Monday, October 21, 2013

A Self Publishing Journey: Setting the Price

I hadn't done a self-pub post in a while, and since right now I'm deep in the details of setting up book format files and all the nitty-gritty that goes along with that, I thought I'd shed some light on the part of the process which scared me the most: setting the price.

To be honest, I thought this would be the easiest part. As a reader who's also got a background in branding and so forth, I'm hyper-aware of buying behavior. I'm always observing myself making choices, and comparing that with how I hear my friends going through the same decisions.

For that reason, I thought walking into this that I knew where I wanted to set my price, and that would be that.


Okay, so the digital side of things started pretty straight forward. In order to pin my price at what I believe to be the best cross-section of credibility, risk-aversion, and profitability, I went with my gut on a kindle price of $2.99. No sweat.

Then I discovered that Barnes and Noble's Nook was going to take an extra 25% (retail! So that's 33% net) of my profit margin, and I wasn't allowed to set the price differently than it was available in e-book anywhere else.

After a lot of grumbling, vacillating, and general cursing, I decided to just take it on the nose - and ask everyone to buy the kindle version if they could.

Then I started on the paperback. *Straps in*

First I discovered that my original price-preference ($8.99) would leave me paying people to buy my book. (Cue gnashing of teeth).

Then I found out that even though there was a lot more time and expense involved in setting up the paperback, even if I went to the outer-limits of what I felt I could justifiably charge, I was going to earn less off every paperback than I did off each e-book. (Insert howls of frustration).

Then I learned that I couldn't even trial-and-error it. Because I wanted to work with my own ISBN numbers and set my book up as close to the manner in which a traditional publisher would as I could. So I had to choose (and nail down!) my price on my paperback before I'd sold a single copy. Why?

Because if I want my paperback to have any chance of ever being picked up by a store, it has to have a barcode. And a barcode has to have the pricing already programmed in.

This meant, (cue further wailing) if I ever want to change the price of my paperback, I have to pay $25 for another barcode, re-assign it to the ISBN, and have my cover designer create a new image OF THE ENTIRE FRONT-BACK-AND-SIDEWAYS COVER for me to insert into the formatting file. Which means that I then have to go through the proofing process again to make sure the printing process hasn't suddenly stopped working the same way, and so on and so forth.

Cue a great deal of wailing and big-girl panty twisting.

The end result? Cross my fingers and pray.

My paperback will be selling for $10.99. I will make less money from every paperback sold but this is made up for in part by gaining more personal satisfaction from each sale (I'm not sure why, but I do feel that way). The digital books will all sell at $2.99.

The gates will open soon and then we'll find out if I made the right decisions...

Your Turn: Do you buy e-books or paperback? Do you have "budgets" for each kind of book - and are your budgets different for self-published books than for traditionally published? Share your buying behavior with me!



  1. Save time, money, blood, sweat and tears. Concentrate on online booksellers, not bricks-and mortar sellers who demand huge discounts and can destroy you with returns of unsaleable, damaged books.

    For online selling of pbooks there is no need to print a price on the back cover or imbed it in the bar cods. You can change prices whenever you want.

    Michael N. Marcus

    New: 1001 Powerful Pieces of Author Advice,

    Fun: Stories I'd Tell My Children (but maybe not until they're adults)

    1. There's no doubt you're right, Michael. I definitely won't be focusing any marketing efforts on the distribution channels. I do want the book to be available that way though. Then if someone walks into a book store and asks for it, the bookstore can order it in for them. Some people still prefer to shop that way.

      Thanks for stopping by!

    2. When my publisher quit (and Yay!) I became Indie--I knew I was not going to do a print version of my books. I knew about the expense, frustrations, etc., so I'm only doing the ebooks. If things get better down the road, I might consider it. But, nah. I've so far made more in a month's time on my ebooks than I had with said publisher who did both ebooks and paperbacks. (of course he took lion's share--but not any more). But this is up to you, however you do it. Good luck, Aimee!

  2. Well that's interesting. No wonder paper-based books are suffering so. If it's even better for the author to have readers buy the less expensive e-format! Thanks for the post!

    1. LOL. I'm not sure I can encourage buyers to purchase e-books over paperback, ha! I think a lot of readers are finding (like me) that fiction is cheaper, easier to read, and more convenient via e-book. There's no doubt in my mind that Amazon would rather see me selling digital than paperback. I'm equally sure they're making a lot more money off any paperback sales I have than I am... Grrr...

    2. Hi Aimee, It is hard, isn't it? I'm in the process right now... Before I signed with my publisher, I ran the economics of my upcoming book through Createspace as a self-pubbed book first. I don't think people realize just how much they take. Since my book is *clears throat* generously-sized, with extended distribution I would only make $0.43 per book on a cover price of ~$16 after all their crazy per page charges. Since I plan to do book sales and events, paperbacks are necessary... I feel your angst! LG

  3. Yep, I totally feel you. Paperback is very difficult to price.

    To answer your question, I read both paperback & e-book but only because people buy me paperbacks as presents. If I buy them myself, I almost always buy e-book. I expect e-books to be cheaper than paper, and I expect SP to be cheaper than TP. I will pay up to $10 for an e-book (either TP or SP) by an author whose work I know I like but would probably only stretch to $4.99 for a new SP author unless the blurb sounded absolutely amazing.

    1. Thanks, Cally! I buy in much the same way (and with similar expectations).

  4. For an Indie/self published author to have a paperback, it's like a gift for readers, the icing on the cake. Very few will every make it into bookstores or libraries. But, just a thought, if you assign your own purchased ISBN to your book on CS, then you can't choose extended distribution - and that's where your book will show up on BN online...

    Unless a big part of your efforts will be traveling and signings, most of your profit will be from ebooks as it is for most indies.

    Congrats though on the upcoming release!

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Laura!

      Having my own ISBN doesn't stop me from using the extended distribution - but it does stop libraries and academic institutions from being able to access it directly. Which is a pain. But not really a market I expect to excel in, ha!

      I'm fully prepared for most of my sales to be digital, but there are many people I know who'd like to own the paperback, and I'm also aware that my primary audience is teen. Many teens don't have access to an ereader yet, so I want to make sure if they want it, they can get it!

      *Tries to think of everything* *Fails*