February 1


7 Things to Consider in Your Book’s Retail Price

By Boni Wagner-Stafford

February 1, 2023

#authors, #books, #indieauthors

How much should readers pay for your book? This isn’t a question you should answer at the last minute. Nor is it a question you should answer within minutes: You need to think carefully about your book’s retail price if you want it to sell. Here are seven things you must consider before determining what to charge for your book.     

1. Consider your why

Everything in the process of successfully writing and selling a book eventually comes down to one question: Why are you doing this? Knowing your “why” is the first step in setting your book’s retail price too. Is your main goal to make lots of money? Or is it to get as many people as possible to read your book, even if they don’t actually buy it? If you want to make money, your book pricing strategy will be geared towards making a profit; if you just want to reach as many readers as you can, you might set your price low enough to just cover your costs or you might even distribute the book for free.

2. Consider the competitive environment and analyze other (similar) books

When readers are looking for their next great read, they will naturally be looking at several before they make their choice. Your book’s retail price needs to consider its competitive environment — it’s not always true that more people will buy a cheaper book (see the next item on value). Readers will avoid those books that don’t fall within the general price range. So, you need to analyze the pricing on the books that your book will be competing with.

An easy way to do this is to go onto Amazon and see what else is available in the genre and category and what those books cost. For print books, this is also a great excuse to visit the brick-and-mortar bookstore and compare the physical books.     

Look specifically at the following to find books comparable to yours:

  • The year of publication
  • The page count
  • If it’s a print book, the type of cover, paper and trim size and whether it’s in full colour or black and white
  • The book’s sales ranking
  • Whether or not it’s a well-known author
  • If it’s an audiobook, whether the narrator is someone famous

3. Consider your book’s value

People will pay for a book what they think it’s worth. Obviously they won’t buy your book if they think it’s too expensive. However, they also won’t buy your book if they think it’s too cheap. The reason for this is that subliminally, readers tend to think that a cheap book indicates poor quality. For other products, quality may not always be that important but the average reader would rather read the back of a shampoo bottle than a poorly written book.

Your book’s retail price also needs to reflect the value the book might have for the reader. This is why business books or university textbooks are so much more expensive than beach reads. They bring specific long-term value in the form of information that can, for instance, help the entrepreneur build a successful business or help the student earn the degree that will land them a well-paying job.

To do a successful value analysis, you need to know your audience. Who are they and why would they want to read your book? What kinds of books do they typically buy and what do they pay for these books? And what can they pay for your book?  

4. Consider currency and exchange rates

If you’re going to sell your book in different geographic markets, like the UK, EU, United States, or Sweden, for example, the currency used in each market will affect your book price too. Here, your approach may depend on the distributor you choose.

With Amazon, you set a base price in the currency of your main market and the price of your book in other markets will depend on currency fluctuations. For example, Corrina Grace’s The Weaver’s Way: What an Ancient Art Can Teach Us About Our Approach to Shaping Change has its base price set in Australian dollar. If the Australian dollar loses value against the US dollar, the book’s US dollar price will drop accordingly, or rise when the Australian dollar regains strength against the US dollar. You may have to keep an eye on the prices in the different currencies and tweak them a bit so that you don’t have odd prices like $20.31.

With IngramSpark, you set different prices for each available geographical market — the United States, the United Kingdom, the European Union, Canada and Australia — and currency fluctuations don’t affect these prices. 

Some distributors, like the Australian online bookstore Booktopia, set their own pricing. These prices are partly based on the wholesale discounts you give them.

5. Consider your printing, packaging, shipping, and production costs

There’s no sense setting a price of $7.99 for a paperback that is going to cost $7.99 to print. Which means your book’s retail price needs to be set after you consider your page count, trim size, weight, and — because it impacts your reader’s costs — shipping. This is connected back with #2 and your competitive analysis — those other books competing with yours may be drastically different lengths (which suggest a harder look at your book’s positioning) so the price comparability might not be that relevant.

Then there are your production costs. Publishing a book costs money, no matter your chosen route to publishing. There’s the time you’ve put into writing it, which may have involved taking time off work or paying someone to take care of the kids while you were working on your book. There are the costs of paying publishing professionals like an editor, book and cover designers, illustrator, and proofreader. For an audiobook you will need recording equipment, to rent a studio, maybe a voice artist, and a sound editor.

For each format you’re planning to publish your book in, tally all the costs involved. Then work out how many books you will have to sell at different prices to recoup those costs. And now reach back to your why, because hopefully you have a deeper, more impactful reason for writing and publishing your book than simply to make money.

6. Consider wholesale and promotional discounts

Your book is competing with thousands of other titles for shelf space and for a retailer or bookstore to consider stocking your book rather than your competitor’s, they need to get something out of it. If you offer them a wholesale discount — the norm is 55 percent — and they sell the book at the regular price, they get to pocket the difference. So, stocking your book may make financial sense to them. You can also offer wholesale discounts to libraries to stock your book and have more people read it. You make take home less in the short term but the payoff may be that you move a greater volume of books in the long term.

Make sure that the retail book price you’re considering isn’t so low that it leaves you in the hole after your wholesale discount.

Promotional discounts might be worth considering, too. On the face of it, it might seem that you’d lose earnings if you sold books at discount prices. However, discount pricing can be a great way to boost sales and you will earn more overall if you sell five books at $15 each than if you sold one book for $25. The best times to offer a promotional discount is when your book is available for preorder or just after it’s been published, since more sales at this stage will help your book move up in the rankings, where more people will see it and you’ll get even more sales. You can also offer promotional discounts around specific events, for instance just before you launch a second book or when something related to the theme of your book is in the news.

7. Consider your royalties

Your royalty agreement can also be a factor when you’re working out where to set your book’s retail price. If you’re earning a high percentage of royalties, you can set your book price lower without losing out on overall income from the book. Of course, check your publishing contract to see whether you or your publisher has the responsibility of determining the retail book price.

What do you think?

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