As a writer, I find my use of format almost automatic. This book is only an ebook, this book ebook then print, my print always 6”x9”, and so on. I’ve recently been experimenting with zines and magazines, which is refreshing for getting me slightly outside my comfort zone.
When I speak about writing, I can easily rattle off the usual formatting advice. This as an ebook, this as a picture book, audiobooks can be great but are risks, etc. There’s so much that is “the usual,” and I didn’t see it until I read Joe Biel’s People’s Guide to Publishing.
In time I’ve come to realize that a lot of us writers choose formats for any reason but actually meeting the goals we have. There’s so much expected, so much taught rote, and so much that supposedly works I don’t think many of we writers put thought into what format works best.
For instance, for years I focused on my worldbuilding eBooks. They were fast, easy, and I figured the books were a quick read. It was much later when I looked at physical book sales and considered how my audience may want to reread that I considered physical copies. I could imagine half a shelf taken up in an indie bookstore with just my stuff. I imagined how people might gift five or six of my small books to a friend.
But I just did ebooks because, uh . . . well simple stuff is supposed to be ebooks, right? I didn’t ask the questions we should all be asking:
What are my goals?
What does my audience want?
The formats we choose should reflect those goals – and honestly, your goals should be first. I mean if you don’t want to physically format a 200 page color photobook I sort of get it. But at least consider it.
When it comes to formats, we writers should ask what really meets our goals. Yes, you could format a book on Amazon, but if you’re only going to sell local maybe just print off 100 copies at a local shop. You could do an elaborate print book, but maybe your audience wouldn’t pay $75.00 for it – but would love a $10 ebook. Maybe, as Biel noted (and inspired me) you just want to do a zine, or a magazine, or something else.
You also don’t have to do every format. I’m thrilled we’re in an age where people have stopped saying everyone needs to do an audiobook. Sure you probably want an ebook and a physical book, but maybe not – and maybe not hardcover and softcover or whatever.
This was a refreshing realization. As I plan the next stages of my writing career now that I’m like 40 books and more in, it helps me see many more options ahead of me. Free of “format assumption” I can see the many choices I have.
I just have to make sure I am really aware of my goals.