Marchbooks' Blog

November 30, 2009

Putting A Price On Your Masterpiece

Filed under: On Writing and Publishing — marchbooks @ 5:19 pm
Tags: , ,

I have participated in many discussions about how to set pricing for your book. There is much talk about ‘crunching the numbers’. Certainly that is an important part of setting a price for a new title. Any publisher (unless they are publishing out of purely philanthropic motives) must look at the cost of the book, discounts being offered and expenditures to date, to know what they should charge for their book. At the end of the day, the numbers must work so that there is adequate compensation for your efforts. If not, you have basically embarked on a fool’s errand. I don’t know of many people who can afford to be upside down on their figures, to the point where they are losing money on each sale. However, if you don’t look at the numbers, that is exactly what might happen.

If that were the only factor, pricing calculations would be easy enough. Unfortunately, that is only part of the equation. Once we have an idea what we WANT to get for our book, we need to look at what the market will bear. This is not an easy task. With prices running the gamut from Wal-Mart discounts to small indie stores that can only survive by charging full retail, it is not always easy to get a grip on the quickly changing market.

But, that isn’t even the end of it. Add the unpredictable nature of discounting (will Amazon discount my book or not?), a buyer’s perceived value of what you are offering and economic fluctuations, you have got yourself a herculean task. After all, short of a crystal ball, some of these variables are beyond our grasp. For instance, is the current economic situation helping or hurting the book trade? Will a person think twice, or more, before laying down a twenty dollar bill for a book or will they consider it a sound alternative to a much pricier video game or iPod? How much of a price incentive does a publisher have to offer to get a consumer to take a chance on an unknown author? Not to mention the obvious difficulty a small publisher will encounter while promoting a new author. It is not easy to be price competitive with big names which warrant huge print runs by large publishing houses.

Discounts pose another inscrutable mystery. With similar discounts, we see these differences in pricing between Amazon and Barnes and Noble on our first two titles; The Little Insanity – B & N  —  The Little Insanity – Amazon  and Nightsweats in Bigelow Hollow – B & N  —  Nightsweats in Bigelow Hollow – Amazon  Go figure. As you can see, Barnes and Noble offered significant discounts where Amazon offers none. There is no way of predicting how a vendor will, or if they will apply discounts to your title.

Is it an impossible task? Difficult, but not impossible. As with most things, you have to do your homework. Crunch your numbers, check your competition and get as much feedback as you can from your intended readership. If you can overcome a reader’s reluctance to open their wallet for a new author, I personally do not believe that a dollar or two difference will make or break the deal.

www.marchbooks.com

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