Thoughts on Publishing – YA Paperback Prices

In my last post, I discussed my thoughts on pricing an indie card game. That got me thinking back to pricing paperback books. I’ve already determined that I’ll probably sell the paperback edition of Magic’s Stealing for $7.99. It’s an odd price, but a compromise since there weren’t a whole lot of YA novellas in paperback that I could find to reference, and the ones I did find were by well-known authors, and therefore priced higher.

Since there’s a slight possibility that Magic’s Stealing may appeal to the upper range of the middle grade audience, I referenced the $7.99 price point of similar-sized books. Here, AR quizzes can be of use determining word count.

However, I’ve now been thinking about Distant Horizon (a 97,500 Ya/NA science fiction novel), and wondering how I want to format the print edition. Granted, it still needs to be proofread, and Isaac and I are quite a ways from releasing it, but I like figuring out these things.

The print format that I used for Magic’s Stealing won’t work… we would end up with a huge page count, which means that the production costs would be too high to bring the book into local stores.

Createspace gives us the option to compare basic book costs, shipping, and royalties. With a quick check of the Distant Horizon file in the same format as Magic’s Stealing, I found that the initial page count was 450. That’s not including getting the chapter spacing formatted to look nice.

But let’s plug that into the calculator and get some numbers.

For a single copy of a 5.25 x 8 book, black and white pages with bleed, we’re looking at $6.25 for the book and $3.59 for standard shipping. $9.84 per book.

Let’s take a look at volume discounting for a moment, since that’s what makes it possible to get these books into stores.

If we buy 25 copies of the book, we pay $156.25 plus $15.50 for shipping, for a total of $171.75, or $6.87 per book. Notice how much the cost per book went down? If we buy 50 copies of the book, we pay $312.50 plus $23.00 shipping (be sure to adjust your quantity value in both calculators). That’s $335.50 total, or $6.71 per book. A slight difference from 25, but not so different that we couldn’t purchase the smaller quantity of books if funds are tight.

For royalties on Amazon (not looking at any expanded distribution options), we start making a profit at $10.99 (34 cents), $11.99 (94 cents), $12.99 ($1.54), $13.99 ($2.14), and $14.99 (2.74). Books printed in Great Britain need to be priced higher than the converted $12.99, or they lose money, while books printed in Europe need to be priced higher than the converted $10.99 or they lose money.

Keeping in mind that we can adjust those prices separately, I’m not worrying about non-US prices right at the moment.

However, without knowing how to format the book, it’s hard to say what the right price point is.

So I decided to run over to Hastings and take a look at their YA section. Figured I’d take twenty minutes to do some quick research.

One hour later…


Anyway, I came up with a list of various young adult books across different genres. I noted their title, my best guess at their genre (I referenced Goodreads for a few of them), their page count (by last page of the story, not including front and back matter), line count per page (unfortunately I didn’t think to count the average words per line), price (there may be some variation here due to price stickers covering the price listed on the book), and book size.

I found that, overwhelmingly, the young adult paperbacks were 5.25 by 8 inches, or very close to that size (some variations from printer to printer should be expected). In general, if they came from a traditional publisher, they were 5.25 x 8. Keep that in mind if you’re self-publishing, and you want your book to “look” professional. On the other hand, I briefly skimmed the adult section with the 6×9 book, and there were several more instances of the 6×9 trade paperbacks available. At some point I would like to go back and check the adult book price points and line counts and such, since I think my previous research has suggested that the average adult trade paperback would sell for roughly $14.99.

Keep your target audience in mind, and research similar books to get a feel for how to format and price your own book.

This is the list of YA books I compiled at Hastings.

Michael Vey: Rise of Elgen (Science Fiction) – 6 x 9 – 335 pgs – 35 lines per page – $10.99

Hush, Hush (Paranormal Romance) – 5.25 x 8 –  391 pgs – 25 lines per page – $11.99

Perfect Chemistry (Contemporary Romance) – 5.25 x 8 – 359  pgs – 29 lines per page – $9.99

Barely Breathing (Romantic Thriller) – 5.25 x 8 –  502 pgs – 32 lines per page – $9.99

Perfect Ruin (Dystopian) – 5.25 x 8 – 356 pgs – 29 lines per page – $9.99

The Jewel (Dystopian Romance)- 5.25 x 8 – 359 pgs – 30 lines per page – $9.99

Beautiful Creatures (Paranormal Romance) – 5.25 x 8 – 563 pgs – 30 lines per page – $9.99

Eye of Minds (Science Fiction) – 5.25 x 8 – 310 pgs – 30 lines per page – $9.99

The Dark Is Rising (Complete Sequence, Fantasy) – 6 x 9 – 1082 pgs – 30 lines per page – $16.99 (The Amazon edition is different than the edition I found)

The Hunger Games (Dystopian – Original Edition) – 5.25 x 8 – 374 pgs – 29 lines per page – $8.99 originally. Now has sticker that says $10.99

The Hunger Games (Dystopian – Movie Edition) – 5.25 x 8 – 374 pgs – 29 lines per page – $12.99

The Hunger Games (Dystopian – Shiny Gold Edition) – 5.25 x 8 – 436 pgs – 27 lines per page – $12.99

City of Bones (Urban Fantasy – New Cover) – 5.25 x 8 – 485 pgs – 30 lines per page – $13.99

The Sight (Fantasy) – 5.25 x 8 – 464 pgs – 33 lines per page – $8.99

Graceling (Fantasy) – 5.25 x 8 – 471 pgs – 28 lines per page – $8.99

The Demon King (Fantasy) – 5.25 x 8 – 506 pgs – 29 lines per page – $9.99

The Testing (Science Fiction Dystopian) – 5.25 x 8 – 325 pgs – 29 lines per page – $9.99

The Darkest Minds (Dystopian) – 5.25 x 8 – 488 pgs – 30 lines per page – $9.99

(About here I discovered that Dreamland is out. *Squee!* I’ve been wanting to read that since I read the first few chapters… *Ahem.* Back to cataloging…)

Mortal Gods (Mythology Fantasy) – 5.25 x 8 – 366 pages – 33 lines per page – $10.99

Never Fade (Dystopian) – 5.25 x 8 – 507 pages – 30 lines per page – $10.99

Fourth Comings (Contemporary Romance… looks New Adult) – 6 x 9 – 310 pages – 31 lines per page – $13.99 (Amazon has the list price at $15.00, so I think this may technically be categorized as an adult romance, though it was in the young adult section)

IMPORTANT: Some of these numbers may be incorrect due to my notes having tiny handwriting. I’ve linked to the books in the Amazon store where available, and those may have product details for the print editions that include the front and back matter. As another note, you could probably do a lot of this same research on Amazon by checking the scratched-out list price when you have the paperback edition selected.

I also found that hardback books tend to lean toward the 6 x 9 mark, but they completely vary as to the exact size, and some are considerably smaller. Also, font size and line spacing varied from book-to-book, so when formatting your own book, be sure to take that into account, and study your favorite books in the genre of the book you are formatting.

Now, let’s do the same categorizing for Magic’s Stealing that I did for the above books.

Magic’s Stealing (Fantasy) – 5.25 x 8 – 158 pages – 28 lines per page – $7.99 (once the print edition is available)

Based on the above list, most of the YA books are sized 5.25 x 8 inches, typically range around $9.99 to $10.99, higher if they’re a well known book. Based on this sampling, there aren’t as many at $11.99 as I originally thought, though more research may be needed regarding specific genres. The biggest benefit to this list that I see for Distant Horizon is that a large number of those books allow for 30 lines per page, which can significantly decrease page count. Additionally, something I didn’t check for at the time is the average word count per line, which would give a rough font size estimate.

Let’s go back to our Distant Horizon book and see what happens. I lowered the font size (which isn’t the end-all answer, but this is a rough estimate), which brought the line count to 31 lines per page (a little high, but still acceptable), and now only have 370 pages. Let’s round this to 400 pages, since formatting changes could increase the count.

With those variables, a single book is $5.65 plus $3.59 shipping, or $9.24 per book. A volume purchase of 25 books would be $141.25 plus $15.50, for a total of $156.75, or $6.27 per book. 50 copies would be $282.50 plus $23.00, for a total of $305.50 or $6.11 per book.

At the common price points, a 5.25 x 8, 400 page book would profit on US Amazon at 34 cents ($9.99), 94 cents ($10.99), and at the uncommon prices $1.54 ($11.99), and $2.14 ($12.99)

Let’s say that we want to take this into local bookstores. We choose to pick up 50 books to start with, so each book costs us $6.11. At the high end, a store asks for a 40% discount, which doesn’t work at all for the $9.99 book, but yields about 50 cents for the $10.99 book, or $1.09 for a $11.99 book.

So… it is possible to sell the book to stores at a 40% discount, though the profit wouldn’t be high. The profits would increase as the store’s requested discount decreases.

Alternatively, we could hand-sell the book at conventions, keeping all profits for ourselves (minus sales tax… and the cost of a booth), earning $3.88 per $9.99 book. Potentially, we could list it as $11.99, and still have room to discount it at conventions. However, it’s still not the best price point available, and I’d need to play with formatting to get the lowest number of pages possible, while still keeping the book as readable as possible.

Remember, poor formatting can drive a reader away from a book without them ever knowing why, while good formatting can help them ease into the reading experience, so make sure your book is readable to your target audience.

I hope you enjoyed this post, and these are just a few things to consider when you’re preparing to format your book. Good luck. 🙂



Filed under Business Ventures, Writing

2 responses to “Thoughts on Publishing – YA Paperback Prices

  1. Wow – now that’s thorough research. Thanks for the info.

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