Thursday, July 25, 2013

Paperback Pricing

Back when I used to read torrid romances on the beach, I could pick up a mass market paperback for around $2.99. Harlequin romances were .99 cents at the supermarket, and the church thrift story usually had some hanging around for .25 cents. Needless to say, I was always reading. (Check those prices and you'll see how old I am. lol)

Two years ago when I was going on vacation I decided to pick up a couple of books to read. Imagine my astonishment when the price tags were $7.99 and $9.99. For a mass market paperback! Ouch.

Back in the day, the New York publishers would print up a run of 20,000 books at a time (or so, depending on who the author was and if they thought the book would be a best-seller). If they didn't sell, they would get returned to the publisher and pulped. Or they would rip the covers off and sell them to an outlet store for pennies on the dollar. Now, I'm finding more and more stores (Cheap John's or Building 19, The Dollar Tree) are selling them at 95% off.  Hardcover, and/or paperback for so cheap, sometimes I think it's easier to wait a couple of years for a best-seller. And those authors never receive a dime from those sales.

It broke my heart to see a friend of mine's book at the Dollar Tree, in hardcover no less, for a buck. It was an international best-seller, and she's become quite famous in literary circles. Yes, she made money from the sales of her book, but I know her royalty statements do not have any money from the outlet sales. And that is a shame.

When I decided to publish my own paperback books I went with Create Space, a pay-on-demand publisher. Of all the p.o.d companies, they seemed the easiest for me to work with. They also have a tool to show you how much it cost to produce a book, how much you'll make for profit, and how much each distributor will make. (Because everyone takes a piece of the pie.)

You need to input such things as how many pages there are in the book (including front and back matter, and also extra blank pages), what the size of the book is (mass market paperback, trade paperback, etc), and what the color of the paper is (yes, really. Cream paper is thicker than white and creates a different spine width for the book). Yes, indeed, there is much more to know about how to "create" a book, than I ever imagined.

When I published my first Regency paperback, I sold two copies. And I know who bought them because they told me. Other friends said they were too expensive. They were priced at $14.99. (Okay, ouch. I get it now) But I had to take into consideration how much money I would be making on each book sold. I needed to make a profit somewhere. I didn't want a mass market paperback size, I wanted my books to be different, ergo, cream paper, 6x9, and Times New Roman font pt. 12 -- easy on the eyes.

But now, I'd like to publish REMEMBERING YOU in paperback and I'm having fits trying to decide which size, what color paper, and which font size to use. Fit's I tell you. I also have 3 different covers and trying to decide which one to use is also giving me a headache. (But more on this at a later date)

Depending on where you buy a book from, an author website or Amazon, (And I'm strictly speaking self-published authors here) there's a lot of difference in profit margin. Because I used Create Space to publish, they give you your own link, which then you create your own "store" as it were. You order directly from them so  there is no middle man. It's just you and Create Space and I make more money.

If you order from Amazon, the book gets made at Create Space, then ships to Amazon, then ships to you. Amazon takes a cut off my price tag, so my profit decreases. (Technically, I'm not sure if this is true because Amazon owns Create Space, so there might not be any shipping involved other than to the customer, but Amazon gets a piece of the profit sharing pie.)

Having only published my Regencies in paperback, I'll be discussing these for my numbers.

No matter which book of mine you buy, it cost me almost $5.00 (average) to produce. That's how much Create Space charges me to "make" one book. Even if I order 100 copies, that price doesn't change. (The only thing that changes is the shipping price. If I order one book, it cost $3.95 to ship to me, if I order 100, the shipping price is .80 cents per book.) And the shipping price is not built into the average above, so we're looking at around $5.50 to "make" a book. (and that's if I want to hand-sell at events and such.)

So for some real numbers --

On average, if I sell my book for $14.99, I make about an $8.00 profit if you buy my books from my website at the Create Space "store" I set up. (Yes, I know the math is wrong from above, but I've never been good at math. I'm missing the actual page count numbers -- Create Space charges a finite amount for pages, so, the more pages a book has, the more they charge to make it.)

At $12.99, the profit decreases by $2.00, naturally. And so on and so forth.
However, if you buy the book from Amazon, my profit decreases by another $3.00. So on a book priced at $14.99, I'm only making $5.00. At $12.99, around $3.00. Not nearly the 70% profit margin I make in e-versions. (But that's another blog post.)

And to get down to the real nitty gritty -- if you should buy my book from a bookseller, say Ralph's Bookstore in Seattle, (who in this scenario would be a third party dealer -- known in the industry as an extended distributor ) I make only $1.50. That's a big drop from nearly $8.00 if you buy direct from me on my website. I have no idea what the percentage is for this. Like I said I can't do math, but it's pretty big. More than 50% I know.

In the publishing industry, everyone makes money. Well, I guess in every industry, right? Everyone needs a cut.

Now, I've read some blog posts that say putting a Create Space link on your website to sell your books is kind of a sleazy thing to do. It makes you look like you're money hungry. Like you're trying to get the most out of your book and duping the customers who buy it.


Duping them into what? It's the same book if they buy it from me or Amazon or Ralph in Seattle. The only difference is, I'm making more money. And shouldn't I benefit from that? I mean, I was the one who wrote the book in the first place. I slaved through how many revisions, rewrites, formats, cover designs, and then the final push of marketing and promotion. Why shouldn't I get the most out of my book as I can? If I'm doing all the work, shouldn't I get more pieces of the pie?

Author, proofreader, copywriter, book designer, formatter, marketing manager, publicist. That's a lot of hats for a self-published author, and if I paid everyone of those people (as the publisher) they'd make about $1.15 each.

If I wanted to buy blueberries, would I go to a supermarket and put money in their pocket, or would I go directly to the farmer and put money in his? I'd rather put money into the farmers pocket directly. He's the one who kept the crows from eating them, watered them during the drought, and picked them by hand to ensure their quality.

My advice to you, if you do decide to buy a paperback book, not just from me, but from anyone, especially if they're self-published -- buy it from their website, (or blog if that is their website -- like mine are). The author will make more money than if you buy it from Amazon, Barnes and Noble or from any other bookstore. And don't you want the author to make more money? Isn't that what book buying is all about?

They create a product you want and like. Don't you want to support them directly? And why would you want to support Amazon? (If that's where you buy your books from -- they're taking money out of the author's pocket.) And I didn't tell you that so you would buy one of my books, I told you that to help you think about HOW you buy books and from where. I always want the creator of a piece of work to get the best part of the deal, don't you. I mean, it all goes back to blueberries, doesn't it? Just cut out the middleman.

And yes, I know that Amazon offers deals on shipping and percentages off on books with their Prime Membership and all that. But are you really saving all that much money? Would you rather support Amazon and their global industry or would rather support the local economy and give a well-deserved hard working author a chance to support themselves?

Think about that -- that's all I'm saying.

Robynne Rand (c) 2013

And just so you know, I dropped all the prices on my Regeny romances to $12.99, with the exception of THE LADY'S MASQUERADE which is now $10.99. You can find them all at my Anne Gallagher blog.

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