Pricing Your Book Yourself?

Book pricing is an art

In the third article of my Slider Series, Distributing Your Book, you can see how the format you choose affects the methods and costs of distributing your book. Format also determines how much control you’ll have over pricing your book. 

Know that publishers usually decide upon a price for their books. They feel they have the best idea of what the book market will pay for. Ebook distributors also may set limits on the minimum and/or maximum price you can charge for your ebook.

Do you want to offer your book through special discounts, price options, bundling multiple products, and/or joint sales with other authors? Be sure your publishing method, format, and distribution choices allow you to do this.

If you desire the ability to price your book yourself, you should consider formatting your book as (1) a self-published print book,  (2) a POD book, (3) an instant-download PDF book, and/or (4) an audiobook. You’ll find more information about format costs on this site in “Formatting Your Book” and “Book Formats – Pros and Cons“.

Below are a few additional comments about the pros and cons of digital books. The library market is opening up to all kinds of digital formats of books, but the library market is still dominated by print books. In fact, print books sales in the US still far exceed those of digital books.

POD books

POD books are said to be the most costly to produce, but they may save considerably on distribution costs. On the other hand, unless a POD book is well-written, professionally designed, and vigorously marketed, it may not sell to many individuals or to librarians.

POD companies are digital printers, not publishers. You should consider paying extra for things like editing, design advice, and for nonfiction books, a professional indexer if you aim for any library markets. See How Much Will it Cost for information about hiring helpers when doing your book.

You should also check whether or not your POD publisher has a library distributor and whether that distributor actively promotes sales of self-published books or books from new small publishers to libraries. Key to getting a POD book into the library is to provide an official library catalog record in the front of your POD book.

Another thing to keep in mind is that brick and mortar bookstores are unlikely to sell POD books unless you are a publishing company and will accept returns of books that the stores do not sell. However, this is true for most self-published print books, even ones created using a traditional printer and bookbinder.


Ebooks are assumed to be the cheapest format for books, but this isn’t always true, especially for fixed ebooks and enhanced ebooks.

In addition, ebooks use digital distributors who are new to publishing. These digital distributors do not always make their ebooks as discoverable as the more established print-book distributors, such as Ingram and Baker & Taylor. And neither group offers as much discoverability of ebooks as libraries.

Instant-Download PDF books

Instant-down load PDF books are hybrid books. They are formatted in a digital file but they look like print books, and their pages can be printed out. Like ebook locations or pages, PDF pages can contain links to web sites and other online information sources.

Instant-downoad PDF books and media-book kits (with video and/or audio parts) are less expensive to make and distribute. And they are often the highest priced books, but this only holds if the author’s expertise and reputation makes these books worth the price to readers.

As compared with ebooks, far fewer PDF books than ebooks make it into the digital book databases that larger libraries lease or purchase for loan to their patrons. As a result, the costs of marketing and promoting downloadable PDF digital books and media books directly to readers can be quite high in terms of both time and money.


Unless you are a trained actor, you will need to hire a professional reader to read your non-fiction book or novel. Audiobooks are purchased through specialized library publishers catalogs or as part of large digital databases aimed at the library market, but this is a very tiny part of their book budgets. Like PDF books, most audiobooks will be promoted directly to listeners.

Note that many libraries in the US provide access to books for the blind through a program run by the US Government. These audiobooks may need to be formatted in a different way than those intended for the general public—some blind people use special eReader devices that offer better navigation tools to blind listeners.

Steps in pricing your book

  1. Determine the Expected Number of Buyers of your book
  2. Calculate your Expected Costs & add 5-10% of costs for Expected Profit
  3. Divide  Expected Costs plus Profit by the Expected Number of Buyers
  4. That calculation will give you a Price for a single copy of your book

Numerical example

  • Number of prospective buyers is 10,000 x .02 (2%) = 200 Expected Buyers
  • $10,000 Costs + $1,000 (10%) Profit  = $11,000. Expenses = $11,000
  • $11,000 in Expenses divided by 200 Buyers = $55.
  • $55 is the Price for one copy of your book

(Assumption:all expected sales will be for one copy of your book per buyer)

NOTE: The rule of thumb I’m using for calculating the expected number of buyers for your book is to take two percent of the total number of prospective buyers.  Tips for estimating the total number of prospective buyers may be found at “Create A Budget for Your Book“.

Promoting, publishing and distributing your book is covered in my three slider pages, “Branding Your Book,” Formatting Your Book,” and Distributing your Book”. These three pages start at Authormaps Home Page under the brown, yellow, and green tabs at the top. They will help you start estimating the costs of publishing and selling your book.

Research prices for similar books

Be sure to do your research about the genre your book will fall into. You should look at the prices of books that are similar to your book to see the range of prices being charged for books in that genre and format(s). But do not feel you must do what your competitors do if you believe you have a reason to charge more or less than the typical market price.

Also. look at business books and ebooks about pricing and promotion of products. An interesting book on price I recommend is The No B.S. Price Strategy by Kennedy and Marrs (2011)  from Entrepreneur Press. Irrreverent in tone, it nevertheless covers a lot of ways to price things and shows several mistakes to avoid.

In particular, I would stress that you do not buy into the idea that the lower the price for your book, the more sales you will make.

I know this is what economists call the law of supply and demand. However, the law of supply and demand applies to the average price for all products within a similar category. It does not apply to setting a price for an individual product or service within that category.

Yes, copies of books are mass-produced products, but book titles are not all alike. By law, i.e., copyright law, every book title must be unique. This is why the book market should include a very wide range of prices for individual book titles.

Not all book titles have equal value to readers either. As for lowball prices, many readers won’t buy cheap ebooks because they fear the quality of the content of those books will also be low.

The market price of your book title will be the price that buyers of it are willing to pay for its unique contents (and in cases of collectible books, for its unique design) at any specified time.

This means market price can change as time goes by. Demand (the average amount buyers will be willing to pay) for your book can and probably will go up or down. Hence, you won’t know your book’s “real” price until after you’ve started selling copies of it. (The power to change your price is why you may wish to control the price of your book yourself.)

What you can know before you determine a initial price for your book is that factors which determine the number of buyers you’ll get for your book include: the quality of your book; how well you market that book; and whether there is an actual audience out there who will pay the price or prices you’ve set for copies of it. Book pricing is indeed an ART!

A final word on publishing your book

Will you sell enough copies of your book title to compensate for all the time it took you to write, produce, and market it? Maybe and maybe not.

But in any event, you will have the immense satisfaction of having met or at least tried your best to meet your goals for your book. You will be a published author who has impacted other people’s lives with your words and ideas. That is something that IS priceless.


Marketing Your Book to Libraries, An Insider's Guide for Authors


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