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Your Book Price For Print And Retail

Book pricing is a critical part of your self-publishing process. Understanding your book price can be complex; there’s a print price, a wholesale price, and a retail price! Factors like shipping costs, printing quality, page count, trim sizes, and retail channels can all impact how to price your book. 

I know a lot of authors and I know the topic they are least interested in discussing is money. But you need to understand the cost to publish and print, as well as the optimal price point to sell your book at. Considering costs is one of the first steps when looking for the right book price. If you don’t have a realistic budget, you might struggle to publish profitably. 

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 pricing. Listing out every ‌variation would be impractical, but you can use Lulu’s book pricing calculator to try different options for your book.

Pricing Calculator

Check pricing, format variations,
retail pricing, and shipping

You 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. That means planning for printing and shipping costs.

How Is A Book Price Determined?

The average retail cost of a paperback book with about 200 pages ranges from $9.99 to $18.99. 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 on 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, shipping, and the revenue amount you set. 

Print Book Pricing Formula

The print cost for your book is the cost to print. Lulu printing costs (plus shipping) 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. 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.

You need a firm understanding of the print options you’ll select and the printing costs those options will incur in order to determine the print cost and develop your retail pricing strategy.

Retail Book Pricing Formula

If you’re a new or aspiring author, you’ve almost certainly wondered, how much do authors make when they sell their book? Book sales are always important, but since most of us won’t be hitting John Grisham’s levels of sales, the retail price we charge will be very important.

Using the example above of a US Trade book costing $5.54, you could 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). 

Retail channels (like Amazon or Barnes & Noble) are wholesale businesses and will charge a flat amount on top of your retail price. Be sure to pay careful attention to different pricing structures to ensure you earn royalties you deserve for each book sale.

How Much Should My Book Cost?

Good news, there are several strategies to determine your book’s price. If you’re aiming to maximize sales, you’d want to price it as low as you can to entice readers with a good price. If you are selling to a niche audience, you would likely price it higher to maximize earnings on a smaller number of sales.

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 the School Library Journal:

School Library Journal 2016 and 2017 pricing comparison

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. 

How Much Do Authors Make Per Book?

For most self-publishing platforms, you’ll earn 50-80% of the revenue (with the rest going to the publishing platform). For example, if you publish a book with Lulu and sell it on our Bookstore, you’ll keep 80% of the revenue from each sale. That leads to another question: how do I know how much to sell my book for? 

Luckily, you can work back from the print cost alone to determine your price and understand your revenue. Since self-publishing doesn’t have any overhead costs, you’ll just need to consider the print cost. If your book costs $5 to print and you charge $10 to buy it, you’ll make $4 for each sale (using the Lulu Bookstore revenue model).

The basic formula is this:

Print Cost + (Revenue – Retail Cut) = Net Revenue

It’s important to note other factors that can impact your earnings too. For example, if you use Global Distribution to make your book available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble, you’ll have to use their wholesale pricing strategy, which includes an additional markup. And if you sell directly through your own website using Lulu Direct, you’ll avoid any retailer cut and keep 100% of the revenue. 

Sell Your Book, Your Way

Sell books on your own website with Lulu Direct.

Sell Your Book,
Your Way

Sell books on your own
website with Lulu Direct.

Finally, you should know standard shipping costs. While that cost is on top of the retail price and doesn’t directly affect your revenue, it is an additional cost to the reader. So be conscious of the true purchase price of your books (retail cost + shipping) when pricing your book.

Maximum formats

Most books will launch with three formats: Paperback, Hardcover, and Ebook. Diversity creates options. To maximize books sold, you should always publish your book in the formats your readers want.

There’s no supply chain or publishing industry gatekeeper to inhibit your author earning potential. While a traditionally published author is at the mercy of their publisher, you can set your price to match your needs. And there’s nothing stopping you from adjusting that retail price to bolster your author income!

Simplify the Complex

The short version is simply this: investigate and understand pricing thoroughly. Don’t make the mistake of writing a book and publishing a single paperback book to sell on Amazon.

Do what’s best for you, your book, and your author brand. But above all, educate yourself about 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 Content Marketing Manager at Lulu. When he's not 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.

20 thoughts on “Your Book Price For Print And Retail”

  1. Paul, I have been please over the years with Lulu. And I am now considering making a new book available as an eBook. If I charge $3 for the book, how much will I actually receive from Lulu for each book sold?

  2. Hello there. I’m Claudia and I have a paper book published at lulu.
    I want to change the price of my book but now with the new update of lulu, I cannot find where to change it .
    Anyone knows how to do it?
    Thank you 🙏🤗

    1. Hi Claudia,

      Once you’re logged in and find the book on My Projects, click the title. From there, you’ll be in the book editor. Click ‘Pricing & Payees’ from the navigation and update your price. The new price will save automatically. I suggest clicking the ‘Review’ step to verify the price update.

  3. Gretchen Georgeanna

    Will you automatically make my book available on your website or is this something i need to negotiate?
    Also, how do I get my book available on Amazon?

  4. Hi John,
    Unfortunately, our contest is limited to US residents only. Hopefully, in the future, we’ll be able to open it up to more countries.
    You can absolutely sell on Lulu from anywhere in the world!

  5. I am from India and am wondering if i could sell my ebooks in the website. Also, is the short story contest only for people in the USA?

  6. Paul – Re your earlier reply. Thank you – perfect solution – I shall now create the two versions which will allow me to maximise my margin with direct control and bulk order for personal distribution and direct sales via my web site, whilst still allowing the majority world-wide (particularly in the US) to do the usual thing and look for it on Amazon etc. (I have my own registered series of ISBNs).
    One further question – can the non-ISBN version be available on the LULU store or has it to be confined to direct link from my website via link to the project on the LULU site?

  7. I am the author. When I have previously bought copies of my book the price has been around $5-6. This year it is $9.99. I do not know why, and I cannot find out.

  8. @Jane if you are the consumer buying the book it cannot be sold at the same price it cost to make. That would be like selling a pair of Jordan sneakers for $16 (what is cost to make a pair), and then the company/creator would not make any money from their product. In this case if an author set their selling price as the same price it cost them to print the book they would not make a dime on the sale.

  9. Hi Jane,
    Prices for retail sales are set by the author. So if you’re buying a book on the Shop you’ll pay the price they set.
    Printing costs for your own book are displayed based on the binding, paper type, color, and page count. The example I used was just one of many combinations possible. The exact specifications you choose will impact the base price.
    Remember too that applying an ISBN triggers the wholesale base price model.

  10. Hi Trevor,
    You would have two books – each with the same content. Essentially two editions of the book. A distributed edition and a non-distributed edition. If you’re concerned about having duplicate books, you might add a notice on the copyright page, but otherwise, it’s fine to have multiple editions of the same book.

  11. Hi Janice,
    While it is true that shipping can add a significant cost, it varies such that allowing for it while considering pricing as broadly as we are in this piece is very difficult. You will notice during the section where I estimated a small batch order for an event I was able to include a shipping price because I was considering a set amount of books.
    It’s also worth noting that we offer coupons to offset shipping as often as we can.

  12. Hi John,
    You should reach out to support to check on revenue payments. We do pay on a schedule so it could simply be that we haven’t come to a payment date yet.

  13. ‘You can publish a paperback with an ISBN for distribution, a non-ISBN paperback version to sell specifically on Lulu and your author site’
    I’m confused: I am about to add an ISBN to a book currently available through LULU and up the distrution to Lulu’s retail sites Wholesale model with higher price. Can I still keep the original without ISBN on sale at Lulu for my direct sales at its original price. Apart from the ISBN on cover and inside the two books will be same. Is this allowed or do I have to change title or alter content slightly?

  14. Unless I missed something, you don’t seem to mention your very high delivery costs, which increase the price per copy exponentially (especially for small orders). I now deal mostly with a print-on-demand company based in the UK in which delivery charges are included in the price of the books, the price per copy being based on the price per copy of the initial run. If I initially order 25 or more copies, each subsequent order, of even one copy, is priced pro rata and still includes delivery. Lulu’s status as a global/American company gets in the way of competitive pricing like this.

  15. I know that several copies of Talking Stalking have been purchased But ! I have not re.ceived any cash from these?
    John k Dryden

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