For many indie authors, publishing their manuscript as a printed book is the obvious choice; however, ebooks and audiobooks are becoming increasingly popular options as well. This is not just due to their ease of use and the access they provide to a global online distribution network. In the case of ebooks, they are also one of the cheapest book formats available for readers. So, it’s essential for you to factor all of these considerations into your decision-making process before you settle on which format(s) you will use to release your published book.

Types of book formats

The three main types of book formats for self-publishing your manuscript are:

  1. print books
  2. ebooks
  3. audiobooks.

However, as a self-publisher, you should consider the pros and cons of each format before making your final decision for your book.

Print books – Paperbacks and hardbacks

Print books are a good option for most book genres and styles. However, it’s important to be aware that this is the most expensive format of book publishing. This in turn will have a corresponding impact on the recommended retail price (RRP) you charge for it. Typically, the RRP is commensurate with the costs involved in publishing your book.

Paperback books with perfect binding are the most popular (and least expensive) printing option for mass market genre fiction like romance novels, and nonfiction books such as memoirs and business books. On the other hand, hardcover (casebound) books are very durable and can be a good option for cookbooks and coffee table books featuring high-quality glossy photographs. Trim size dimensions also have an impact on printing costs, with standard sized paperbacks being the most viable alternative.

One important point if you do decide to publish printed books is to have a good distribution network in place. This involves ensuring your book is available on as many online ‘print on demand’ platforms as possible, including Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP Print) and IngramSpark. The main disadvantage of printed books is the associated challenge of reaching readers who are further afield, which is why establishing a global distribution network is so important. Remember, the wider your distribution network is, the wider your marketing/sales outreach for your book will be.


An ebook is a digital book that can be read on devices such as smartphones, tablets, computers or ebook readers. Unlike printed books, ebooks can be obtained by downloading them from the internet – anywhere and at anytime. They are usually much cheaper to buy than print books. Likewise, they’re a logical option when you are travelling as they save space and weigh nothing. Furthermore, given that many people are very attached to their smartphones, having a book that can be easily read on this platform can increase your readership base significantly. Another major advantage of ebooks is they can contain clickable links, which makes navigating between different segments of your content a breeze for readers.


Audiobooks are a great option for authors whose readership base includes busy people with little (or no) time to sit down and read a print book or ebook. They allow people to do something else (such as driving or exercising) while reading. Furthermore, audiobooks are the perfect choice for people with visual impairments or those with motor control issues who struggle to hold a physical book.

Audiobooks are typically more expensive to purchase than ebooks and involve an additional production cost on your part to publish. Nevertheless, they are a very convenient lifestyle choice for many readers. Therefore, they are a good format option for you to consider to ensure your published book reaches as large an audience as possible.

The optimal format for publishing your book

Once you’ve completed all the necessary prepublication steps for your manuscript, you may decide to publish your book in as many formats as possible. By doing so, your book will be accessible to more readers, which is what most authors strive for. If your book is only available as a printed book in ‘bricks and mortar’ bookstores, it is more difficult for people who are not close to that physical location to purchase a copy. This, in turn, means you greatly limit your potential market share. Likewise, publishing your book title exclusively in ebook or audiobook format deprives readers who enjoy the physical experience of touching paper books of the opportunity to connect with your story.

It’s important to spend some time considering the best type of format for your published book. Remember, a range of format options are available, so you are not restricted to publishing your book in one format only.