popular among those who sit in front of a screen all day. Some topics are better retained when reading in paperback than in an eBook.

Ask those you network with what format for them sells well. How do they market the different formats? Ask Google too.


When you’re trying to determine if you “should” do all three formats, the answer should always be “eventually.” In today’s world, eBooks are a must, paperbacks are necessary for book signings, and audiobooks should never be fully off the table.

You don’t have to do all the formats at one time. Depending on your genre, eBooks will be your bread and butter, so focus on getting them up, and bring a little pop to your paperbacks. Just like you tuck a little of your royalty away for marketing, tuck away a little for your audio too. Being a writer isn’t a race; it’s a marathon that never stops.

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This post was edited/proofed by ProWritingAid.

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