Director’s Desk: How Much Can I—and Should I Charge for My Book?

August 2005
by Jan Nathan, Executive Director, PMA

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As I write this, we are getting
ready to convene the Trade Distribution Committee in Chicago, and, as the
members of that committee know all too well, pricing mistakes often make it
necessary to reject a book for the program. Some books are priced too high and
some, believe it or not, are priced too low. Setting a price is an extremely
important determinant of a book’s success or failure.

Pricing Parameters

Let’s begin with the easiest
mathematical formula applied by many—the 8 or 10 times manufacturing cost
rule. At its most basic, this means: Take the print per-copy cost and multiply
it by 8 or 10 to get a price. Example: if a book costs $1.50 to manufacture
(note: the costs of design, editing, and everything else aren’t included), and
you multiply the $1.50 by 8 or 10, you come up with a potential cover price of
either $11.95 or $14.95.

It would be great if it were as
simple as this. But pricing is actually much more complicated. (For innovative
ideas on how to price books, see “Better Metrics for Crucial Decisions” by Mike
Shatzkin in the July issue and at

If you start with the formula
based on manufacturing cost, don’t use the figure you get until you have looked
at books that will compete with yours in the marketplace and found out whether
your formula-based price falls within the ran

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