Sunday, May 01, 2011

Make Sure the Price Is Right.

Most authors guess too low: This scenario is all too common. I have a fair amount of success getting authors to hit what I call the optimum book size, at least when I meet with them early in the process. As I said in an earlier post, one template is the 160-page small format book. Not only is it a Goldilocks size for most readers ("not too big, not too small ... just right"), the numbers work. You can set a retail price at $20.00 and make money, even if you do a little discounting.

But now the trouble comes. As we near publication, my author goes into Barnes and Noble, sees the same size book selling for much less, and announces "I've decided to set my retail price at $12.95."

Sigh. So I go through the drill.

You are not competing with bookstore books: The books in those stores are printed in mass quantities, thousands at a time. Your book is printed maybe 25 copies at a time. You cannot compete with them on price. If you listened to what I told you, you are not in Barnes and Noble. You know it is dangerous. You know it is unlikely you will sell any books there--and if you do, you will lose money.

You do not price books by weight: I know your book looks like it is less valuable than that 600-page tome you saw selling on the Barnes and Noble remainder table for $5.95. That book is on the remainder table because nobody wanted to read it, never mind that Random House published it. You do not price books by weight. If Intel priced computer chips by weight, they would sell a million of them for the price of a bag of sugar.

You price books based on what you can do for your reader. Sure, there will be price resistance at some level for you book, but yours will save your readers thousands when they buy a used car. Are you telling me it is not worth $20.00?

Your retail price reveals what you think your book is worth: If you set your retail price at $13.95, your buyers will think they got a $13.95 value. If you set your retail price at $20.00, your buyers will think they got a $20.00 value.

You discount from your retail price, but set your retail price at the right value: Your retail price allows you to give wholesale discounts that work financially. (If you set your retail price too low, you might well lose money selling to booksellers.) Your retail price also allows you to set retail discounts that work psychologically. Consider: If you set your retail price so low that you cannot discount it anymore and your customer buys the book for $13.95, she will think she got a $13.95 value. If you set your retail price at a comfortable $20.00 and the customer buys the book at a discounted $13.95, she will think she bought a $20.00 book and saved $6.05. 

The mathematics are obvious. The psychology of authoring is a harder nut to crack. The Publishing Pro. 


Plan for the Right Trim Size and Book Length.

Size Matters: I like to meet with (potential) customers before they sit down to write. When I don't, they often show up with a manuscript that is the wrong size. Yes, there is a wrong size. While it is true that sometimes a book needs to be as long as it needs to be, as some might say, more often authors deliver the wrong size manuscript because they failed to plan.

What is the wrong size? It's a size that is not right for your readers, your purpose, or your budget. (For simplicity sake, I'm your project does not involve a color interior. That's an added complication.)

Your readers: There is an optimum size for your readers, whether they are children, teens, or adults. If there are too many words, they might not pick up your book at all. If they do, they might not finish it. If there are not enough words, your readers might not take your work seriously.

Your purpose:  Here's where trim size gets important. If your book consists entirely of words, you can plan for a smaller trim size than you would want if your work was heavily dependent upon images.

Your budget: I put this third, but it's essential for everyone who is not independently wealthy.The optimum size is the one that enables you to make money on every sale. Your unit printing cost, which in the print-on-demand world is determined by trim size and number of pages, must be such that you can comfortably set your retail price at five times your unit printing cost. If your book is too long, your unit printing cost will be too high and you won't be able to set a high enough retail price to do business.

For a ballpark idea of what I'm talking about, let's say you are planning a non-fiction words-only book for adults. Therefore, all things being equal, I would advise you to produce a manuscript of approximately 50,000 words, which will fit into a 160-page book in a small format (5.5"x8.5", typically). This book will cost you less than $4.00, including shipping at CreateSpace, a unit cost that will enable you to set a retail price of $20.00.

As I said, this is ballpark. The small format 160-page model is not right for every book, but the principle is. There is an optimum size for your book. With a little planning, you can come in right on the money. The Publishing Pro.