Personal editing. Professional results.

Let's talk about your book's pricing

September 26, 2022
Posted by:
Ron Seybold

It's time to have a genteel discussion about pricing, especially as established by small presses. Too few of them seem to recognize that buying a book is a price-sensitive transaction. I would not want to be the author trying to sell my book on my limited platform for 30 percent more than a bestseller's novel.

When Anthony Marra's 412-page historical novel Mercury Pictures Presents can be had at $13.99, I think it's a red flag for another publisher to price a paperback of the same size for $4 more. Marra is the NY Times bestseller with a blurb from Ann Patchett. He rides on his reputation.

Yes, production costs are way up and books haven't really increased in price for the last 30 years or so. Profits are shrinking. What means do you employ to win those $15.99 paperback sales for authors with an audience still being built or discovered? Success stories shared here make us all stronger.

I always admire any book that's finished and published and is selling. When you write a 412-page book and need to sell it for 30 percent above bestseller prices, just to recover the extra production expense, you had another option: edit the book into the more-profitable 90,000-word size.

(I'm not all in theory on this topic. I have a historical novel I'm working to drive down from 117,000 words to under 100,000. An agent suggested that this new author's book ought to be shorter. You should see that agent's deals before saying, "yeah but that agent's not up to date.")

Regardless of pricing, lots of novels are still doing the good work of building a readership for authors getting started (first couple of books). The profit in publishing those books may be less in the sales price and more in attracting a readership. Do you publish books for authors who do not arrive with a genre-caliber output practice - so their earlier books can't sell for less? Some presses believe in this approach of many books, smaller entry gateways. Lots of self-published authors with good work habits use the practice.

Your friends and allies will pay a higher price. Proving yourself to the rest of the world is easier with a lower-priced entry point.

Pricing is such an art. The price of the art shouldn't define the worth of the creation, though.

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