What to Consider When Pricing Your Print Book

We all know how hard it is to assign a value to something that took years of work and your heart and soul to create. To the author, the content is often priceless. If you want to sell books, though, the retail price you set should be carefully considered and chosen with caution.

Traditional publishers will typically arrive at their price point by taking into consideration the costs associated with producing, distributing, and marketing the book. It’s tempting to take the same approach when self-publishing but self-published authors don’t normally have the same economies of scale that make this method work.

For instance, a traditional house will be looking at print costs based on a print run in the hundreds of thousands or at least in the tens of thousands, while most self-published authors are looking at much smaller initial print runs. This affects the cost per book and hence would drive your suggested list price way up and out of the market norm.

Instead of following the example of a traditional house, what method should a self-published author use in selecting a price point? Below are some factors that any author should consider when making this important decision.

  • Comparable Title Research: The first and arguably most important strategy to employ in setting your price point is comp title research. Find books that are like yours in terms of subject matter, audience, page count, and format. Make sure you have books that are recently released. You want to price your book in line with these titles that consumers will be comparing your book with when shopping.
  • Retailer Price Sensitivity: Retail buyers are pitched hundreds and hundreds of books week after week. In today’s tough economic climate, you can bet they are price sensitive! They are not willing to pay even a dollar more for your book when they can get what they think is the same thing for less from another publisher. It is not unusual for a retailer to come back to a publisher and ask for a lower price in order to buy the book. You may as well set yourself up for success from the beginning.
  • Niche Content: Do you have a book that fits a very specific need to a very targeted audience? If this is the case with your book, you may not be overly concerned with retail shelf placement and instead be focused on directly reaching your audience. There is a case to be made for a higher than typically recommend price point with books that truly match this description. But be careful! All content should be differentiated, but few books fall into this very niche category. Think “Underwater Basket Weaving for Single Dads that Live in Virginia” kind of niche.
  • Once it sells, your price is set for good: As soon as your book is selling, it’s unadvisable to attempt changing the retail price for many reasons (unless you assign a new ISBN with the new price). You’ve already sold copies into the trade at a particular price. If you change now, any returns you get will come in at the different price and if your new price is higher, you’re losing on each return. If it’s lower, get ready for a squabble with the retailer or wholesaler that is returning the books. (Don’t think you’ll see returns? Sorry, Charlie.) Secondly, with notoriously slow payment schedules on book sales, you won’t be getting paid for book sales for quite a while. Having multiple price points thrown into the mix can cause a real accounting nightmare. Finally, it is really hard to get a change like this to stick within all the systems once your book is set up for sale. You will be dealing with an ongoing maintenance issue that will show up again and again. The exception to this is the release of a new edition with a new ISBN. That new edition can have a different price without any of the messy consequences discussed above.

Taking these tips in mind will help set you up for price point selection success. It is an important decision that can have lasting impact on the performance of your book so choose carefully and set yourself up to compete successfully!