One of the most recurring questions among the requests that arrive daily in our editorial office concerns a specific publication phase: choosing the cover price of a book. Whether you are a publisher or an indie author, assessing the value of editorial work can be complicated. This carries the risk of not considering all the relevant factors when choosing one of the most important metadata of the publication - what is the book we are preparing to publish worth to others? A book that greatly exceeds the average price could alienate readers who are not always willing to spend more than they usually do. At the same time, a price that is too low could devalue the title from the start or preclude the possibility to launch promotional activities.

Let's look at the subject with this assumption in mind: the price of any product requires various levels of evaluation in multiple areas such as marketing, psychology, and accounting. The price choice for books is no exception. So what are the key factors to take into account for a correct evaluation of the cover price?

Reference market and genre

To make a correct assessment, we must first know and understand the logic behind the current book market considering the book's genre. Different genres have different prices. For example, fiction generally costs less than non-fiction. It is therefore important to consider the value of the book in relation to similar publications, not only by genre but also by the popularity of the author. The perception of the value of an emerging writer's work is usually lower than the title of a well-known author with an established position in the reference market.

Production and distribution costs

As for genres, different formats also have different prices: digital or paper, the print run count, or if it is print-on-demand. Each format has specific costs dictated by the production and distribution model that necessarily affect the final price.

Let's put digital formats aside for a moment and take, for example, the paper format. Currently, those who want to publish a paper book have only two possibilities: the edition printing run, or print-on-demand.

Print on Demand does not involve upfront printing costs, but the printing and shipping costs of each individual copy will likely be greater than those incurred for a print run. The latter, however, requires an initial investment (usually substantial) and can add up to other expenses that are normally not necessary in print on demand, such as higher distribution costs and management of stocks and returns. All these aspects, together with the specific printing features based on the target audience (size, number of pages, type of paper or print type, color or B/W), have an impact on the production and distribution costs and consequently on the cover price.

Profit margins

If the goal of the publication is to generate sales profit, the possible profit margins will have to be considered when choosing the cover price. The main form of income that can be generated from the distribution and sale of a book are copyrights or royalties, which would coincide with the portion of the price reserved for the author.

Royalties are normally calculated by deducting all costs and taxes from the price. For example, using our platform for the distribution of books in Print on Demand, the profit for each copy sold is calculated by deducting sales commission of the distribution channel from the cover price (which ranges from 30% to 55%), then our commission (which is 10%), and the printing costs that can vary depending on the characteristics of the book - size, number of pages, type of paper used and so on.

Promotional activities

The cover price should also be considered as a powerful marketing tool. Once established, the price of a book rarely remains unchanged over time. The publishing market has its own seasonality - think about Christmas, and each title has its own life cycle; during the launch phase, for example, many authors present their book at a slightly lower price than established to facilitate its inclusion in the market. When defining the final price, it is therefore important to take into account the possibility to give discounts and promotions without loss risks.

Readers expect to enter the bookstore and find promotional sales: this is because it is now customary to periodically give discounts based on seasonality or on specific initiatives taken by authors or publishing houses. A price change can become a powerful, psychological tool, a strong motivational lever that pushes the customer to buy, even in the publishing field.

Have you tried our new calculator?

How to use the print & royalties StreetLib Calculator

A few weeks ago, we launched our new calculator, a free online tool that calculates the printing costs of a single copy of your book and tells you the amount of royalties that you can earn.

It is really simple to use: you can choose from default options among the most common print formats, or you can indicate your reference format and the characteristics of your work. Once you have chosen the type and color of paper, the finish of the cover, the format, the number of pages, and the printing color, you just need to enter the cover price and click on Calculate costs. In seconds, you will have a detailed cost and revenue statement for each store integrated with our rich distribution network.