I’m darn close to done with this novel. I’m starting with all Amazon, all the time. CreateSpace (an Amazon subsidiary that does print-on-demand) will do the print version, and Kindle Direct Publishing will do the e-book. Amazon gives you a huge royalty incentive to do the e-book exclusively through them, so it’s kind of a no-brainer. I’ve seen no evidence anybody wants it on any other platform anyway.
Thankfully, there is absolutely a standard price for e-book novels, and that is $4.99. Given that there is no cost to produce, Amazon just gives you a percentage of that gross sale. If you sign up to do exclusive, they give you 70%, which means I’ll get $3.49 for every e-book they sell. That’s a lot! If I went through a publisher, I’d probably get about 10%, so they would have to sell seven times as many books to keep up.
Pricing the physical book is much trickier. In traditional publishing, you do a run of books, and then sell them. So that costs a bunch up front, but because you made a lot of books, each of them doesn’t cost too much. I’m not doing that. I’m doing print-on-demand, where they make each book as it is bought. I got the proof and the quality is excellent. I read a lot of people complaining about the quality of CreateSpace books on blogs and forums, but those people were doing illustrated children’s books. For a novel that’s just words, it seems they’ve figured out how to produce books that look just as good as anything you’d buy at a book store. Better even.
The cover is soft and supple and lush, like a woman’s breast. I’m not even joking. Holding this thing in my hand is erotic. I absolutely love it.
But because of the print-on-demand, the physical book costs a lot: $5.65 in my case, because at 5″x8″ the book is about 400 pages long. Amazon takes 40% of the list price. I’ll spare you the math, but that means to make the same $3.50 on the physical book that I’m making on the e-book, I’d have to charge $15.25. For a paperback. I asked a bunch of people and even though they love me, they all said that was too much.
The consensus opinion of my readers is that $12.95 is the most you can reasonably charge for a paperback and not appear to be gouging your readers. Readers don’t know or care that you went print-on-demand to lower your upfront cost. And let’s be honest here—I’m not really doing this for the money anyway. At $12.95 I make about two bucks. Still pretty good, since a traditional publisher would probably charge $10 for the book, and I’d get $1.
When I started this exercise, I assumed this was really an e-book project with a print book for the handful of luddites that don’t like e-books. But what I learned from my readers is that my target demographic (educated, horny, and female?) loves physical books. And since holding this hot ball of sex in my hands, I’d recommend that choice over the e-book any day, even though I’d make 1.75 times as much if they bought the e-book.
The next question I had to answer is distribution of the print book. In addition to Amazon, you will be able to buy the book directly from CreateSpace. They take a smaller cut, so I’d make more money if people bought from there. However, those sales don’t count in Amazon’s recommendation engine. So I’ve decided to point people to Amazon for the print version. It’s also weird and confusing to people to have multiple links to the print version. And people are more comfortable buying from Amazon.
CreateSpace also lets you do expanded distribution. That lets other sellers get it at below list, and it’s apparently the only way libraries will buy it. But because of the various players all taking their piece of the pie, I would be forced up to a $14 price point if I enabled that. And even at that price, I’d make no royalty. And because all booksellers insist on the list price being consistent, I would have to bump the Amazon price up to that level, too. But we already established that $12.95 is the cap. So basically, it’s not an option. Sorry, libraries.
The last step in setting a price was to set the prices in euros and pounds. They picked them automatically, but whatever algorithm they used was wonky because it gave me much lower margins than I would get in dollars. I settled on £9.95 and €11.95. The margin when converted back to my currency is about $2 for both of those. Again, this is just for the print book. The e-book automatic pricing based on exchange rates made sense, so I went with those.
I’m going to do a soft launch. I will go ahead and get the book into Amazon for print and kindle, and tell my readers it is there. They can buy it if they want, and hopefully write reviews. Then I’ll wait a little bit, and make sure everything is going smoothly. I can get feedback on my author bio and stuff. And when I think it’s good, I’ll do a blog post and tell Twitter.
Then over the next few weeks, I’ll try to walk that line of making sure all 4000 of my followers know the book is out, without turning my account into an annoying book-shilling platform. That’ll be tricky, but I have some ideas.
Update: I launched the book.