Monday, May 17, 2010

How to Set the Retail Price of Your New Book

When you’ve finished writing your book, and you’ve decided to self-publish, how will you determine the retail cover price for your book? Although current book prices may seem high, when you narrow the cost down to the bottom line, the reason may become clearly justified.

Keep in mind, if you pay a POD publisher (print on demand), most or all of the following may be included in your fee. When you obtain an estimate for POD publishing, check and see if it would be to your advantage to do-it-yourself. Remember, most often, paying a large sum of money to a POD publisher will not buy you any books. After your book is published, you will have to purchase your own books from them.

Starting from scratch, I will attempt to break the cost of book production down to the wire so you can estimate the cover price you will need to charge for your finished book. My estimates will be based on the average expense for a 5.5” x 8.5”, 200 page perfect paperback (soft cover) book.

Editorial cost – Unless you yourself are a professional editor or English major, we will assume your first real expense will be having your work edited. Cost - $400-$500

Layout cost – Although it’s not too difficult to layout the pages of your manuscript in book form, I strongly suggest having a professional do this for you, especially if you have an Index. Book printers take what you give them and print it. If you have even slightly misjudged the setup for your book, it can drastically change the final layout. Cost - $150-$250.
On an added note, visit http://www.48hrbooks.com/Templates.asp for some layout templates you can fill in yourself.

Cover Design – Your cover sells your book. Browsing customers who notice your cover amongst the hundreds of other books are obviously more likely to buy. Before you settle on a cover design, make sure you have researched what your customers will be looking for. Don’t skimp here. Cost - $100-$300

Printing cost – Your printing cost will vary according to how many books you order. For now, let’s assume you order the amount of books the average self-published author sells. We'll say 200 copies. Your cost will be $4.85 per book plus shipping cost.
(Again, 48 Hour Books is my favorite. They are an online company who print quality books for as reasonable a price as I’ve seen. Go to http://www.48hrbooks.com/ and enter the number of books, color pages, and zip code for shipping estimate.)

So let’s recap the cost of our 200 page book;
Editorial - $2.25 per book
Layout - $1.00 per book
Cover Design - $1.00 per book
Printing - $4.85
_________________________
Total cost per book - $9.05

Now that we know our expense for the physical book, what do we charge for it? Here’s where we now have to look at our “selling” expense.

Quite possibly, Amazon.com will be your biggest customer fulfillment source. Amazon charges a 55% commission on sales. Most wholesalers and distributers charge the same; some may be less (40-50%). But it is important to set your retail price where you can show a profit with even the highest commissioned distributor. We are most often responsible for the shipping cost to the distributer as well.

So will all this expense, we really need to set our retail price over $20 per book to make anything at all. But keep in mind; you will sell books to friends, at fairs, libraries, and some book stores, all where you will see a higher profit per book making the averages look a bit more appealing to you. Also, if sales are good, you might need to order more books, now the expense is reduced to the printing and shipping cost—looking better now?

Understand these estimates are for a retail product and do not yet include any type of wage for our time invested. The profit you estimate is your wage (before taxes).

My quotes may seem high at some level and low at others, but realistically, it’s not cheap to produce a book unless you want to end up with a cheap looking book!

Although these numbers may be disappointing to some, maybe we should we ask ourselves why we have the desire to write a book in the first place? If we are satisfying a dream, these estimates and financial mumbo jumbo will simply not matter. So enjoy the dream and if you can make a few bucks in the process, celebrate!

10 comments:

RYCJ/Author, Publisher said...

Thanks Carol,
Your quotes are not high at all, in fact for cover designs, I've heard costs starting at $300 and pros starting at $1000. But just curious, do you have a few names of those providing editorial services at the costs you've listed that you would recommend?

Poetic Shutterbug said...

Thanks for these tips. It was so difficult for me to try and determine a retail price for my last book. I wish I had seen your post before publication. Great tips.

Carol Denbow said...

Yes RYC,
I would recommend Cori Ashley. You can e-mail her at cori@coriashley.com. She did my first 2 books and I would bet you'll not find any mistakes in them. She was very reasonable. Tell her Carol referred you!!

Michael said...

>>Amazon charges a 55% commission on sales.<<

NOT TRUE. Amazon and other online sellers will gladly settle for just 20%.

Michael N. Marcus
-- Independent Self-Publishers Alliance, http://www.independentselfpublishers.org
-- "Become a Real Self-Publisher: Don’t be a Victim of a Vanity Press" http://www.amazon.com/dp/0981661742
-- "Stories I'd Tell My Children (but maybe not until they're adults)" http://www.amazon.com/dp/0981661750
-- http://www.BookMakingBlog.blogspot.com
-- http://www.SilverSandsBooks.com

Carol Denbow said...

To Michael,
Please explain how to go about this "settling." I have been paying a 55% commission to Amazon for more than 5 years on my "printed" books (as a publisher).
I would love to know how to lower it.
Thanks!!

Michael said...

>>Unless you yourself are a professional editor or English major, we will assume your first real expense will be having your work edited<<

No writer should be her own editor, and an English major will not necessarily be a good writer or editor.

>>Your cost will be $4.85 per book plus shipping cost.<<

With POD from Lightning Source, there is no additional charge for shipping books to online booksellers or to their customers.

Michael N. Marcus
-- Independent Self-Publishers Alliance, http://www.independentselfpublishers.org
-- "Become a Real Self-Publisher: Don’t be a Victim of a Vanity Press" http://www.amazon.com/dp/0981661742
-- "Stories I'd Tell My Children (but maybe not until they're adults)" http://www.amazon.com/dp/0981661750
-- http://www.BookMakingBlog.blogspot.com
-- http://www.SilverSandsBooks.com

Michael said...

To Carol:

I use Lightning Source to print-on-demand. They supply Amazon and other online booksellers, and terrestrial bookstores as well.

I simply specify that the discount is 20%. This discount will not get my books onto store shelves (from where they could be returned) but my books are on dozens of bookseller websites worldwide, and can be ordered by shoppers in any store, including B&N.


Michael N. Marcus
-- Independent Self-Publishers Alliance, http://www.independentselfpublishers.org
-- "Become a Real Self-Publisher: Don’t be a Victim of a Vanity Press" http://www.amazon.com/dp/0981661742
-- "Stories I'd Tell My Children (but maybe not until they're adults)" http://www.amazon.com/dp/0981661750
-- http://www.BookMakingBlog.blogspot.com
-- http://www.SilverSandsBooks.com

Carol said...

Michael- This will be good news for those who use Lightning Source! Unfortunately, I don't, LOL!
Thank you for sharing that information!

myletterstoemily said...

that was very helpful, thank you!

i am weighing the pros and cons
of self publishing.

William R Potter said...

I advise authors to forget about costs and sell their books at a price that the market will bear.

For books under 300 pages $14.95 is a high as I would go. Over 300 pages--keep the price below $20 as readers hesitate to spend over the $20 mark on a self-published book.

Just my two cents.