In Your Corner: Settling on a Price

We’ve been at it for a few weeks now, examining a few of the many choices authors have to make during the self-publication and marketing processes, starting with the Big Whopper (“Choosing a Self-Publishing Company“) middling with the choices authors make regarding the text itself (“Choosing a Trim Size for Your Book“), and winding through deciding on a genre for your book–assuming, of course, that genre remains a useful identifier (“Know Thyself (& Thy Genre)“).  Today, we’re going to look at something a little different.  We’re going to ask the money question.  (Or … one of the money questions.)

How Much Do I Charge Per Book?

I’m already aware it’s complicated. Just tell me already.

It’s true.  Pricing is complicated, not least by the fact that we’re probably looking at two different products here, even when we’re talking about one book–because let’s face it, it’s a good idea to sell both a digital copy or ebook edition as well as a physical copy or print edition of your book.  The more diverse your offerings, and so on and so forth.

price in euros

Some facts hold true no matter which edition you’re looking at, however.  The first being:

  • Pricing your book too high relative to your competitors all but guarantees your readers will go elsewhere.

Readers are whatever the book version of an omnivore is called.  (A genrevore?  Never mind.  I’m terrible at coining memes.)  They’re far more likely to pick a sequel of a book they’ve already read than a book by a new author, and failing that, they’re more likely to pick a book within the same genre as an existing favorite.  But a book by an unfamiliar author that’s expensive compared to its shelfmates?  Not going to happen.

The second fact?

  • Pricing your book too low undercuts the perceived value of your book, unless the pricing is temporary.

When we talk about selling readers on a new book, we’re actually making a value proposition; we are attempting to cultivate a perceived value of the book in someone who has never encountered it before, and there’s nothing that shouts “Not worth my time!” than something that doesn’t come with its own built-in novelty factor. There should be a synergy between the quality of your book as an object in the hand and its price; and unless you’re creating the aforementioned novelty by running a short-term sale or discount, your book should be only fractionally lower than the average price of a new book in its genre.

Thirdly:

  • Print books need to account for physical manufacture costs.

So, yes, your ebook should probably cost less than your print edition. It follows.

And lastly:

  • Price is a question of audience.

What does your audience expect of a book like yours?  I’m not just talking about genre; I’m talking about length (Wolf Hall costs more than Moll Flanders, for example), paper and binding quality, whether it’s an oversize or mass market size, hardback or paperback.  The only real way to make a thoroughly researched decision on what these expectations mean in terms of pricing in today’s market is to wander through a bookstore.  Don’t just hang around in one section, either–walk every aisle.  Eye every book.  What qualities does your book share with each item?  What makes it stand out?  Flip through books of a similar page count.  Turn a few books with similar cover designs and aesthetics over to check the price.  Check the gloss of the pages.  Count the illustrations.

Ultimately, the price of your book can only be set and determined by you, so you will at some point have to just make a call and stick with it.  But if you’re feeling particularly brave, take your book in to a bookseller and without giving them much of a clue, let them handle the book and try to guess the price.  Let them estimate how much they would charge.  Neighborhood and indie bookstores are the best for this.  There’s no substitute for experience, and there’s not substitute for the assurance that you’re part of a larger network and system dedicated to putting books like yours in the hands of eager readers.

You are not alone. ♣︎


Elizabeth

ABOUT ELIZABETH JAVOR: With over 18 years of experience in sales and management, Elizabeth Javor works as the Manager of Author Services for Outskirts Press. The Author Services Department is composed of knowledgeable publishing consultants, pre-production specialists, customer service reps and book marketing specialists; together, they all focus on educating authors on the self-publishing process to help them publish the book of their dreams. Whether you are a professional looking to take your career to the next level with platform-driven non-fiction or a novelist seeking fame, fortune, and/or personal fulfillment, Elizabeth Javor can put you on the right path.

From the Archives: “Top 5 Considerations for Effectively Pricing Your Self-Published Book”

Welcome back to our Tuesday segment, where we’ll be revisiting some of our most popular posts from the last few years.  What’s stayed the same?  And what’s changed?  We’ll be updating you on the facts, and taking a new (and hopefully refreshing) angle on a few timeless classics of Self Publishing Advisor.

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[ Originally posted: February 3rd, 2011 ]

“Is my book too expensive?”

“Am I selling myself short?”

Traditionally-published authors usually don’t have any control over the price of their book. As a self-published author, though, how can you make sure you have priced your book appropriately? There is no hard and fast rule, unfortunately. However, here are a few things to consider while coming up with a pricing strategy for self-publishing a book:

  1. How much royalty will you earn from every book sale? If you’re planning on writing full-time, you want to make sure you’re making a sustainable amount per book ($1.50 – $2.75 is reasonable).
  2. What is your target market? Is your intended reader a teenager or an affluent attorney? You want to keep your audience in mind so that you don’t price yourself out of the market. You won’t be very successful if your ideal reader can’t afford to buy your book.
  3. Where do you want to sell your book? Trade discounts often determine where a book is sold. Most online retailers are fine with a short trade discount (less than 40%). However, big box stores, such as Borders, Barnes&Noble, etc. require at least a 50% discount (in addition to a solid marketing plan and full return-ability) to consider carrying your book. If you can’t imagine self-publishing your book without it being stocked on the shelves of your nearest B&N, you should consider going with 50% (though it will cut down on your royalties).
  4. How has your competition priced their books? Research books similar to yours. Make sure the page count is similar, it was published recently, and hopefully self-published. You don’t want to price your book too high above (or too low beneath) these books.
  5. Have you asked an expert? Now is not the time to guess. This is your livelihood. Your best bet is to employ the services of someone who is already familiar with the self-publishing industry, like a Publishing Consultant. These people know the book business, and they can help you with questions like these.

DISCUSSION: How did you decide on a price for your book?

by Elise L. Connors

I absolutely love Elise’s post on ebook pricing, especially since most of the points hold steady in the face of a rapidly changing market.  There’s very little that’s the same in 2016 as it used to be in 2012 when it comes to the world of self-publishing in digital formats––except for this!  And while some figures may require updating––and Borders has gone altogether out of business––I cannot think of better advice than what Elise gave us in these five simple points.

online shopping

One recent event has, of course, dramatically altered the parameters by which you should set your ebook’s price: Hachette won its suit against Amazon.  What does this mean?  Why should indie authors care about a battle between an online retailer and a traditional publishing company?  I can think of several reasons.

One: Amazon is far and away the largest online retailer of ebooks, outpacing Barnes & Noble by leaps and bounds and leaving Apple’s iBook store and the Google Play store to contend for the last percentages of the market with their book subscription services and bundles.

And two: Hachette’s win means that Amazon no longer gets to keep ebook prices artificially low––justifiably low, in Amazon’s opinion––as the prices of ebooks put out by the Big Five traditional publishing houses cannot be reduced by the third party online seller.  As a consequence, ebook prices have been soaring––as the Big Five set higher prices to rake in more profit, many self-publishing authors are following suit because of the luxury principle; they don’t want their books to be assumed inferior in quality just because they’re less expensive.

A lot of factors go into your price-setting decision.  Are you looking mostly for exposure?  If you are, then selling your book at a dramatically reduced price (say, a $0.99 deal) may well get your book in front of more pairs of eyes than if you price it higher (say, around $9.99).  A low price might also help lure in readers who are itching to try a new book but only have a little free cash to risk.  But a low price cuts into your royalties, and for Amazon especially the highest royalties (around 70%) come when you price your book around the $2.99 sweet spot.  You may lose a few risk-conscious readers, but you only need one reader to purchase your book to every two who turn away in order to break even in your royalties when you boost your price to $2.99.

Your book’s genre and length can also play a role.  Remember Elise’s fourth point, above?  If you’ve written a book that falls neatly to a particular genre (or perhaps, relates un-neatly to several) then you should take a long look at how similar novels of a similar length and style are being priced.  All books are wonderful things and no genre is inherently more “literary” than another, but a pragmatic author must recognize that human perception is flawed and nowhere near as egalitarian as we’d like.  This is to say, romances, Westerns, science fiction, and fantasy tend to be priced more cheaply than, say, a travelogue or political exposé.  You don’t want to price your book outside of your ideal reader’s expected range.

In a lot of ways, it’s easy to lose sight of your vision for your book when the price dominates conversation.  Here’s my advice for pricing an ebook in 2016: Do your research, consult an expert, and make the call.  Don’t spend too much time deliberating, or you’re missing out on the most important thing that you as an author can be doing: writing another book!  ♠

KellyABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the Executive Vice President of Outskirts Press. In addition to her contributions to the Outskirts Press blog at blog.outskirtspress.com, Kelly and a group of talented marketing experts offer book marketing services, support, and products to not only published Outskirts Press authors, but to all authors and professionals who are interested in marketing their books and/or careers. Learn more about Kelly on her blog, kellyschuknecht.com.

How to Price Your Self-Published Book

One of the many benefits of self-publishing is the ability to determine your own retail price. When considering how to price your book, consider your distribution needs and income goals. Here is what you need to know when determining your book price.

Retail Margin
The retail margin is the difference between your book’s selling price at a retail store and the price that store paid to acquire the book (either from you, the publisher, or the wholesaler). For example, a book with a selling price of $10 that the store purchased from Ingram for $6, has a retail margin of 40%, which is the most common industry standard.

Trade Discount

The trade discount is the percentage off the retail price that a wholesaler or distributor pays for your book.Since the retail margin is a portion of the trade discount, the trade discount always exceeds the retail margin. Because distributors typically take 10%-25%, they typically expect between 50% – 70% in order to provide an acceptable margin to the retailer.

Retail Price

Retail price is often the same as cover price or selling price, but it doesn’t have to be.  Most publishers do not allow you to set your pricing, but some do, like Outskirts Press. If you or the publisher set a price, you are setting the suggested retail price. The retailer can take it as a suggestion. They may, however, sell your book for whatever price they want, which is the list price, or selling price. If the list price is lower than the suggested retail price, the retailer is usually absorbing the difference in their portion of the margin.

Physical offline retailers typically expect a margin of at least 40%. This gives them the flexibility of offering the book for sale (selling it below the suggested retail price) and still making money on the book. A retailer’s margin is determined by the price they sell the book compared with the price they paid for the book (usually by buying it from a wholesaler like Ingram).

Distribution

It should come as no surprise that the amount of distribution your book enjoys rests largely upon its trade discount. Generally, the higher the discount, the greater the distribution.

The proper trade discount depends upon each author’s intentions, and can vary from author to author just as readily as from book to book. Usuaully, the higher the retail margin, the higher the cover price, so authors interested in maintaining the lowest cover price possible will often opt for a lower retail margin. For some authors, mainly those planning on selling online, this is often an acceptable plan. For other authors, mainly those planning on selling offline, lowering their trade discount may end up crippling the book’s chances for success.

ABOUT JODEE THAYER: With over 20 years of experience in sales and management, Jodee Thayer works as the Manager of Author Services for Outskirts Press. The Author Services Department is composed of knowledgeable customer service reps and publishing consultants; together, they all focus on educating authors on the self-publishing process in order to help them publish the book of their dreams. Whether you are a professional looking to take your career to the next level with platform-driven non-fiction or a novelist seeking fame, fortune, and/or personal fulfillment, Jodee Thayer can put you on the right path.

Top 10 Posts from 2013

Is self-publishing a book on your 2014 to-do list? If so, I’ve gathered the top self-publishing advice and news from 2013 to help you get started on your 2014 writing projects. These articles proved to be helpful to writers publishing in the past year, and I’m sure they will be helpful to you too. Here are the top 10 self-publishing posts from 2013.

1. Top 5 Customer Service Characteristics of High Quality Self-Publishing Companies

Choosing a self-publishing company is an important decision. This article discusses five characteristics to look for to ensure that you choose a high quality self-publishing company.

2. Quick Start Guide to Marketing Your Kindle eBooks Like a Pro!

This must read article discusses the differences between marketing an ebook and marketing a print book as well the mistakes that some authors make when marketing their Kindle ebooks.

3. How Much Do Self-Published Authors Make Per Year?

How much income self-publishing authors earn is always a common question among those considering self-publishing. This article provides an honest answer about the income you can expect as a self-published author.

4. Espresso Book Machines Offer Self-Publishing Authors a Jolt in Sales

It is amazing how much the publishing industry as changed over the past few years. Espresso book machines are book vending machines that produce a paperback copy of your selection on the spot. The way they work and how they are changing the way people get books is fascinating.

5. Should You Pay for a Book Review

Book reviews are a great way for self-publishing authors to market their book and increase their credibility. This article discusses why paying for book reviews is actually a great idea.

6. Self Publishing Authors Beware: Cheaper Isn’t Always Better

Many self-publishing authors are looking for ways to publish their books while sticking to a budget. While there are ways to cut costs and save money, this article explains why cheaper isn’t always better.

7. Top 5 Considerations for Effectively Pricing Your Self-Publishing Book

Book pricing is always a hot topic among self-publishing authors. This article helps you determine a pricing strategy that is appropriate for your book.

8. Color Printing vs. Black and White Printing…What is the Difference?

This article discusses the difference between color printing and black and white printing. It also explains how these options compare to those offered by traditional publishers and what options are available to authors of long manuscripts.

9. Compare CreateSpace and Outskirts Press Self Publishing Packages

Choosing a self-publishing company can seem like a daunting task because it is difficult to make an apple-to-apple comparison. Each company offers different services and packages. This article provides an honest comparison between two popular publishing packages available through CreateSpace and Outskirts Press.

10. Copyright and Copywrite in Self-Publishing

Copyright is a confusing topic for many authors. This article explains basic copyright laws and what you need to do to protect your work.

I’d love to know, what is your favorite self-publishing post from 2013?

ABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the Vice President of Outskirts Press. In addition to her contributions to the Outskirts Press blog at blog.outskirtspress.com, Kelly and a group of talented marketing experts offer book marketing services, support, and products to not only published Outskirts Press authors, but to all authors and professionals who are interested in marketing their books and/or careers. Learn more about Kelly on her blog at http://kellyschuknecht.com.