The Ridiculous Prices of Some Self-Published Books

Apologies for the lateness of this blog post! Last week I was prostrate with flu and didn’t have the energy to write my own name, never mind scribble at my blog or books! Suffice to say I’m now way behind and haven’t even started the second chapters of Episode or Owen Goal yet! I’m easing back into it slowly, a page here, a paragraph there; doesn’t matter how little or how much you write, as long as you write something every day.

Anyway, this week I want to gripe about the ridiculously inflated prices of some self-published books.

We all have our own reasons why we self-publish: because the traditional mainstream publishers we tried first told us our work isn’t good enough for them (their loss), or because we found out that actually, being traditionally published doesn’t have all that much kudos, anyway, since these publishers won’t necessarily market for you and will whip your book off the sales’ lists when it suits them. If you self-publish, you still have to market and promote the stupid thing until you’re driven to drink, but at least you can keep your books for sale for as long as you like.

Self-publishing does have its problems, of course. It costs money: money for the ISBN, money for any add-ons like book cover design, page formatting, editing and proof-reading services, money for marketing if you want to go that far, but the main problem I’ve found is the comparison cost of a self-published print book with that of a traditionally published book, making my efforts at marketing kind of like attempting to climb a hill with banana skins stuck to the soles of my shoes!

Take my new book, Goalden Sky, for instance: it has 176 pages and is printed in US format, 6 x 9 inches. In what I would call normal paperback size (5 x 7) the number of pages would work out more, so to charge £5.90 wouldn’t seem so bad then. The problem is, other books in the children/young adult genres cost much less, because most of them are traditionally published and the publishing houses can afford to charge less because they will always sell more, therefore they will glean a better profit. Despite the lure of eBooks, people still like the feel of a paperback. I want all my paperbacks to cost at least £3.99, but when using a print-on-demand platform like Lulu, it won’t allow you to set the price any lower than its recommendation, which is usually pretty high. It insists I get a royalty for every book I sell and it insists on making some profit out of me, so I have to set a price that will allow me to do that, though I do my best to keep the price as low for my readers as I can. I don’t make much out of my writing, but I’m not really out to make a profit, I just want people to read my books. My first book Goalden Girl is set at a very strange price, £6.47; by the time I got to Big Brother (£5.99) I’d learnt to tweak the pricing a bit more expertly. I get excited when I spot a discount for my paperbacks and publicise these as much as I can!

It’s not the same for my eBooks, though: I can set any price I like for those (maximum £1.99), so it’s no surprise I sell more Kindle books than I do paperbacks. There is a school of thought among indie authors, however, that if you set your prices too low you can’t think much of your own work. Sorry, but that’s b*ll*cks. I happen to think books in all genres are overpriced in general, and if you’re writing for children and young adults you want them to be able to afford them, not take out a bank loan first.

Speaking of eBooks, I have temporarily taken my books off Nook. I just got fed up with Nook’s inability to retain the formatting from the epubs I uploaded! Any italicised text was lost, any centring was lost, and I’d had enough of wasting my time trying to solve these problems. Two of the titles are still available, but for the Lulu set price of $3.99 (too much!) and they’re not available in the UK or Europe. I may try to re-upload later in the year and see if the problems have been ironed out. I also want to try and upload to Google eBooks and add the remainder of my titles to iTunes.

So does a cheaper priced book help sales? Well, it could, if you tell people about it. Selling always comes back to that rotten old chestnut – marketing. I’ve just tweeted that Big Brother’s paperback price on has been slashed to £2.95. On the few occasions I’ve done this I’ve sold copies, and personally I would sooner pay £2.95 for a young adult paperback than £5.99.


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