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How to Price Your Cookbook

Learning how to price your cookbook is as much an art as a science. It is a very important decision that can lead to a lot of stress. There's always the trade off between setting the price too high and losing sales and setting it too low and leaving money on the table. There's no hard and fast rules to a successfully priced cookbook but there are several considerations you need to take into account.

Tracking the effects of book pricing on sales, especially on Amazon, is very hard and convoluted. There are people that try to figure out ideal Amazon pricing for a living and I just don't have the time or inclination to compete with them. I'd rather spend my time cooking and writing books. If the information below feels overwhelming, don't worry, it's that way for everyone. I've found pricing my Monetizing books around the average price for a book in my genre works good enough for me.

Your Cookbook Goals

The pricing you pick will have a lot to do with the goals of your cookbook. Viral cookbooks will normally be priced lower than Monetizing or Marketing cookbooks to maximize their sales. Monetizing cookbooks will try to maximize the total revenue generated, or sales x royalties. Marketing cookbooks don't always fall one direction or another, it's highly dependent on the cost incurred in developing them.

Your Cookbook Format

There are very different pricing models for ebooks vs print books.

Print Books

The list price for print cookbooks typically runs anywhere from $15 to $30 for popular cookbooks and $25 to $50 for gourmet or restaurant cookbooks. Amazon usually discounts these by 30% to 50%. It is usually ideal for most Monetizing or Marketing books to fall somewhere in this range. Amazon may discount your books as well, though it's normally more like 10% to 20%. Remember, if Amazon discounts your book you still get paid a royalty on the list price, not the discounted price.

Kindle Books

Kindle books normally range from $0.99 to $14.99 and are usually not discounted. One quirk of Kindle royalties is that you only get a 70% royalty if the book is priced between $2.99 and $9.99. Otherwise your royalty is 35%.

So while you might be tempted to sell your Kindle book at $15.99 instead of $9.99, you would only make $5.6 per book sold at $15.99 instead of $7 per book selling at $9.99. So you would have to sell more books at the higher price to come out ahead.

The same is true at the bottom of the scale. Every book sold at $0.99 will earn you $0.35, but a book sold at $2.99 will earn you $2.10. It might be tempting to price your book at a dollar and try to sell more copies but you will have to sell 6 times as much to break even. For some books, especially Viral ones, this might be a trade off worth making.

Authors with Viral cookbooks in the Kindle format can also look at giving their books away for free. While it doesn't bring in any more money it arguably can lead to wider distribution.

General Perception

It can be tempting to try and price your cookbook as low as you can while still making a decent profit. This is especially true for people who view their own work as less valuable than the work of "professionals". However, it is important to remember that lower-priced things tend to be viewed as less valuable and less well done.

If you were looking for somewhere to eat and a random restaurant had a full filet mignon dinner for only $5 would you eat there? Or would you be worried that there would have to be something wrong because otherwise they'd never charge that little for high quality steak? You want to avoid that situation with your book.

If all your competitors are priced at $40 and your book is only $10 then potential readers might start to worry that something is wrong with your book and that's why you are selling it so cheaply.

On the flip side, pricing your book higher, assuming it is a high quality book, will make people perceive it as being of higher quality than your competition. This can also be important if you are publishing a Marketing book. Sales might not matter as much as the perception of your name with high-quality books.

You can also price it in the middle, removing price as a factor in the reader's purchasing decision. For many Monetizing books this is a sound strategy.

Remember that a higher price doesn't always lead to less sales. Recently I raised the price of my Whipping Siphon book by $4, from $14.95 to $18.95 and sales actually increased.

Book Printing Costs

Another large factor to consider when pricing your book is how much each book sold costs you. For print books sold through Amazon you are charged for the printing, handling, selling, and any wholesale discount if it's not through CreateSpace. A book sold on Amazon and printed through CreateSpace takes about 40% off the top, then about $1 per 100 pages in the book, plus an extra $1.

A 200 page book sold for $10 will earn you only $2.75. The same book sold for $20 earns you $8.75, over triple the royalty. With the lower price you have to sell over 3 times as many copies to come out ahead. You can find out more information about CreateSpace pricing here and their royalty calculator.

If you publish through CreateSpace there are also minimum amounts you need to charge based on the size of your book. If you are trying to produce a very inexpensive book this may affect you.

For non-CreateSpace books you have to pay a printing cost and a "wholesalers discount". This discount is usually 30% to 55%.

For Kindle books there are delivery costs. These are about $0.15/MB of book size.

More Sales Lead to a Higher Amazon Sales Rank

Another wrinkle in the pricing decision is the Amazon Sales Rank. Higher sales lead to a higher sales rank which leads to more promotion in different Amazon categories. This higher placement potentially leads to more sales. This can be especially effective during your cookbook launch where the lower price can vault you up the ranks, keeping it relevant for a longer time.