There are two main things you must consider regarding how to price a paperback book: who is printing the book; who is buying the book. These are your hard costs.
Who is Printing Your Paperback Book?
Any books that are printed using print-on-demand (POD) technology will cost more per unit than books that are printed in large quantities on traditional offset presses. As a result, you’ll have a smaller profit margin on POD books.
Still, it’s important to take advantage of POD in this day and age. It allows your customers to buy your books one at a time on ecommerce sites like Amazon. It also allows independent authors to print small quantities of your books at reasonable prices, as selling opportunities arise. For example, one paperback book may cost around $6 per unit to print on demand digitally.
Traditional offset presses are designed to print larger quantities of books at a lower cost per unit. In fact, they can’t print small quantities economically. It may only cost around $2 per unit to produce 1,000 copies of that same book on an offset press. The downside to printing this many copies is that it requires a large upfront investment. You will also have the added cost/hassle of warehousing all your books.
How to Price a Paperback Book: Printing Options
There’s a time and a place to use each type of printer, which is why PPG returns all working files and finished files to our authors. This allows you to choose if/where you’re going to print your book based on who you’re selling it to:
- Traditional offset printing: best price for 1000+ copies
- Standard digital printing: best price for 100 to 999 copies
- Print-on-demand (POD) digital printing: best price for one to 99 copies
It’s always wise to contact a few printers to obtain quotes for 50, 250, 500, and 1000 books. Make your decision from there.
Who is Buying Your Paperback Book?
On that note, authors who wish to sell copies of your books through local retailers, such as book stores, will also have to factor each retailer’s profit share into your final retail price. Retailers/wholesalers buy publishers’ books at steep discounts in order to turn their own profits. They also expect your title to be marked as “returnable” (for a full refund) in case it doesn’t sell. Here are the industry standards for such discounts:
- Book Wholesalers (i.e. Ingram, Baker & Taylor, libraries): 50-55% discount
- Book Retailers (i.e. Chapters, McNally Robinson): 40-45% discount
Once your book has been designed and the final trim size, page count, picture count, and interior (black and white/colour) has been determined, a printer will be able to provide you with the cost per unit to print your book. It is best to factor in the highest possible printing cost (POD) along with the highest possible discount (wholesaler) when determining your book’s retail price. For example, if your POD cost per copy is $4.50, then your retail price should be set at $11.99 minimum as shown here:
Examine Your Audience
Again, these costs are only a small part of the equation when determining the price of a paperback book and should only be used to calculate the lowest possible retail price. You should also do a thorough examination of your audience and what they value most.
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