Once you have finalized your editing, design, and production, it’s time to set the price for your book. This part of the publishing process can be both challenging and overwhelming. It’s also a part of the process where authors and publishers can make big mistakes.
For authors and publishers who are using Print-onDemand for their bring-to-market strategy, those royalty calculators can be dangerous. It’s easy to fiddle with numbers to see that “per-copy” royalty rate go up (or down).
The truth of the matter is, that per-copy royalty rate doesn’t matter at all if an author sells zero books.
We see (and hear) the following rationale a lot when it comes to pricing:
“I had to price my book to make the most money per copy sold so I can quickly earn back the money I’ve invested…”
This is extremely flawed thinking and can adversely affect book sales.
The only one thing should drive the price of your book is The Market.
How do you know what the market demands? Or, in other words, what is someone willing to pay for a book in your category?
Research. Research. Research.
So, what is the process for pricing your book for success?
- Pull a list of the top 7-10 books in your category. Note their page count, trim size, and price. Frequently an Excel spreadsheet will help you lay it all out.
- Pay attention to who the author is. Frequently, bestselling authors can command a higher price point than an author who’s new to a category or doesn’t have a major platform.
- Pull out the two highest priced books and the two lowest priced books.
- Take an honest look at where your book fits into that mix (paying close attention to page count, author platform, and overall package).
- See what the average price point is for the “middle” books in your category—this is likely a key indicator for what your price should be.
It can be so tempting to price a book to maximize profits. In fact, you may be publishing a book with the pure goal of making money.
However, pricing your book too high for market demand will almost guarantee that you won’t make any money at all. It’s far better to make $2.05 per copy sold and sell some books than it is to make $15 per copy sold and sell no books at all.
The truth of the matter is that readers have a number in their head when they are shopping for books. If that number is $12.95 or $14.95 and your book is priced at $24.95, you’ve likely lost any chance at a sale at all.
Keep in mind:
- If you make $2.05 per copy sold and you sell 500 books, you’ve made $1,025.
- If you make $15 per copy sold and you sell zero books, you’ve made zero dollars.
Strategic pricing can frequently mean less profit for authors and publishers. When you factor in print pricing and trade discounts, that’s just the nature of the book business. But not thinking really hard, and doing a ton of research prior to publication, can also result in a lost opportunity for book sales.
Do your research, learn your category, identify exactly what readers in your category are willing to pay—and price accordingly!
Bethany Brown is the President of The Cadence Group, a design, editorial, marketing and book coaching provider to the publishing industry. With a background in traditional publishing by way of Adams Media and Sourcebooks and close to a decade of working directly with authors and small presses, Bethany understands the challenges (and benefits!) facing self-publishers and indie presses today. She lives just outside of Chicago with her husband Steve and her dog Popeye.