StrangeArk blog
Cryptozoology, BioForteana, Zoological Oddities, Unusual Natural History

The Pricing Issue

Early on, Print-on-Demand got a bad rap regarding pricing. This was mostly because subsidy publishers who had already made a bundle up-front by selling services to authors, were now trying to make greater profits by using high retail prices. The author had little choice but to agree, if he/she wanted to make anything at all on the project.

Now, because the print cost per book is higher than with an offset printed text (where printing thousands at a time lowers the cost per book), there is a minimum retail price; I have yet to see the commercially viable publication of a standard-length POD text retailing for much less than $10. I don't see how that's possible, given that the publisher has to account for 4 different areas:

  • Print cost
  • Retail discount given to the bookseller
  • Publisher's compensation
  • Author's royalty

Now, the good thing about the POD print cost is that it is relatively fixed. It's per page, plus cost of cover. For a 200 page 6"x9" book from LSI, you're looking at about $3.50 for a book printed for direct sale. (Oddly enough, LSI charges a bit more if the book is being ordered directly by the publisher.)

As noted previously, most books will be sold online, via Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc. In LSI's case, because it is owned by Ingram, a book warehousing company, direct relationships with those online companies means that the book is usually shipped direct from Ingram or LSI upon customer's purchase, so those online stores don't need to stock the books. (If you order a selection of books from Amazon, for example, you might notice that a POD text will often arrive prior to the other books.) Because of this relationship, and because a POD book is very rarely ordered by brick-and-mortar booksellers, there is no good reason for offering more than a 20-25% short discount. A traditional bookstore will want at least 40% or more, and distributors will take 55-65%. Obviously, that doesn't work with a POD model. The short discount, though, provides the online store with some profit, while still keeping the book profitable for author and publisher.

Compensation for publisher and author will vary, but once this is worked out, the publisher can develop the retail price. Other factors weight in, of course: is the price competitive? What is the subject? (Technical subjects can typically handle a higher retail price; after all, you get what you pay for. In the case of specialized cryptozoological subjects, a higher price may be necessary to compensate for a smaller market. Bigfoot books generally sell better than those on lesser-known cryptids.)