What Price is Right?

A big question for many authors is how to determine the retail price of their book. In some businesses, conventional wisdom says to set the price of a product by at least doubling your cost. Since that’s the case, if it cost you $10 to print your 150-page book, you should charge $20, right? Wrong! The book industry is not conventional, and the conventional wisdom thus does not apply.

There are many different factors that impact the price of your book: genre, page count, binding (hardcover/paperback), and competition all dictate the best price for the retail market.

There are three things you need to do to find your book’s retail price:

1. Put yourself in your customer’s shoes. What would you pay for a title by an unknown author in the same category as your book?

2. Visit your local bookstore or go online to Amazon or BN.com and look up recent books in your genre. For books with the same binding as yours and with page counts and trim sizes close to yours, what is the general price point?

3. Determine your production costs and if the retail price determined by the above factors does not allow you to at least break even on a per-unit-sold basis, you may need to go up one dollar—but no more than two dollars. Believe it or not, due to increasingly tight budgets at the chains, a two-dollar price increase can easily cause a corporate chain buyer to pass on your book. However, if you’re anticipating mostly online sales (or are in a strong niche market), you can probably get away with it.

One of the biggest mistakes some authors make is pricing their product out of the market. In a hyper-competitive market, you have to give yourself every advantage when it comes to selling books, and that includes having a price point that appeals to bookstores and readers. To make up for a margin that may be slimmer than you hoped for, push demand and sales as much as you can and build your audience.

Better yet, focus on how to use your book to drive other revenue-generating programs like coaching, speaking, and memberships. With tight margins, you may not make much money on the first title, but it may very well come back to you on additional print runs or new titles down the line.