Holding your manuscript in hand, you can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. You’re almost done and the words you’ve labored over for months or even years is almost a book. There are now only a few more decisions to make before your work is ready to be sold. One of these decisions is how much to charge for the book. What price do you choose? You want a price low enough to induce readers to buy the book yet high enough to cover your publishing costs and help with living expenses.
There are many factors to consider when pricing your book:
What has it cost to publish?
Start by listing out what it cost to publish the book. Expenses may include:
- professional editing
- professional book layout and design (cover and interior)
- illustrations, photographs, and cover art
- bookstore or other third party’s percentage when sold (such as Amazon)
- printed manuscripts to edit
- e-book conversion
- printed books
Total up the costs on your list. This is the smallest amount of money you’ll need to make to earn back the cost of publishing the book. Next, make an educated guess on how many books you’ll sell, then divide the total costs by this number (Total cost of books ÷ number of books sold = minimum amount to charge to cover expenses.)
Third party costs
Though a factor in the equation above, the percentage a third party takes when a book is sold is worth considering by itself. Online retailers vary their percentage based on multiple factors such as the price you choose, their policies, what form it’s in (print or e-book), and how the book is sold. Bookstores typically take 40% of the customer’s cost of the book and give you 60%. So if you charged $12.95 to the customer, the bookstore would take $5.18 and give you $7.77. That $7.77 needs to cover all your costs of publishing minus the seller’s percentage with a little room to spare. You won’t make a lot of money on print books through third party sellers but you don’t want to lose money either.
Who is buying your book?
Who are the people who will be buying your book? If you’re writing about finding low-income housing, you don’t want to charge $18.95 for the information. Similarly, if you’re discussing how to remodel a vacation home, $9.99 would be too low. Check with a couple of people who you think will buy your book and ask them what they would be willing to pay.
What quality of paper are you printing on?
If you’re printing on regular stock paper with the standard cover, then your printing costs are going to be lower. If you’re choosing special features or high-end paper though, that’s going to cost you. Let’s say you are choosing to print on cream colored paper with a matt textured cover. Take that higher printing cost (and higher quality) into account when choosing your price. Also consider your page count. If it’s a thicker book than you have published before, the price should be higher as well.
What does it cost to print?
A book should be priced around 2 ½ times what it cost to print. This is not a final ratio as there are other factors to take under consideration, but it’s a good guideline. For example, if you are publishing a book that costs $5.50 to print per copy, then a good price without yet taking other costs into account would be at least $13.75.
Visit a bookstore
Checking online for similar books is a great place to start to compare pricing but if you’re focusing on finding a price for a print book, then a fieldtrip to your local bookstore is in order. After finding other books in your genre, look for ones with the same quality of paper and of a similar size and page count. What do those books cost? You don’t want to sell your book for $16 when similar books are selling for $13. Do keep in mind though, that many of those books were printed in larger quantities than most self-published books and can therefore be sold at a lower cost.
If you’ve been publishing for a while, you’ve sold other books at various prices. If it’s been several years since the last one, you should check the inflation rate. The Bureau of Labor Statistics has a great online inflation calculator. Simply enter in what you charged for a previous book and which year it was published and the calculator will tell you what that book would cost today. For example, a book costing $12.95 in 2005 would cost $15.82 today.
Choosing a price for an e-book is more straightforward than for print. Though you still have design costs, you don’t have the printing cost every time a book is sold. The two costs to focus on with an e-book is the portion a third-party will take such as Amazon, and how often you’re going to discount it. For example, if you sell through Amazon, you’ll want to price your e-book between $2.99 and $9.99. If you stay within that range, Amazon will pay you 70%. If you charge above or below that amount, they will only pay you 35%. If you’re planning on discounting your book at different times, then you’ll want to price it high enough so you can drop the price without losing too much income.
At the end of the day, you have to decide for yourself what you’re going to charge. Just make sure it covers your cost and is affordable for your readers.