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What No One Tells You About How to Price Your Book

POSTED BY doug ON August 4, 2015

What no one tells you about how to price your book by brian jud @bookmarketing

Pricing your book properly may be the most important marketing decision you will make as a self-publisher.

The price you choose will determine your sales, revenue, profits and opportunities for long-term growth. However, there is a big difference between pricing for sales through retail stores (including bookstores) and to non-retail buyers. You can improve your business significantly if you learn how to price your book correctly for retail or business-to-business (B2B) sales.

Most publishers price their books for sale through retail stores, particularly bookstores (brick and clicks). They consider their costs (production, distribution, shipping, operations) and the desired profit, then set the price.

Placed on the rear cover and included in all metadata, the price tells consumers how much the publisher values the content, and it sets the point from which distribution discounts are calculated.

The second consideration is the price at which it is sold to buyers in the non-retail, business-to-business (B2B) segment. This includes buyers in corporations, schools, government agencies, and associations. These people are less concerned with the list price than they are about the unit price they will pay for a large, non-returnable purchase.

Retail pricing

Bookstores and other retailers sell products off the shelf (or computer) to people browsing the available selection for the one that best meets their needs and budget.

The challenge with retail pricing is that the price of your book is readily compared to competitive titles nearby on the shelves (or on the computer screen).  If your price is too low, people may perceive your book as not capable of providing the value they need. If it is too high it may be perceived as not worth the money you are asking for it, especially if there are similar competitive books from which to choose.

Given these circumstances, many publishers price their book the same as competitors. This is dangerous since competitors may be printing their books in large quantities, yielding a lower cost.

If you print fewer books with a higher cost and sell them at the same price, your profit could be reduced or eliminated. This strategy does not differentiate your book or give adequate value to your content, meaning your book becomes a commodity product.

If your objective is to maximize profits, then another factor enters the equation: the possibility of selling more books decreases as the price increases, given a competitive marketplace. The solution is to assign a probability factor – the likelihood of making the sale at any given price.

Pricing for non-retail sales

Not all book sales are made through retail stores.

In fact, there is an enormous opportunity for selling your books to B2B buyers. They purchase products (including books) to use as promotional items (such as a premium or gift with purchase). You are not only competing against other books but against other products being considered for the same use. These products could be a thermos, a quality pen, or a coffee mug. Your pricing is evaluated as it compares to these other products. 

There are important differences when pricing your book for B2B sales.

Since most publishers are familiar with retail pricing, they apply the retail, “top-down” pricing strategy when selling to B2B buyers. In non-retail sales, the price at which you sell your book may or may not have anything to do with the price printed on your book.

This does not mean that the price is irrelevant—it simply has a different function. If you price it properly, the B2B segment can be a profitable source of large quantity, non-returnable sales. 

Pricing from the buyer’s perspective

B2B pricing strategy starts at a different place than in retail strategy. The price of your book is not compared to other books but to other promotional items. Instead of pricing a potential order from the top down (discounting off the retail price), start with the unit cost to customize and print your book in various quantities, then go up.

The amount you add to your cost is negotiated separately with every buyer and for each potential order.

An important factor is that B2B buyers do not purchase books through a distribution channel but directly from the publisher. Without the distribution fees, you can negotiate a lower selling price significantly without sacrificing profits.

How would this apply in a sales situation?

Let’s say your prospects want to stimulate booth traffic at trade shows by giving away an item to people walking past their exhibit. The two products under consideration are your book and imprinted coffee mugs. They expect to purchase 5,000 of the selected item. The cost of coffee mugs ranges from $2.50 to $3.00. Your B2B pricing strategy makes you competitive with the coffee mugs. You now have a good chance of selling 5,000 books.

In comparison, if you applied retail pricing strategy and discounted your $14.95 book by 60%, your selling price would be $5.98 and you would have no chance for the order.

These alternatives demonstrate that how to price your book is more complex than simply mimicking your competition.

The answer to your pricing dilemma lies in your ability and willingness to apply strategic thinking to achieve your marketing objectives. It is not an either/or decision.

Simply choose the option that best suits your strategy when marketing your book through retail stores or to business-to-business buyers.


Brian Jud is a book-marketing consultant. He is the author of How to Make Real Money Selling Books and the Executive Director of the Association of Publishers for Special Sales (APSS –– formerly SPAN). Contact Brian at or and follow him on Twitter @bookmarketing


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