Price points, trim sizes and papers, oh my…

One of the tricky things when it comes to self-publishing a book can be choosing both a price point and a trim size… well, at least the trim size. In most instances the price point can be reduced to a nice little chart based on a couple of solid facts. Having said that I will try to explain what’s my philosophy when it comes to both of these issues.

The first thing you have to take into account is the nature of the book itself. Here I am going to be assuming that we are dealing with a literary endeavor (be it fiction or non-fiction) rather than with a more specialized book. In this regard you have some constraints based on the prices of most books in the market. Of course, specialized books can command a higher price, but I assume that if you know enough about a given subject to write a book about it, you are also familiar enough with that particular market to know what the prices are. Anyway, to begin with I try to follow a basic rule as a starting point, namely that I try to keep my printing costs under 30% of retail price. When it comes to POD that seems to be pretty much the standard. That makes it relatively easy, and using CreateSpace as a reference it also means that you get at least 70% off on copies you purchase, 50% royalties on sales through your CreateSpace page, 30% on sales via amazon, and if you have the expanded distribution option selected, 10% on external sales. That is pretty straight forward.

As I said it is when we come to the trim size issue that things get complicated. Most people tend to go with the most common trim sizes, namely 5.25×8 in or 5.5×8.5 in. Personally I try to avoid these trim sizes and go with a 6×9 in format except when it comes to very short books. My reasoning here is simple enough: POD published books tend to be on the expensive end of the spectrum, and those smaller formats are associated with books we just can’t compete against in that regard. The larger format, which does not really have an impact on your printing costs, is pretty much the standard for a hardcover book. It also enables you to keep down the page count and to charge a little more per page. In the end I tend to prefer a 5.25×8 in format and a retail price of $9.95 for books that are less than 150 pages in that trim size (that means up to something like 40,000 words), and then I start counting from $10.95 for the books with a larger format according to the following table:

120-150 pages    $10.95
151-200 pages    $11.95
200-250 pages    $12.95
250-275 pages    $13.95
275-300 pages    $14.95
300-325 pages    $15.95
325-350 pages    $16.95
350-375 pages    $17.95
375-400 pages    $18.95

This unfortunately means that it is all but impossible to price books that are more than 300 pages long competitively, though I do realize that at times books do exceed that limit (those 300 pages should give you a little more than 100,000 words to play with though). And if you are wondering why the chart switches from price hikes every fifty pages to price hikes every twenty-five, the answer has to do with the fact that the first price on the list should probably be $9.95 (in fact you could theoretically take that one as low as $8.95) but seeing how I have effectively reserved that lower price point for books that have a smaller trim size, this frees a couple of rungs in the ladder, and that in turn is reflected in the pricing of those books that are less than 200 pages.

And finally a word on paper color: if you are dealing with fiction, cream color is the norm, so this is pretty much a non-issue, however if you are dealing with a technical or a how-to book things get a little more complicated. The reason is simple: for technical and how-to books the industry standard is white paper rather than cream, but while CreateSpace does allow you to choose either of these options, by choosing to go with a white paper you are effectively closing the door on the expanded distribution option, so your choices here are either to sacrifice that chunk of the market or to go with the less professional look. That decision is up to you (well, the good news is that at least it is your choice).

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