Friday, September 25, 2009

Buying copies of your own book
(And, what none of the vanity publishers understand about retailing)

Every author needs to have copies of her own book, to distribute to potential reviewers, to give to family and friends, to keep around the house, or maybe even to sell. This is one area where you can really get soaked if you are not a real self-publisher.

Vanity press Wheatmark says, “You may purchase additional books at 40% off the retail price.”

IUniverse offers its author/customers book discounts ranging from 20% to 65% off the retail price. The discounts depend on the quantity ordered and the company offers an extra discount to authors for special events such as book signings at a “recognized venue,” whatever that is.

Outskirts Press, my least-favorite vanity publisher, has a strange system of pricing authors’ copies. For a 300-page, $14.95 book, the discounts range from 34% to 48% off the cover price. You get a bigger discount with the “diamond” package than with the “sapphire” package. However, since you’ll pay $300 more for the diamond deal, with Outskirts, if you want to pay less, you’ll have to pay more.

Xlibris offers discounts ranging from 30% to 60%, depending on the quantity ordered, which makes sense. However, they have an absolutely insane formula for setting the cover prices of its books, which in turn establishes authors’ prices. The cover price for a book with 106 pages is $15.99. If you need 108 pages, however, the cover price jumps to $19.99— even though the difference in the manufacturing cost is about three cents and can’t possibly justify a $4.00 difference in cover price.

Strangely, the price for a book with 398 pages is also $19.99! But, at 400 pages the retail price jumps four bucks to $23.99, and that price holds all the way to 800 pages. The author’s cost for a book with 108 pages can be $2.80 more than the price of a book with 106 pages; but the costs for books with 108 pages and with 398 pages are the SAME.

Lulu has a weird policy about selling eBooks to the authors of those books: it’s not allowed, even though Lulu makes 20% on each eBook. If you want to download a sample of your book, even if you are willing to pay for it, you have to log on to the Lulu website under someone else’s name.

These pricing systems demonstrate incompetence, idiocy, and ignorance.

 The retail price of a book — unlike a car or a bathing suit — is often unrelated to its production cost. One fundamental point that the vanity presses all seem to ignore is that the retail price of a book is a marketing decision and may have little or nothing to do with its printing cost.

It does not cost any more to print a book with a $29.95 price printed on it than a book with a $9.95 printed on it. The vanity presses apply author discounts to the WRONG numbers. Even if these publishers don’t want to reveal their production costs, they could come up with discount schedules properly based on page count and trim size, NOT the cover price.

In real self-publishing, the price the author pays for copies of her book has NOTHING TO DO with the cover price. It has to do only with the cost to make and ship a book.

If my printer charges $5 to print and ship a 300-page book, and I am the publisher, I pay $5 whether the cover price is one penny, one dollar, $8.95, $10.95, $14.95, $24.95, or $150.

1 comment:

  1. Michael,

    These pricing systems demonstrate incompetence, idiocy, and ignorance.

    Well said. Thanks for explaining this for people who have been spun around so badly by the vanity so-called "self-publishers" that they've lost touch with reality.

    And books are also consumer products in which the raw production cost of an item really should have little impact on pricing models. The price of a book is mostly a marketing decision, based on competition, knowledge of the market for which it is intended, and other factors that have nothing to do with the cost of paper, etc.

    But besides all that, it really makes me angry how many people get scooped up by these so-called "experts" and end up with a distorted view of what publishing is, and having spent far too much money to achieve far too little.