Tag Archives: pricing

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…

*Ahem.*

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. 🙂

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Thoughts on Publishing – Pricing the Novella

Today, let’s talk business: What are you willing to pay for a novella?

When I went to ConQuest, I knew full well that I planned to fork over twenty bucks for a hardback copy of a book that contained two of Brandon Sanderson’s novellas. Sure, they’re available for purchase in ebook format for considerably cheaper, but having the hardback is nice, and I’m a fan of his work. (A note here: I’m the kind of person who likes having a hard copy, be it paperback or hardback. I’ll happily read non-fiction pertaining to publishing on my Kindle, but I have a difficult time reading fiction.) Anyway, I got the book signed at the convention, and I’ve read one of the stories (Perfect State) thus far. Even though I haven’t read the second one yet, spending that twenty dollars was worth every penny.

But not everyone is going to feel that way, and not for every book.

From the business perspective, I’ve got to figure out what readers are willing to pay for each book. Do I want to come up with a single, standard price range, or price them individually, according to length, genre, and various other factors? I don’t have the advantage of hiring a super-awesome illustrator for the cover art, or a top-of-the-line editor to make sure there aren’t typos. Not to start with, anyway (though I’ll sure do my best to find as many typos and errors as I can before I hit ‘publish’). Can I  make sure that the stories are the best they can be? Can I make sure that they are worth a reader’s hard-earned money?

I’ve determined that The Wishing Blade will be a series of (probably three) novellas. I’ve got the first one written, and it’s going through the process of being beta-read. Now the question I’m pondering is this: What should I price this novella, once I’ve completed edits and created the cover art?

On one hand, it’s a novella, so it’s not as long as a novel. I’m not sure how much money readers will be willing to spend, especially for an unknown author. While I do have several free pieces of flash fiction available on Smashwords, the style of writing varies, so it is unclear how many readers who download the freebies will be interested in the paid stories. I can’t price the stories as high as someone who already has a fan base. On the other hand, I’m trying to start a business. Which means that I actually need to be making money. The joy of self-publishing is that I get to wear two hats. I’m the creator, the author, and I’m also the business woman. So… provided that the stories are of a decent quality: engaging, not many typos, decent formatting, and good cover art, what should a novella be priced at?

I’m mostly going to look at Kindle’s (non-Select) pricing strategy, but I intend to sell on Smashwords as well:

99 cents: Not necessarily a bad spot for a short story, and many authors offer their novels at 99 cents as a way to promote their other works. However, the 99 cent price range only offers 35% royalties (I think it’s closer to 50-60% royalties on Smashwords, given that my “Ashes” short story, priced 99 cents, earned 56 cents after a Smashwords 10 cent cut and 33 cents transaction fee). The downside of this range is that people may pick up a 99 cent book on a whim, then forget about it because of the “it’s only a dollar” mentality.

$1.99: Long considered “the dead zone” in ebook pricing. I read a Smashwords report showing a trend of $2.99 vastly outperforming $1.99, and 99 cents doing just a bit better than the $1.99 range. Also keep in mind that Kindle only offers 35% royalties here. Not a lot of incentive to try this range, though I’ve seen trade publishers discount higher priced books to $1.99 on Book Bub. However, without actually testing this price range, it’s hard to say how well it performs for a specific story.

$2.99: Seems a bit high for a novella, with so many novels selling for $2.99, but is it? (See below list of example novella prices). At 2.99, Kindle authors get 70% royalties.  That’s around $2.00, versus 70 cents from pricing at $1.99, or 35 cents from pricing at 99 cents. And technically, if you hope to sell your novel at $4.99 or $6.99, that’s not too bad.

Now, one catch here is that I’m currently looking at the US dollar pricing. I haven’t even started to look at the UK or other territories. I’ll have to decide whether to try the retailer’s automatic price comparisons, or take a look at what’s selling in those stores and price it directly. This could be a bit difficult, though, given that the Amazon sites for other territories doesn’t show much what price they’re selling at. (Feel free to chime in with your thoughts on pricing, regardless of what currency you buy books with).

Here’s a few examples of novella length ebook prices in USD, from both independent and trade published authors (Note: I haven’t read all of these, I just did some research):

  • Perfect State by Brandon Sanderson sells for $2.99. I think it classifies as a novella. “Mitosis,” a short story from his Reckoners series, sells for $1.99.
  • Fairest by Marissa Meyer sells for $9.99 (46,600 words per Renaissance Learning)
  • The Invasion (an Animorphs book) by K.A. Applegate  sells for $5.99  (33,000 words per Renaissance Learning). Novella length, though meant for a younger audience.
  • Out of the Storm by Jody Hedlung is offered for free on Amazon. (The description suggests this is an introduction to her Beacons of Hope series).
  • Icefall by David Wood sells for $2.99 (approximately 30,000 words per article about the novella, and per Smashwords).
  • Elixer by Jennifer L. Armentrout sells for 99 cents (part of The Covenant Series).
  • Peacemaker by Lindsay Buroker sells for $2.99 (40,000 words, per her blog post).
  • Better World by Autumn Kalquist sells for $2.99. (A prequel novella to a novel series).

By the way, Renaissance Learning is great for finding the word count of books, especially middle grade and young adult. http://www.arbookfind.com/default.aspx

One of the textbooks I was reading recently, which focused on small business management (never mind that it’s from the earlier 90s), talked about the perception of value when marketing a product. There were two factors considered: quality and price.

A note on the chart below: an unknown indie author does not mean low quality, simply untested. Unfortunately, many people still perceive self-published books to be of low quality, whether they are or not.

High quality and high price: Serves clientele with expensive tastes. (Think of a Big 5 publisher selling an ebook for 13.99 from a big-name author).

Low quality and high price: No one buys the product, because the perception of value around it is muddled. (Think of an unknown author selling their ebook at $13.99).

Low quality and low price: “Cheap.” Not highly valued, but considered a decent price. (Think of how 99 cent indie novels are often perceived).

High quality and low price: “A good deal.” (Think of a Big 5 publisher running a $1.99 ad in Book Bub for a regularly $9.99 ebook).

So, at this point, I’m thinking of making Magic’s Stealing available for $2.99. It’s currently sitting at 30,000 words.

I hope you enjoyed this post. 🙂 What are your thoughts and experiences in the matter?

If you’re interested in further reading on the subject, these are a few of the articles I read while doing my research:

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Updated Website and “1000 Words” Paperback Edition

Last night I uploaded the updated version of my website, http://www.sbibbphoto.com . Now it is split into two sections, Portrait and Event Photography, for the more traditional side of things, and Photographic Illustration and Book Cover Design for my illustrative work. Luckily it only took a couple days to really tweak and update it, but as I’m looking at it, I wonder if my blog and DeviantArt account may be better suited to showing off my work. They’re both easy to update, and you can see the pictures at a much larger size.

Which brings up the question, how large of a size do potential clients want to see images? I already know that I need to update the background for the portrait section of the website, (and tweak the splash page), but I wonder if it might be better to redo the style entirely. My fiance brought up a good point; it’d be a good idea to show both my stronger traditional portraits, as well as my illustrative ones. I know it’s going to take a while to get my book cover design business going. So even though my professors generally say, “Show what you want to sell,” perhaps it’d be a good idea to show both for the time being.

At least until the book cover design business takes off.

And if nothing else, the website works as a good hub for connecting all the different sites I frequent together.

Meanwhile, on the topic of “1000 Words,” I’ve gone into Createspace to set up pricing, and came in for a bit of a sticker shock. Keep in mind, I can order these books for myself for about $6.00. I planned on adding a couple dollars for personal royalties, thus putting it around $8.00. Still kind of pricy, but not necessarilly horrible for a full color book. But with the way the royalties are set up, the minimum I can sell it for is $9.80-something, and that’s not counting royalties on Amazon. My only guess is that it might be for shipping? If I want to make $2.00 off each book on Amazon, I’d be selling it for near $12.00.

Personally, if I was considering buying a paperback for myself, I’m not sure that’d be worth it, for any book that size.

So now I’m trying to decide if I should actually try selling it in paperback version. I suspect that once shipping costs are added in, I wouldn’t do much better trying to sell it myself (unless I was selling it by hand). I probably will upload a paperback version, so it’s there, but I’ll definitly recommend going for the ebook version, if all you want is the stories. (Now if you want your own, personal, handheld copy with all its cool formatting, by all means, go for the paperback version).

But it looks like I won’t be able to sell the paperbacks for under $10.00, like I’d originally planned. Either way, I plan to release it this Friday.

It does bring up one problem that self-publishers have trying to sell thier books, though. Being price-competitive has its complications.

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