Book Pricing Basics
from Mill City Press
Setting the Retail Price For Your Book
Book pricing involves many factors, but the atmosphere
of the general marketplace is arguably one of the most important to
consider. One of the biggest mistakes a self-published author can make
during the book pricing process is setting the price too high
(effectively pricing their book out of the market). The cost to print
your book is not the only factor to consider when setting your retail
price--you need to also consider the cost of comparable titles, the
“look and feel” of your book, the subject matter, etc. This is not to
say that you need to undervalue your book, but be realistic when
pricing your book.
When a traditional publisher takes on a new title, they
make all of the major decisions about the book, including book pricing.
These publishers have sales, marketing, and distribution forces all
weighing in on the book’s price. They know what the market can bear and
what the customer is willing to tolerate in regards to book pricing.
As a self-published author, the retail price of your
book is ultimately your decision. It’s completely understandable to be
concerned about your margin and to want to see a profit, but readers
don’t share this concern. They don’t care what you paid to print your
book, and retailers don’t either. The consumer wants competitive book
pricing that is in line with other books in the genre.
With over 3,000,000 books published each year in the U.
S. alone, itīs dangerous to think that your book is good enough to
stand alone in the marketplace and that book pricing isnīt an issue.
You need to price your book in the range of what is acceptable within
your genre (non-fiction, fiction, how-to, etc.) and category (history,
business, mystery, etc.).
How can you find out what this price range is? Do your
research. Take some time to really think about your book before you
reach the pricing step. Consider your target audience, other books in
your genre/categories, your overall book design, and your print specs
(trim size, paper weight, page count, etc.). Then peruse Amazon.com,
your local bookstore, or another well-stocked retailer and find titles
that match yours as closely as possible, taking special note of how
they’re priced. This research will also be invaluable to you when
thinking about how to position your book in relation to competitive
While there are no hard and fast rules to retail book
pricing, here are some general guidelines when setting the price for
your self-published book.
Pricing A Non-Fiction Book
Book pricing should be in line with similar books in the
market. Itīs reasonable to charge a slightly higher price for books
that contain a fair amount of research, statistics, endnotes, charts,
graphs, color interior, and/or other details that make it a fairly
extensive and unique book. You should also consider the finished trim
size (e.g., 6" x 9", 5-1/2" x 8-1/2", etc.) and page count of your book.
Pricing A Fiction Book
Here the page count comes more prominently into play. If
your book is a 375-page novel, itīs reasonable to ask $16.95 for it.
Most average-sized trade paperback novels fall into the $13.95 to
$17.95 price range.
While we do suggest a retail book price for our
customers, and use our experience to determine a price that we feel is
appropriate, the final decision is yours. Make sure that you have done
all that you can to understand the market, and price your book
accordingly. An overly-inflated price will cause you to lose your
competitive edge before your book ever even reaches a retailer!
Pricing A Poetry Book
Poetry books are generally priced lower than non-fiction
and fiction titles, especially collections published by emerging poets.
Though your voice is distinct and your content fresh, poetry books and
chapbooks are so prevalently published today that successful marketing
depends heavily on price. Say you’re browsing a bookstore shelf for
some poetry and you come across two collections you’re considering for
purchase. One costs $8.99, and the other costs $11.99 – which are you
more likely to buy? These lower priced poetry books are going to be
your major competitors, and as a result, you must sell your book at a
competitive price. If you’re certain you’ll publish a second book, you
may want to underbid the hottest poetry sellers, and incrementally
raise the price of your subsequent publications.
To determine what you should price your book, visit the
poetry section in your local bookstores and study the prices of similar
publications (i.e. similar in size, subject matter, style and voice).
This should give you a reasonable range for the sales price for your
book. Research and browse online retailers such as Amazon.com and the
Wordclay Bookstore for prices as well. Who knows? You may discover
niche markets and retailers that perfectly fit your title’s mood and
It’s true – lowering the price of your poetry book will
ultimately lower the royalties you earn with each sale. Bear in mind,
though, that the more attractive the price of your book, the more
copies you’re likely to sell. And the more copies you sell, the larger
your readership will become, not only increasing the prestige your name
will invoke when mentioned, but also paving the way for your future
Pricing An eBook
There are a few rules that come into play when you
decide to set the price for your eBook:
It cannot be priced at $0.00. This is because each
retail website charges a small service fee for the download of the
eBook file. An eBook has to be at least $0.99 in order to be sold on
any retail website.
Anywhere between $2.99 and $9.99 is considered an
"acceptable" price. Research has shown that customers are more willing
to purchase an eBook if it's priced significantly lower than a
paperback or hardcover book.
Certain retailers will pay higher royalties if your
eBook is priced between $2.99 and $9.99. For example, Amazon.com will
pay out 70% of the retail download price as long as your eBook is
between $2.99 and $9.99. If it priced above or below these margins,
Amazon.com will only pay out 35% of the retail download price.
Take your audience into consideration. Will they be more
willing to read your eBook if it's sold at a low price? Probably!
Do some research. Look at other eBooks that are in the
same genre as yours. What price are they being sold for? Be competitive!
When should I start thinking
about book pricing?
While it’s great to start thinking about your retail
book pricing right away (that way you can start to check out
competitive titles early), the retail book price isn’t finalized until
your book has been fully designed. This means that your book cover is
complete, and that your text has been typeset.
How do I determine what
percentage of my retail book price I will make from the sale of each
Break down how trade
sales will work so that you can see your net earnings. As a general
rule, you can anticipate a wholesale discount of 55 percent, which is
applied to your retail price. A 55 percent (55%) wholesale discount is
industry standard, and allows wholesalers to sell your book to
retailers at a 40 percent (40%) discount (also industry standard).
Depending on your distribution options, you may also need to deduct the
percentage that the distributor takes of the wholesale.
Breakdown for Expanded
Let’s say that your book has a retail price of $14.95,
costs $2.00 per copy to print, your wholesale discount is 55 percent
(55%), and that the distributor takes 15 percent (15%) of the
wholesale. Sales through the distributor would be calculated as follows.
$14.95 (retail price) - 55% (wholesale discount) = $6.73
(wholesale price) - 15% (distributor’s fee) = $5.72 - $2.00 (print
cost) = $3.72
In this case, you will have already paid for the
printing up front (as books in distribution are not printed on-demand).
This means that the print cost will not be deducted when sales are
reported on your monthly distribution statements, but that you’ll need
to deduct it in order to calculate your true net earnings.
Breakdown for Distribution to
Online Retailers (POD Distribution):
In this case, let’s say that your book has a retail
price of $14.95, a wholesale discount of 55 percent (55%), and a print
cost of $4.08 per book. Sales through online retailers would be
calculated as follows.
$14.95 (retail price) - 55% (wholesale discount) = $6.73
(wholesale price) - $4.08 (print cost) = $2.65
Books in this program are printed on demand, which means
that the print cost will be deducted on the actual monthly royalty
Canadian and/or US Pricing:
Quote from the National Book Network:
“As you know, the Canadian dollar has been very volatile recently. We
have recommended that publishers not put the Canadian price on their
forthcoming books and just put the US price on the cover. It is fine to
print a price with the US letters beside it, i.e., $19.95 US and we
have had some discussions about dropping the “US” beside the price, but
for now it is acceptable to print “$19.95 US.”