Sunday, December 27, 2009

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 at a sometimes not so reasonable cost.

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 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 the average self-published author sells, 200 copies. Your cost will be $4.85 per book plus shipping cost.
(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 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, 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).

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!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

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