How I set the price of my book
How I set the price of my book was dependent on several factors, including 1) Average Price 2) Market Price, 3) Niche Price, and 4) Costs of Production, and I will explore each of these in turn and trust that it may be useful to inform my readers and authors and self-publishers setting their own book price. I will also share at the end what I make for each book sold.
1) What is the average price for a paperback book?
If we start with the average list price, based on figures supplied by Follett and Baker & Taylor, for an adult non-fiction paperback in 2022, it was $21.55, and for a fiction paperback $17.65, as you can see in the chart below:
So why did I set my semi-autobiographical paperback novel, “The Knock: A True Story of an Innocent Man, a Twisted Accusation and the Fight for Truth,” to a book price of $29.99 in 2023, which is closer to the hardcover price for adult non-fiction of $29.59 in 2022?
2) Market Price
The Market Price in a perfectly competitive free market is set by the demand and supply of books, but this assumes that all books are created equal , but, in fact, some may be more equal than others! (To borrow from George Orwell). A book is not a block of cheese, or a generic item, and therefore to follow the market price, or average price, as we looked at above, is a bit like following sheep. Although, it is true that nearly all mass market paperback publishers do this, literally treat their book as almost an identical mass market product, perfectly equal to any other, much like a block of cheese, to be sold literally opposite the block of cheese in supermarkets!
However, there is an alternative to blindly following the market price. If your book sits in a particular niche, or offers something special or distinct to a specific group, rather than the generic mass market paperback for everyone, it may be more appropriate for you to set a Niche price, like I did for mine.
3) Niche Price
The Britannica Dictionary defines a Niche as:
“the situation in which a business’s products or services can succeed by being sold to a particular kind or group of people”
A Lamborgini is a Niche product, and highly priced because it is targeted at a very specific niche market of exceptionally high net worth individuals. In other words, it doesn’t follow the market price of the average new car.
I would not be so bold as to call my book a Lamborgini, but writing a novel about downloading indecent images is definitely a niche market.
4) Costs of Production
The costs of production in making a Lamborghini are higher than your average car because every one is hand made, rather than rolled out on an automated production line like your average car.
The costs of production of my new novel were higher for me, too. I spent a year full-time researching and writing my book so that it was legally accurate and compelling with a detailed timeline. This may not be necessary in every genre, for example, horror, Stephen King seems able to turn out many books in a short amount of time, but in a semi-autobiographical true crime psychological novel this level of detail is expected by the target audience, used to reading well-researched books by investigative reporters.
By the way, I am not making a value judgment on Stephen King’s work, which I am a great fan of, but I would argue his books are less research-based than most true-crime novels. I also know that fantasy writers will argue that their world-building from scratch is also time-consuming. If your readers consider that world-building as value-added then you should also be able to charge a higher price. I think non-fiction is generally priced higher because it requires more research, and readers expect to pay more for that.
However, aside from the writing, the printing costs themselves are a significant factor in determining the price of the book. If you are targeting a niche market, you will not benefit from the economies of scale a general fiction mass market paperback will have. The higher the number of units produced, the lower the average cost of production. I use printing-on-demand, which means that the book is only printed when it is paid for, but this is the most expensive way of printing a book. It reduces the risk because there is no money tied up in books that might not sell, but squeezes the profit-margin. Generally, if you buy a printed book in physical book store, the store will take 40% and the publisher 60% and the author gets paid from the publisher 10-12%.
I used Draft2Digital which states, “The short answer is that our fee is approximately 10% of the price you set for your book (list price). That means most of our stores take about 30%, Draft2Digital takes about 10%, and you keep about 60% of the list price of your ebook.
“For print books, you will make about 45% of the list price of your print book, minus the base printing cost.”
This means it is more profitable for ebooks, but although the print royalty fee looks impressive, too, it is less the printing cost of the book, which is high. For example, the print price of ‘The Knock: A True Story of an Innocent Man, a Twisted Accusation and the Fight for Truth‘, like we said earlier, is $29.99, but I only make $4.75 GROSS on each copy.
My goal was to make at least $5 per book, because it took me a year to research and write and I didn’t expect to sell millions of copies. This book is highly specialized, and there is no other fiction book on downloading indecent images in this semi-autobiographical ‘true crime’ genre. If you are also targeting a niche market with your book, I think the consumer will be willing to pay more. If your book was the only book about hunting pigeons with a spear, and you wanted to know everything about it, you could probably do the same!
However, remember that that $5 is still NOT net profit, because I am self-publishing, so it needs to cover my advertising and marketing costs which are paid per click, not per purchase. So I easily ended up spending more than I earnt because people would click on the ad, go to the page, read about it, and decide it wasn’t really for them. The only way of covering this was to raise the price of the ebook to match the print price.
The ebook format sells for the same price, and this is where I make three times the print royalty to try to cover advertising. However, this is a very high price for an ebook, and may reduce Sales (see Demand and Supply above!), So why did I still do it?
In short, because I value my content. For me, as an author, it makes no difference whether you’re reading my work on an e-reader or print book. I think my content is worth a premium price. Since I self-publish through Seedwood Publishing, I can set the pricing however I want. If my goal was to maximize revenue then this pricing model may not be the best, but, this isn’t just about the bottom line. It is about what I consider fair as an author to read my work. I think I add enough value in the book (566 pages – almost two books’ worth in one book!) to ask this.
On a personal level, there is a part of me that doesn’t really want to share this story with the whole world either, because it is so personal, shocking and painful. How many men accused of downloading indecent images of children want to share it with the world? None. If you search amazon for ‘downloading indecent images’ you will only find one: mine. There is a book called, “The Law That Granddad Broke: Married to an Internet Sex Offender” about a wife’s experience of her husband being found guilty of downloading indecent images of children which I bought because it was the only thing out there, even though it was very short (45 pages, more like a novella!) and cost £2.99 for an ebook and £6 for a print book, which price per page is twice the price of mine (the equivalent of £75,.46 for the print, and £37.60 for the ebook!) I don’t begrudge her the revenue at all because there is a dearth of books on this topic and what she said was true, however brief. I suspect she’s not alone, as many consider it a crime worse than murder, at least that’s how it felt to me.
I’d frankly rather sell a few to my target audience, who I am sure it will help, than hundreds who don’t really care about it and are just reading for the vicarious thrill.
Be clear about your marketing objective when setting the Price of your book. Is it high volume/low price, or high price/ low volume (like mine), both ways can still ADD VALUE, which is what your target audience is paying for. Know your target audience. Consider the market you are targeting, is it a mass market, or a niche market (like mine). Once you have answered these, all your marketing activities, eg. Packaging, Promotion and Place, should reflect them and convey this to your target audience, hopefully, like this blog! 🙂
For more information on this topic read ‘How to get the best price for your book.‘
You can learn more about the reasoning and research behind ‘The Knock: A True Story of an Innocent Man, a Twisted Accusation and the Fight for Truth’ here.
Or, to order your copy from your favourite retailer, click below:
N.B. I shouldn’t tell you this (!) because my royalty will be less but if you select ‘BAM’ as your chosen retailer they may offer you a 10% – 15% discount!!!