Jan 10

Pricing a book that is printed digitally, whether print-on-demand, or short run, can be challenging unless you understand how sales channels work.

In traditional publishing, a book might be printed for a dollar or two (using long run offset), and because of the high overhead (buildings, staff, marketing and sales budgets, etc), the retail prices might be five, seven, or even ten times the print ‘cost’ of the book. So a $2.00 print cost* on a book might land the book at $12.99 to $16.99. (*Print costs always need to be fully burdened with make-ready fees attached.)

It is important for publishers is to make sure they are weighing all of their ‘costs’ when they look at this formula. A publisher can’t just look at the printing cost alone. The financing, shipping, warehousing, damage, obsolescence and remaindering costs also need to be factored into the equation.

Digital printing prices might look higher, but generally they are a lot closer than people might think, when all of the costs mentioned in the previous paragraph are factored in. Digital printing can allow publishers to have ‘virtual warehouses’ and drop shipping off press which can eliminate physical inventory sitting on shelves and the pick/pack expense. Digital printing-on-demand (POD) or micro inventory can reduce carrying costs and increase cash flow, which is an important factor for any business.

I read a recent article in which the author shared the following. “… if I went ahead and had the thing printed up directly through an off-set printer–and ordered a few thousand of them–I could probably cut the cost of the book in half, and maybe even a little more. But I’d have to pay the upfront fee to buy the books and then I’d have to figure out a way to sell them.” This can put a lot of pressure on a new or small publisher…one which has sunk many a publisher.

If you are interested in working in the retail channel, you have to remember that the retailer (and distributor if you are using one…and most retailers will require one) is going to need a margin to live on. If you don’t factor a margin for them into your pricing, they will either not buy the book, or you will lose money on every transaction.

At Snowfall Press, a 200 page book costs $3.25 to print in our POD or print-to-order model. A book this size will generally sell for $14.99 or less in the general market. Retailers generally need 40-50% of this retail in order to sell your book. This means that off the top, you need to plan on grossing only $7.50 on this book – if you are selling directly to the retailer. If you have a distributor in the middle, you might have additional costs (their margin) to also factor in.

In my experience, POD books need to be priced four or five times the print cost, in order to carry the retail margins for your partners, and still be competitive in the market.

A final item to consider: all POD printers are not created equal. It can be confusing in this world of catch-all phrases like POD (print-on-demand). Here are a few questions to ask your printer.

  1. What are your upfront costs? Do you charge for opening an account? For loading files? For changes made to files? At Snowfall Press, the answer is $0.
  2. What is your minimum order quantity? At Snowfall, the answer is only one book.
  3. Do I have to sign any publishing or printing agreements? At Snowfall, we do not require either. You want to maintain total control of your project, and have the ability to move it to any other printer at any time.

What rules do you follow when you price a book?

2 Responses to “How do I price a POD book?”

  1. John Hilbert says:

    Does your pricing include a perfect bound cover printed in full color?

  2. Dave Sheets says:

    Hi John, yes, our pricing is with one color interior (black) and a 4/c cover with gloss laminate. Thanks for asking!

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