How much for the print book?

How much should you charge for your print book?

The answer is: it depends. First, are you planning on getting wide sales of your print book, or is it just there to make your ebook page look more professional, and more of a bargain?

This is a serious question: indie pub is still small press pub (just one-author houses), and can get into libraries and brick and mortar shops. It just takes more work, and usually more lead time between finishing the books and publishing them. In some genres, especially nonfiction segments where a large portion of the revenue is from talks and print books sold at same, the print version is more important than the ebook price.

Even in science fiction & fantasy, if you’re selling your book at cons, at the author tables or signings, you need to hit the price point that people are willing to pay out of pocket. (At cons, never go slightly above $20. The common ATM-issued currency is the top of your potential impulse purchase point, so either go big or keep it under $20. Last cons I checked, $10-$15 was the best price for easy change and moving units, but do your own research.)

If you’re going with wide distribution (available for libraries & bookstores to order), then you need to make sure you have enough profit margin built in that you don’t take a loss on returned books.

So, how about some hard data?

Author Earnings had a very useful slide in their DBW presentation – online print sales by consumer price points:

For the entire market:

For trade paperback, where most of us POD:

And for hardcover, to complete the set:

Yep, that’s what price points for print are actually moving in the market – and who’s pricing there.

Author’s note: I’ve scheduled this post ahead of time because I’m currently flying a pre-WWII airplane from Tennessee to Texas. Chances are high that when y’all are reading this, that I’ll be either in the air, or stuck in a small airport (pray God not a wheat field) waiting out bad weather. So if your comments get eaten by WordPress, they may take a while to show.


    1. I suspect it may be a Taylorcraft (Piper Cub-type plane for those younger than a certain vintage). Apparently the Sooooper Secret Author Village-Writing Lair-Compound-Redoubt-BBQ Palace* is going to have its own air force.

      *Not to be confused with Sara (TBBESP [TM])’s secret mountain lair.

  1. When pricing and setting the official print price (or as I call it, the MSRB) – consider the print cost of a single copy. I deal with LSI for my print books, so the print costs are rock-bottom. Then — if you want to have your books available through a distributor, which would put them in brick and mortar stores, Ingram wants a 55% discount over the MSRB so that they can offer a 40% discount to the retailer. So, factor in a couple of dollars profit for yourself, added to the print costs, and consider what the 55% would be.

    Say, it costs $3 to print your book, and you want to make 1-2$ in profit from those sales. Set the MSRB at 11-12$, which will allow the 55% distributor discount, cover your print costs and give you a sliver of profit.

    Of course, Amazon will discount a couple of bucks off the 11-12$ MSRB, and you don’t want to undersell Amazon when you do direct sales at events – but direct sales will net you $8-9 per copy;

  2. If you are getting print copies as a secondary to your e-book sales, think about where you’ll be selling them. If you are at something like a Con or perhaps a historical artifacts and collectables show (If you write western-themed books, for example, or Victoriana), you are also competing with stuff and with art, as well as with someone who feels that they can’t sell their book for less than $28.38 (including tax)*.

    *Number pulled out of thin air, based on $25 print book. And tax is a whole ‘nother critter.

  3. As I’ve said elsewhere, I consider print books to be more of a promotional tool than a profit center. I print through Create Space, and I set the retail price at their suggestion. For my books (6×8, 200-250 pages, no interior illustrations) this is about 10$ each. ($9.99 to $11.99 each). If people buy print copies through Amazon I make a little less than a dollar each.

    Create space allows me to buy books at cost + shipping. I usually get 20-40 at a time, and this works out to about 6-7$ per book. For local stores I sell them to the store at $7 each and let the store set their own price. For local stores that also sell on-line I offer to come down to the store and sign copies personally for shipment to on-line customers.

    At the cons I have attended, I have priced my books at a flat $10 and paid the local sales tax out of that. I haven’t done enough con sales to personally say anything about it. (I couldn’t sell ice water in Hell, myself.) But I have it on good authority that a flat dollar amount is easier for the customers and yields more impulse sales.

    I would estimate that I have given away at least twice as many print books as I have sold. I gave copies to the university library where I work, which got me free Library of Congress numbers (I have no idea how one goes about getting listed in the Library of Congress otherwise.) I’ve given copies to my children to give to their friends, and to random people that I meet. For example, a server at a resteraunt once commented on my “Ghostfacers” T-shirt (from the TV series Supernatural) and I gave her a copy of my first book that I happened to have in my trunk.

    And, yes, I also tipped her in money.

    1. Absent a trade publisher, yes, a university library is about the only way to get a Library of Congress Catalog Number assigned. As a courtesy, offer to pay for their shipping – the catalog number assignment is free, but the Library requires one physical copy for their collection. (Which means give them at least two or three copies, since they’ll ship one out.)

      Otherwise, you supposedly can just send them a copy yourself – but it is subject to “review” for inclusion in the collection. No inclusion, no catalog number. (No returns, either, though…)

      1. That reminds me of my childhood. I’d read about the ‘collection with one of every copyrighted book’, and wanted to go there, read, and catch up on all The Littles books I hadn’t found locally.

        Now, a lot of what I want to read is Indy, or in a foreign language.

      2. I wonder if the rules have changed. I gave the library only one copy and they sent them out to be board bound, but the copies on the shelf are the same ones I gave them.

        1. No, I had just checked yesterday, as I thought you were saying they had started to charge. But – come to think of it, maintaining the catalog numbering system is a service to libraries. So the rules could be very different if the library requests it, as opposed to the publisher.

          (Now, there might be some private individual out there who organizes their shelves by Library of Congress Number. Tain’t me…)

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