The Key Elements of Pricing a Book

What is the best way to properly price a book?  

Conventional wisdom would say to simply double or triple your total cost to produce the book, but there are several factors that go into book pricing, including its genre, binding, page count, and author notoriety.

For example, it may cost you $12 per book to produce 1,000 copies when you include printing, shipping, editing, marketing, design, and so on.  That might suggest  a $24 or $30 retail list price for said book, at least on your back of napkin calculations.  This may sound like a reasonable profit margin, but if the book is a 300-page paperback novel, your chances of selling the book will be very low because the price is outside of standard genre norms for the retail market. Ultimately, there are several factors beyond simply the production costs to consider when pricing a book. 

Genre

The genre (or subject category) is one of the biggest factors in the price of a book, and it can cause the price point to shift drastically.  The business genre, for example, will command a price that is well over $20 on average, while a young adult novel averages in the mid teens ($15). 

Binding

The binding plays a big role in this as well.  Hardcover books are usually more expensive than paperbacks, even for the same book.  Hardcovers are generally $20 and up; paperbacks are usually less than $20. 

Page Count

The page count is another critical factor.  The larger the book, the more expensive it is to print, which forces a higher price point.  When suggesting prices, we look at books with similar page counts—within about 20 pages of each other.  This allows us to hone in on a more specific price range.

Name Recognition

The last part of the equation is the author’s notoriety.  A well-known author like Stephen King, Nora Roberts, or a celebrity writing their memoir can command as much as $3 more per book, due to their name and the demand for their work.  While your book may be similar in most other ways, unless you have similar notoriety, you’ll have a better chance of convincing a reader to buy the book at a lower price. 

Factoring in all of these elements is a delicate balance.  We often research the high, the low, and the average of several similar titles published within the last three to four years.  We examine the sales of the books to gain an understanding of what price point works and what doesn’t work.  If the price is too low, you may not break even. If it is too high, bookstores and consumers may be less apt to purchase it. 

This research allows us to identify an ideal price range that is tailored to the specific title at hand.