How much should POD
book printing cost?

Book printing cost is critical to your success as an author. If the self-publishing company you choose charges you too much for your book, you will be priced out of the market.

You need to know how to calculate a fair print on demand (POD) book printing cost for your book. Most POD printers charge about $.015 per page plus $.90 for the cover for paperback books. Mark Levine, in his book, The Fine Print of Self Publishing, says authors should memorize this formula.

Mark is right. You should not only memorize it, you should pass it on to every author you meet. If every author knew how to calculate the book printing cost, they could put a stop to price gouging.

Self-publishing companies are entitled to charge reasonable fees for their services, but they should not increase book printing costs to the point their books can’t be sold. Using the formula that you just memorized, a 150 page book would cost $3.15 (150 X .015 = 2.25 plus .90 = 3.15) to print.

Add 15 percent service charge and your book would cost $3.62. To discover how much you would make, you have to subtract the standard discount of 55 percent (15% for the distributor/wholesaler; 40% for the bookseller) and the cost of your book from the list price.

For example, if you set the retail price of your book at $12.95, subtract the standard discount: $12.95 – 55% = $5.83. Then subtract the cost of your book, $5.83 - $3.62 = 2.21.

But what if your book cost $8.00. Not unheard of, and some companies charge even more. That is why it is so important to know what your book is going to cost and do the math before you settle on a company.

Look at what happens: $12.95 – 55% = $5.83; $5.83 - $8.00 = - $2.17. You just lost $2.17. And remember, the standard discount is a percentage. If you increase the price of the book, the amount of the discount also increases. For example, let’s raise the price to $16.95. $16.95 – 55% = $7.63; $7.63 - $8.00 = - $0.37. We still lost 37 cents. At $18.95, you would make 53 cents.

How much will people pay for a small 150 page book?

The $8.00 is a real world figure. So, how do they get away with it? First, they stress how much you will make in their online bookstore. In other words, they act as the bookseller and share their 40 percent with you.

Second, they offer the distributor a short discount. Some publishers are getting discounts as low as 20 percent. Remember, it doesn’t cost much to store digital book files and we calculated around $3.15 to print our sample book. Bottom line: You will most likely make a couple of dollars even with outrageously priced books, but be careful with book signings.

About ten years ago, I paid $8.21 each for my books that retailed for $14.95. I sold 29 copies at my first and last book signing. The bookstore made $5.98 on each book for a total of $173.42. I made $0.76 on each book for a total of $22.04. I learned a valuable lesson.

Bookstores, of course, will not carry books that only offer a short discount. That’s okay. They don’t like self-published books anyway. Some self-publishing companies will even explain this to you. Some won’t.

Before choosing a self-publishing company, be sure the book printing cost to you and the distributor is reasonable. I believe many self-publishing companies charge way too much for their books.

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