Getting It Printed
Once you have some idea of the basic cost of production for your book, you can begin to think about what is sometimes a touchy subject: pricing your book. As mentioned previously, this will be out of your control with some publishers, and with others your costs may be so high that you cannot price your work to bring a fair return and still have it be competitively salable. Be prepared to compromise if you intend your book to be sold at retail. You will need to reduce your costs to a minimum, consistent with your content and the audience for your book, in order to make it an appealing value to the general mass of buyers. Of course, if you will sell it directly where you can influence the perception of value, this will be less of a consideration.
Assuming we are discussing indirect sales, through wholesalers and retailers, your first step is to compare what you offer to your potential readers’ other options for similar books. What pricing does your competition offer? You can check this at the larger online retailers, Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com, both of which publish sales rankings. Make notes of the general description, pricing, and sales ranking of several books that readers might also consider in addition to yours. Without a significant and obvious difference—that is of value to your readers—your book will be compared to its competition by physical size, number of pages, and cost. Not fair? Maybe not, but this is why you must understand your audience and plan to market your book to them based on its advantages for the reader. As only one example, suppose your book is on 20th century architects, and the better selling books on this all contain numerous photographs of the buildings discussed. If their photos are in black and white, yours need to be in color, or you need to include reproductions of the architects' original drawings and floor plans. (What this means to you will be based on your specific book.)
Also to be considered are the standard industry discounts that are expected and which allow the wholesaler and retailer to do business. Retailers look for a standard discount of 40% off list price, which accommodates their discounts, overhead, and profit. Likewise, the wholesaler usually looks for a discount of 55% off list. This leaves you 45% to cover all your production costs and your own profit from your work. Wide variation from these figures is possible, but consider how motivated a retailer would be to stock, or even to order for a customer, a book with no discount. Another factor is whether your book is returnable, and the same situation applies. To handle such a book, the retailer must sell every copy ordered, since the cost of even one unsold copy will erase the profit from the sale of several other books. If a customer returns a copy, the retailer must absorb the cost of the return in addition to refunding their money. These books actually exist, but I can guarantee you that they are not big sellers.
Plan ahead to communicate value, minimize costs, and provide motivation for the distribution chain, and you will maximize your sales.