Book pricing—the cost to publish and print your book as well as how you set a retail price—is a critical part of your self-publishing process. Understanding your book price can be complex; it factors in a lot of necessities like shipping costs and everything can vary based on your printing quality, page count, and trim sizes.
I know a lot of authors and I know one of the topics they are least interested in discussing is money. But you need to understand the cost to publish and print, as well as the price range you need to sell your book effectively. Considering costs is one of the first steps to take when planning your book. If you don’t have a realistic budget, you might find yourself struggling to publish or losing money on your book.
How Much Does It Cost To Print A Book?
Your cost will vary based on a variety of print options. Paper, binding, ink, and page count all impact your pricing. Listing out every possible variation would be impossible, but you can use Lulu’s Pricing Calculator to easily try different options for you book.
You also need to consider how much it costs to ship a book (or multiple books), which our calculator also provides estimates for. While you will sell books online on Lulu’s Bookstore and Amazon, you will also need to sell direct and in-person. That means planning for printing and shipping costs.
How Is A Book Price Determined?
The average cost of a paperback book with about 200 pages ranges from $18.99 to $9.99. It’s important to recognize that this price range includes traditionally published and self-published books and holds true for fiction and non-fiction titles.
Lulu’s paperback price is based the print cost. This is true for all of our trim sizes—there are no fees or set up costs. The retail price (also called the list price) is a composite of the print cost and the revenue amount you set. Because Lulu’s pricing structure is unique, you can actually publish with no upfront cost at all. Many print-on-demand publishers will require a set up fee or initial purchase of books. Lulu gives you the option to put all the costs on the buyer, making publishing completely free.
Printing Book Prices
The base price for your book is the cost to print. Lulu printing costs are also the amount you’ll always pay to buy your own books.
If you create a standard US Trade paperback with 200 pages, it will cost $5.54 to print. That is the base minimum price. Factors like page count and full color printing will alter the price. That’s why it’s always important to start with the pricing calculator to determine exactly how much printing your book will cost.
As you approach the publishing process you need a firm understanding of the print options you’ll select and the printing costs those options will incur. You will likely need to order some quantity of books to have on-hand, so the printing and shipping costs for your book will be vital information.
Retail Book Pricing
Once your book is published, readers will pay the retail or list price to buy the book. Under a print-on-demand model, the retail cost will include printing and revenue, so a sale will not cost you anything.
Using the example above of a US Trade book costing $5.54, let’s say you set your retail price at $11.99. The difference ($6.45) is your revenue. On the Lulu Bookstore, you’d earn 80% of that (the remaining 20% is Lulu’s share). And with Global Distribution, you would earn a smaller amount because retailers take a large cut of the profits themselves.
Finding The Right Book Price
Our model is specifically designed to make selling books on Lulu’s store the most profitable way to sell your book. We have a vested interest in your success since we only earn our commission when you make a sale. Book printing is our specialty and we focus on that to provide you the best print books on the market.
But it will be up to you to determine exactly how much your book costs for readers to purchase. I recommend starting with this pricing list from School Library Journal:
It’s slightly outdated now, but gives you a good starting place to think about the average price readers expect to pay. Take advantage of this, either by undercutting the average to drive sales or going a little higher if you’ve got dedicated readers.
With your original manuscript, you can make a wide variety of book formats. Hardcover and paperback, full color and black & white, print and digital; self-publishing means you’re in control. Diversity provides options. You should always strive to make your book available in the formats your readers want.
It’s true print books from self-published authors make up only a small portion of the market, but the margin a self-published author can make on those books is significant. Even at a conservative estimate of $1.00 revenue per book, a traditionally published author needs upwards of 10x the sales to match out the earnings a self-published author can realize.
And this doesn’t figure into the fact that a self-published author will have absolute control over their marketing planning.
Simplify the Complex
The short version is simply this: investigate and understand pricing thoroughly. It dismays me to see so much content on the web that inaccurately characterizes how pricing for print-on-demand works. Not to mention the exceedingly simplistic view that some experts offer. As if the only option for publishing were to create a single paperback book and sell it on Amazon.
Do what’s best for you, your book, and your author brand. But above all, educate yourself to the options you have available. That includes a thorough understanding of how book pricing is determined and how your author revenue factors into the pricing structure.
Paul is the Senior Copywriter at Lulu, writing weekly blog posts and helping guide content for the company’s marketing. When he’s not deeply entrenched in the publishing and print-on-demand world, he likes to hike the scenic North Carolina landscape, read, sample the fanciest micro-brewed beer, and collect fountain pens. Paul is a dog person, but considers himself cat tolerant.