Book Formats Available to Self-Publishers

by | Jun 10, 2020 | Marketing & Selling

I began my official self-publishing journey — that is with books you can buy on Amazon — in 2007. (I started self-publishing content in newsletter and booklet form sometime in elementary school). That’s when I published Bonkers for Bundt Cakes. Four books later and I’m still learning. There are so many options for book formats that self-publishers can use today. In fact, I’m currently working on an audiobook (which I’ll talk about in another post). In this post, I’ll share what formats are currently available and provide some reasons why you might consider them.

Writers have never had more options available to them. It’s a golden age for authors, and the opportunities for publishing can seem overwhelming. Whether you publish traditionally or you choose to self-publish, there are a handful of different publication options or book formats. Let’s take a look at each of them and explore the pros and cons.

Print Book Formats

Print books are the original book format. There are three general types of print book:

  • Hardcover: Hardcovers either have the cover design printed directly on the hardcover (very common with cookbooks and textbooks) or on a slipcase (which I chose for Public Speaking Super Powers).
  • Trade Paperback: These are the most common books you see. They are about the same size as a hardcover book, but have a soft cover. All my books are available in trade paperback.
  • Mass Market Paperback: This is the size typically used for novels, however you can find nonfiction in this size a swell. They are generally 4.25″ by 6.87″ in size and because they are printed on cheaper paper, they tend to yellow with age.

While many self-publishers choose to focus on digital publishing and e-books, print is a very viable and potentially profitable option. The reason that self-publishers choose to use digital as their primary form of publication is that it is easy. It used to be a little tricky to get a print book published.

That’s not true anymore. Today it’s really easy to create a professional quality print book. With tools like Amazon’s KDP, you can upload and format your interior pages, add back cover copy, and upload a professionally created book cover. And if you’re not inclined to make your own book cover, you can hire someone to create it for you for a truly affordable price.

Additionally, many book printing and distribution services also offer formatting and design services. This gives you every opportunity to create and sell a professional-looking book. It’s also important to know your audience. Some audiences prefer print books, which means that you can target a larger audience with print.

E-Book Formats

Digital printing is fantastic. You can upload your book and start selling it within just a few short hours. You can also make changes to the book quickly and easily. There’s no downtime. For example, if you notice a typo or want to update the information, you can change your document, upload it and begin selling that new version right away.

The only downside to digital publishing is that the books tend to sell for less than print books. This means that you make less money per book. However, the promise of instant gratification often means that they’re easier to sell. You may sell more digital books than print. And the market is growing as more people acclimate to digital and start preferring e-Books over print books.

There are three types of files that e-books come in:

  • epub: The file format standard established by the International Digital Publishing Forum and can be read by the B&N Nook, Kobo eReader, and Apple’s Books app.
  • mobi: The file format used by Amazon Kindle.
  • pdf: This format is usually made available by the author, as it is not a format that can be read by most e-readers, but can be read on computers and many mobile devices.


Audiobooks are another option to consider. And while many authors neglect this format — probably because they are a little more complicated to create — you can reach a much wider audience with audiobooks. Like KDP is for Amazon, ACX, or Audio Creation Exchange is an Amazon company that helps self-published authors create audiobooks to market and sell. You can narrate your book, which can be a lot of fun, or you can hire a narrator to read your book for your readers.

I’m working with an audio engineer to make sure my audio files are the quality required for an audiobook. However, there is a lot of preparation I still need to do before I even send files to him. Originally, I was going to release the audiobook version of Public Speaking Super Powers this month (in honor of Audiobook Month) but have decided to wait another year. But that is another story — and post!

As a self-published author, you have the ability to create and sell a wide variety of formats. It’s a tremendous time for aspiring authors, and embracing all of your publishing options can help you not only sell more books but also build a career as an author.


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