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Discussion Starter #1
Writing speculative fiction and science fiction. One of the things I've seen mentioned about this particular genre's reading habits is that print is still very popular. I would like to price print very reasonably while making close to the same per copy royalty as an ebook (or about 1/2 ebook royalty for extended distribution/europe).

1. For those selling in the genre, is it your experience that print is still a strong seller? What would you estimate your split is on ebook/print/audio? And if you don't mind, all versions combined (even if that also includes audio), are you moving more than or less than 1000 units a month. (I will note I know several successful indie romance authors and ebooks are usually a minimum of 80% of their unit sales per month - and they average more than 5000 total units per month.)

I'll note I asked about monthly units moved because I know one author who moves about 25 copies a month across five or six titles, almost all print because it is mostly to extended family and friends.

2. Looking at the royalty calculator on createspace, I see 100 pages is the same royalty whether it's a more traditionally sized 5x8 or 8.5x11. Playing with the template, I can make a 220-page book at 5x8 be a 150-page book at 8.5x11. I also figure many speculative fiction and SF readers have bookshelves with comic books, concept art, and so on that is close to the 8.5x11 size. SO, FOR THE QUESTION - do you think the size would be offputting to readers in this genre? Offputting enough to have them chose a traditional size over a lower price?

Thank you in advance for your answer.

Dana
 

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Dana, I'm sorry I can't give much advice about your questions, but I just wanted to let you know that the print book's page count will be displayed on your ebook's page. So if you create a 150-page print book and link it to the ebook, the ebook will appear to be 150 pages, which most people assume is a novella or short novel. I don't know how much that will impact your sales, but novels generally sell better than novellas.

8.5x11 would be difficult to hold in bed, which is where I do 90% of my reading, but I might be the minority.
 

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Standard trim sizes are 5x8, 5.25x8, 5.5x8.5, and 6x9. These are what people expect to see when they buy trade sized books. Publishing at 8.5x11 will look very odd, plus readers will probably have a hard time fitting it on their books shelves.
 

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The 9.5x11 is US letter size, is that right?

The same UK equivalent would be about A4 size, you hardly ever see a book that size unless it is a non-fiction manual or something like that.

Julie had a post somewhere about pricing print books. They are a totally different marketplace than ebooks and price is not the only factor. If you want to get your books distributed on places other than Amazon, don't price them too cheaply. You have to factor in discounts of around 55-60% for the bookstores.

And speaking as a reader, that large format size would be put me off buying it. This is from a woman, who when she buys books on the web, checks the height of each book (and trilogies better be the same height to fit on my bookshelf, LOL!) I have a measuring tape on my desk for books, I kid you not :)

I have a concept art book, but it doesn't fit on any of my bookshelves and it is very unwieldy to read comfortably. You need a table or a desk to hold it. It's under the coffee table at the moment.

If you want to lower the price, try the 6x9 size with smaller margins and font maybe.
 

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As others have said, you need to bring the trim size down. It's not all about price. An A4 (or near enough) novel is going to look very awkward on shelves (and probably be mistaken for either a graphic novel or non-fiction), be difficult to read, and at only 150 pages, you're going to risk it just looking like a chunky magazine rather than a novel. You might just be able to pull it off in hardback, but that's not an option with Createspace, and you'd lose the price incentive.

I wouldn't fiddle too much with fonts and spacing, either. If you've written a long book, let it be a long book, and price it accordingly, rather than tinker with things and risk it being an unreadable medium-length book. I sell Story Of My Escape at $13.99 for 304 pages, for roughly the same royalty as I make from the kindle edition. For the first two years of publication (Jan 2014 - Feb 2016), the paperback outsold the e-book 2-1. It took a concerted Kindle Countdown campaign in February to shift the e-books ahead of paperback sales, and the printed book has since caught up again to the point where it's still almost 50/50. People know that paperbacks cost money to produce, as long as you don't take flagrant liberties with the pricing, you'll be all right.
 

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I used 5 x 8 for my paperbacks and they look just like "normal" books do - if you go much beyond 6 x 9 (the large sci-fi ones) people will complain about the size.
Oh, and for fiction, use the "cream paper" option. The white pages look very much like non-fiction.

I write sci-fi / dystopia and I don't sell anything in print. Right now for every 1k ebooks I sell about 50 audiobooks and 2 print books - in a good month. Audio is gaining momentum but print is rather steady. Hugh Howey made a great video about paperback formatting, and has the templates on his website that you can use. That makes a really neat set-up for print (I've modified mine but they are based on that). If I'd had to pay my cover designer extra for the print covers they would never pay for themselves, I'm afraid. Ebook and audio take care of themselves within days of the release. It's all just anecdotal evidence from one author under two pennames, but print doesn't necessarily have to sell.
 

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do you think the size would be offputting to readers in this genre?
It would be off-putting in any genre except for graphic novels and nonfiction.

The way to make something near the ebook royalty is to price the print book competitively with trad pub books. I read an article somewhere -- can't remember where, though it was possibly on TPV -- that talked about how indies are selling themselves short with their POD pricing, which is mostly far lower than trad books. We do it for the same reasons we price our ebooks within a certain range, but print is different and we should be pricing differently.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Thank you all for the feedback. It confirms what I was thinking. I guess I was hoping that there might be genre differences, but it doesn't sound like it.


Annette - I have Spectrum 13 to the most recent year (or maybe I didn't get last year, I might have slipped - I'm at 21). I lie them flat on my shelf. But I thoroughly understand the dilemma. I need to get out in the wood shop and finally make a custom bookshelf for my outsized art and other non-fiction titles.
 

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DanaFraser said:
Writing speculative fiction and science fiction. One of the things I've seen mentioned about this particular genre's reading habits is that print is still very popular. I would like to price print very reasonably while making close to the same per copy royalty as an ebook (or about 1/2 ebook royalty for extended distribution/europe).

1. For those selling in the genre, is it your experience that print is still a strong seller? What would you estimate your split is on ebook/print/audio? And if you don't mind, all versions combined (even if that also includes audio), are you moving more than or less than 1000 units a month. (I will note I know several successful indie romance authors and ebooks are usually a minimum of 80% of their unit sales per month - and they average more than 5000 total units per month.)

I'll note I asked about monthly units moved because I know one author who moves about 25 copies a month across five or six titles, almost all print because it is mostly to extended family and friends.

2. Looking at the royalty calculator on createspace, I see 100 pages is the same royalty whether it's a more traditionally sized 5x8 or 8.5x11. Playing with the template, I can make a 220-page book at 5x8 be a 150-page book at 8.5x11. I also figure many speculative fiction and SF readers have bookshelves with comic books, concept art, and so on that is close to the 8.5x11 size. SO, FOR THE QUESTION - do you think the size would be offputting to readers in this genre? Offputting enough to have them chose a traditional size over a lower price?

Thank you in advance for your answer.

Dana
1.) Print is my strongest seller. My books are 5.25x8, about 350 pages, and priced at $13.99. Together with ebooks and audio, I don't shift 1,000 copies of any of my titles. But I'm still early in my career.

2.) As a reader, I think even 6x9 is too big, except if it's a hardcover. The 8.5x11 size is something I'm looking at for a companion book I'm putting together that will be more like a coffee table book. Not a novel. To me, novels should be handhold size.
 

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8.5 x 11? Nope. Right out. A book that size is usually an illustration book or coffee table book. But for reading prose narrative, that would fail so fast you might as well hand your money out to strangers on a street corner.

Average size of a hard cover is the US Trade (6x9). Many consider this an industry standard.

The Pocketbook is the trade term for a 4x6 softcover-what most of us know as a "paperback." The trade calls in a pocketbook because it can fit in a pocket. Don't believe that? Try it. It does.

The 5x7 paperback is a popular size in the Romance genre. Many women prefer the slightly larger size as it is easier to hold and is still small enough to slip into a purse when the train reaches their station.

These are the sizes you want to focus on. Stay within that range and you will still have a salable product.

As far as pricing goes, this is a little harder to nail down.

For the most part, print outsells ebook 2:1. So, yes, you want print to be part of your business strategy. Also, you can make more money per copy on a print book than you can on an ebook. The problem is, print has higher and continuing costs involved with production where an ebook has none.

FIRST AND FOREMOST: there is a HUGE difference between a book printer and a book manufacturer. You want a manufacturer, not a printer. You want a company that can print to industry standards, not some ma & pa printer on the street corner.

Your prices will depend on the going rates for raw materials needed for printing. Any quote you get from a manufacturer will only be good for a couple of months. Pricing will change on a quarterly basis, so don't sit for too long to make your order once you get a price quote. With that in mind, the costs below are from a quote I got a while ago. The prices today will vary. Take due notice and do your homework.

Offset printing for a US Trade hardcover for a 105,000 word novel costs about $5.70 per copy to print for 1,000 copies. That's your out-of-pocket, up front cost to print. Font size determines the number of pages, thickness of the paper determines the size of the book based on the number of pages. There are recommended standards to adhere to. If you want to know, the recommended font size is 11.5 for most print-friendly fonts.

The second price is the price you set to tell the public what this book is worth. That price is roughly four times the wholesale price. $22. (Yes, I round down no the nearest dollar.) If you are at a convention autographing books for fans, this is the price you would change per copy.

When you sell your books to a distributor or a retailer, they are expecting wholesale rates. That's about double your cost. It will work out to around $11 per book. The problem is, depending on the retailer, you may have to negotiate hard for this price. At the very least, you want a minimum of a 50% profit margin on your book. That means at least $3 per copy for a total of $8.70--$9 per copy wholesale. And they are going to hardball negotiate right back. Keep in mind, if you want that 90% profit margin, your last name will have to be Heinlein, King, Stephenson, McCaffrey, or LeGuin to command top rates. Or, your book had better already be in the Top 100 on Amazon or being actively produced into a movie by Spielberg or Tarantino right now. Otherwise, you might have to fight tooth-and-nail to keep yourself above even the 50% margin.

There is a fourth price. It is the "Discount Price" that bookstores sell. Even Amazon does this. Take a look at the "List Price" on any book listed on Amazon and then look at their discount rate. This price will be set anywhere from $13-$17, depending on how in demand your books are and what your wholesale price is. That $13 is roughly 40% discount off the list price; $15 is roughly 30% off the list price; $17 is roughly 20% off the list price. (Yes, I know those numbers aren't clean percentages, but I'm rounding. Stores do this too.) You have to give the retailers a low-enough wholesale price so they can claim a "discount" for their customers.

There is a last thing you must be aware of, and this can break an independent writer trying to mass-sell a book. It is the buyback. The retailers expect that if they can't sell your book, you will buy back all remaining copies at the agreed wholesale price. If Acme Book Sales bought 10,000 copies of your book, and sales turned out to be dismal and they only sold 30 copies, after six months they will demand you buy back the remaining 9,970 books. Don't like that? Tough. This is the way the industry works. Even the Big-4 in New York have to do this.

When the retailer gives you that check for all those copies, don't spend one penny of it. Resist the urge to buy that Tesla Model-X you've been dreaming about. Put it into a savings account and leave it there in escrow. Let it sit there until the retailer either sells off all the copies and wants more, or the time limit (if there is one) on buybacks expires and the retailer has to eat the losses, not you. Pray hard that the retailer sells enough copies to cover your printing expenses.

Before you declare the buyback custom unfair, stop and think about it. The retailers exist to make money selling books. If they bought every loser and sub-standard book out there, they'd go bankrupt in a hurry. So retailers can't afford to take a risk on a new author. The buyback takes the risk off the retailer and puts it on the publisher. The buyback guarantees that the publisher really believes in this new author. Books would be a lot more expensive and harder to find if it wasn't for the buyback because stores would only carry guaranteed-to-sell authors, and not newbies. Retail is a really difficult business to survive in. Speculation is dangerous.

So, sit on the money and don't touch it. Only when your retailer/distributor reports they sold X books, can you take out $X of money from the account and pay yourself.

Ways you can reduce your risk is to only print in small lots. The book manufacturers get it. You can even do lots as small as 100 or 250 copies. But your costs per copy will be higher. Kiss that profit margin goodbye. You might be down to 20%--30% to get your books on shelves in stores.

Print-On-Demand (POD) books are another way to go. The quality in POD has advanced greatly in the past few years, making many POD books just as high quality as offset print books. Problem is, POD costs more per copy than mass printing does. So, your cost could be as high as $11 or $12 per copy. That's wholesale price from above. It might be one helluva lot harder to sell POD books to a retailer; that prices doesn't give a retailer enough room to offer a discount on your book. Plus, the higher price makes it a lot harder to sell.

It isn't impossible to sell hardcopy of your book. Just start small and work your way up. Sell locally before you go regional, thence national. Start off by selling copies through Amazon's CreateSpace to gauge demand for your book in print. If sales are knocking it out of the park, you will make a lot more money if you print the books yourself and sell them through Amazon as a Sales Affiliate. Then you can go to retailers and offer copies as well.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
Thank you, WDR, for that very extensive response. I am starting Createspace, but you make an excellent point about when to move from CS to getting your own bulk manufactured.

David - thank you for the personal details. Fascinating that print is your strongest suit. Are you doing a lot of virtual "hand selling"? Selling at events?
 

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DanaFraser said:
Thank you, WDR, for that very extensive response. I am starting Createspace, but you make an excellent point about when to move from CS to getting your own bulk manufactured.
If you do your own print run, how do you get it into Amazon or brick & mortar stores.
 

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Don't forget, even if you don't sell many print books, the ebook version will show the full-price ebook as "discounted" from the paperback. It's a deal! I hear people like those...
 

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ShayneRutherford said:
If you do your own print run, how do you get it into Amazon or brick & mortar stores.
Important to note: I have not yet done this! So just use my answer as an inspiration to look deeper into doing this and not as a guide.

You need to sign up with Amazon as a seller of products to sell through their site. When an order comes in, you pack it up and ship it. Amazon will reimburse you for the cost of shipping. A couple of the authors here in Writers' Café are doing this. I've only glanced at the information, but I have not yet moved forward with it.

Keep in mind, businesses are revising how they do things all the time; Amazon is no exception. They could change or end this program at any time. For more details, check here: https://services.amazon.com/content/sell-on-amazon.htm/ref=footer_soa?ld=AZFSSOA-dT1

How to get your book into Amazon's brick & mortar stores?

All you need is your book to be in the top 1,000 on Amazon's bestsellers list and be available via CreateSpace. Amazon will automatically print up copies and stock their shelves with your book. No effort on your part. Easy as pi! (to 1,000 digits)
 

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WDR said:
Important to note: I have not yet done this! So just use my answer as an inspiration to look deeper into doing this and not as a guide.

You need to sign up with Amazon as a seller of products to sell through their site. When an order comes in, you pack it up and ship it. Amazon will reimburse you for the cost of shipping. A couple of the authors here in Writers' Café are doing this. I've only glanced at the information, but I have not yet moved forward with it.
You can also warehouse your books with Amazon and have them fulfill the orders, but you pay a monthly warehousing fee according to the space your product takes up. (NB: I haven't done this either, but a family member was looking into it).
 

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Darcy said:
You can also warehouse your books with Amazon and have them fulfill the orders, but you pay a monthly warehousing fee according to the space your product takes up. (NB: I haven't done this either, but a family member was looking into it).
Good point. I never even considered that option in regards to affordability. Perhaps if I was consistently selling 100,000 print copies per year, I would consider it. At this point, it is more profitable to have a few boxes of books in the basement to fill orders as they trickle in. (Plus, it's a good excuse to get on the motorcycle and enjoy the ride down to the post office.)
 

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Personally, I would find 8.5 x 11 to be very offputting, unless it were a comic or a comic strip collection.  If I ordered a novel and didn't notice the dimensions, and it arrived 8.5 x 11, I'd be very annoyed and definitely never buy another paperback from the author again.  (And that would probably mean never buying another *book* from the author again, as paperback readers like paperbacks.)

I make my books 5.5 x 8.5, which is a standard size that matches trade paperbacks put out by traditional publishers.  6 x 9 is also standard, and popular.

I do have one book that is 8.5 x 11, but that is a comic strip collection.
 
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Annette_g said:
***** had a post somewhere about pricing print books.
We actually sell more print with many of our titles than we do ebooks. The print market is a completely different creature than ebooks.

First, print is still sold on the wholesale model. Manufacturers set a retail price, and vendors pay a percentage of the retail. Retailers then can sell the book for any price they want. Indies lose site of this because all of the POD services call their money "royalties." More accurately, POD is more of a consignment deal that a royalty deal. But that is just a matter of semantics. The point is, Unlike ebooks, you don't set the "selling" price. Retailers do.

What indies tend to do is set the retail price of their books to match the Amazon SELLING price of books in their genre. Don't...do...this. Look at the retail prices of the books instead. THAT should be your baseline. You want to set your retail price to match the normal retail pricing for your genre. For example, typical trade paperbacks have a retail price of between $12.99-$16.99, depending on how long they are.

Second, don't bother trying to mimic smaller formats with POD. The mass market paperback size is not cost effective in POD. To understand why, you need to understand the role that size played in print traditionally. Go LOOK at an actual mass market size book compared to a trade paperback or a hardcover. You'll notice two things. One: the covers tend to be index stock, not heavy card stock. Two: the paper tends to be thinning and more like newsprint. Until the rise of ebooks, mass market paperbacks filled the role of ebooks in the marketplace as the "low cost" alternative.

POD services use the same materials for mass market sizes as they do trade sizes, which means you are simply increasing your manufacturing cost for no real benefit. Stick with the trade paperback formats.

Third, on the matter of price and sales. If you price your book correctly, retailers will place it on sale for you. And unlike digital, when a retailer puts a print book on sale, that comes out of their profits, not yours.

Retailers will determine whether to put a book on sale (either individually or including in store-wide promos) based on their profit margin. The profit margin is the difference between the final sale price compared to the cost to purchase the book + its markup. ALL RETAILERS add a markup to the wholesale cost to cover their overhead (rents, utilities, wages, etc). For the sake of discussion, we will set that overhead at $1 per book. We'll assume a standard trade paperback at 200 pages through Createspace as the book. We will also assume a 30% discount to the retailer.

If you set the retail price to $14.99, the retailer pays $10.49 for the book. Through expanded distro, that means $2.74 profit for you. Including the retailers markup, that leave the retailer with $3.50 of room to play. That is plenty of room to include the title in sales promotions, like 10% off deals.

Let's say you decide "I'm going to sell my book cheap to encourage sales!" and price it at $10.99. You make $1.14 per sale. Now the retailer is paying $7.69 for the book. With his overhead, his profit margin is now only $2.30. There is less room for him to play with sales, but still some.

At $8.99, you are only making 34 cents on a sale, but you are hoping to make it up on volume. The problem is that now the vendor is paying $6.29 for the book. Which means, with overhead, there is only a profit margin of $1.70. At that price, it stops being practical including the book in sales. The book won't be included in most sales promotions, and, in the case of brick and mortar stores where shelf space is a premium, it won't even be considered for stock because the profit opportunity in relation to shelf space is too low. Why take up shelf space on a book that makes almost nothing for me when I can stock other titles with high profit potential?

It doesn't help you to price your book low if A. stores won't stock it since they can't make money and B. stores won't include it in their sales promotions because the profit margin is too low.
 
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