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Using Tech for Book Marketing

Kate Gingold from Sprocket WebsitesKate has been building websites with her husband Don since 1996 for all sorts of clients, including authors.

Kate regularly writes about online marketing for Sprocket Websites and provides tips and techniques for entrepreneurs and small-business owners. Since being an author today is not really different from being an entrepreneur with a small business, most of those tips are just as useful to authors.

Kate is an author herself. She writes books on local history, including the award-winning "Ruth by Lake and Prairie," a fictionalized account of the true story of Great Lake pioneering to the shores of Chicago and beyond to found Naperville, Illinois. 

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Author Tips and Tales

The Book Pricing Dilemma
Kate Gingold Host
/ Categories: Author Tips

The Book Pricing Dilemma

If your book is being published by a traditional publisher, they will decide the price of your book and give you a cut, so there’s no dilemma for you. However, you may be disappointed when you learn how much your share is. Early in my publishing career, I met an author of children’s books who worked with a traditional publisher. She confided that she made 39¢ for every book sold. I would think that one needs to sell an awful lot of books at 39¢ to earn any real money. 

While self-publishing has always been an option (Jane Austen self-published three books!), only lately has it become remarkably easy and inexpensive. Even die-hard traditionally-published authors are buying back their manuscript rights and republishing on their own. 

Of course, once you are the publisher, pricing your book becomes your responsibility. And it’s not as simple as you might think.

A first response is usually along the lines of “I’ll keep it cheap – I just want people to read my book!” Then you start adding up the costs and realize you’ll have to charge more to cover all the expenses. Add in competitive marketing and picking a price gets even more confusing. So let’s break it down a little.

Obviously there are expenses involved. Books require editing, design, layout, cover design and probably image purchases to start. Then there is the actual cost of printing such as paper, ink, trimming and binding. Also you’ll pay a shipping fee to get your books in your hand.

Print On Demand (POD) services such as Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP – which now includes the old CreateSpace) means you, the publisher, don’t have to buy boxes of books and store them. Instead, when a reader purchases your book at Amazon just that one copy is printed and shipped to the purchaser. But all the same costs still apply.

If you are just selling books out of the trunk of your car, you can pocket the entire sale price and use it to offset the expenses you already incurred. But if reader buys your book at a bookstore, coffee shop or some other kind of seller, they’re also going to want a cut of each sale, usually around 50%. If you use a distributor to help you get books into stores, they will take a cut as well. And don’t forget the shipping costs, of course.

Once you add it all up, you may be making 39¢ per book, too. Self-pubbed authors often react by just jacking up the price. But that could be a really bad decision. For instance, if you write thrillers like James Patterson and Patterson’s paperback novels sell for $10, will thriller-readers buy your novel at $20?

Bigger publishing houses can print books much less expensively than a self-publisher can, mainly because they print in volume. They take on risk because they have to sell more to make back their investment, but each book is cheaper to produce. Readers don’t know or care about production – they’re just looking for a good story at a reasonable price. Self-pubbed authors have to price their books to be competitive.

Before you start the publishing process, do some research in your local bookstore. Look at the books that are similar to your own in genre and format and note their sale prices. There are ways to guesstimate what your book will cost to produce and tweaks to trim costs, but you need a number goal as a starting point. 

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Marketing Author Interview

Following a presentation for In Print Professional Writers Group, Kate's husband (and publisher!) Don was interviewed by author Louise Brass for WBOM Radio. During the conversation, Don shared many of the marketing tips from his presentation. You can listen to it online here.

The Sprocket Report

The Sprocket Report is published every other week with Internet marketing tips, tools and techniques. The archive features articles from 2011 up to the present. You are welcome to read how business owners are using technology to market themselves and apply those tips to your author business.



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