An Early Mistake Comes Back to Haunt Me


Don’t be like me. Be smarter at the start of your author journey.

Actually, the fact that you’re here reading blogs like mine demonstrates that you are.

I’ve written a lot about pricing and how to both maximize profits and also be flexible enough within the market to capture as many sales as possible. I wrote a whole book about it (it’s free, btw… just click here.)

One thing I do very well in my author business is selling books directly to people. I do a lot of shows every year, book signings, etc. I’m good enough at it that I meet my full-time living doing this. If I would’ve had some foresight, I would have been thinking about market demands and inflation much earlier on as I created covers. My early mistake was to do many of my covers with the price printed on the back near the UPC. You know, like with the bigger companies do. Audiences are predisposition for checking there for a price.

A few things have happened in the last couple of years. The entire nation shut down. The economy went up and then tanked. Housing markets have gone bananas and in both directions. Banks have collapsed. Inflation has run away like crazy and devalued the buying power of US dollars.

Amid all of that craziness, the two biggest print on demand sources for independent authors have raised their prices. During COVID, when supply lines tightened, Ingramspark increased their printing costs to authors. Twice. Near mid-2023, Amazon finally increased their print costs for the first time since re-organizing under the KDP-print label after ditching the Createspace name.

The mistake I made was to print prices on my covers. Perhaps a bigger mistake was to not make frequent stops at different bookselling outlets to keep my prices fresh. In my free book, Pricing Hacks, which is linked above, I use a bunch of data and show how independent authors can never out to discount the big-box stores and make a profit. But Indies also do not need the same kind of return on investment to make profits. That’s the whole point of POD. But that does not mean we should lose money that buyers are willing to give us.

Amid all of this economic change, inflation, and print price increases, I was in a giant club/discount store. It was a Sam’s Club, but Costco would be comparable as well. They had a small book section, and I picked up a few titles that were recognizable: these are books that had already sold enough to hit bestseller lists. They were the larger 6 x 9 format rather than the typically discounted smaller reads. One was 18.99, and the other was 19.99… Both were fiction and similar genres to what I write.

That got me thinking, my books at 16.99 needed to be at least a dollar higher. In fact, one of my books I repriced to 18.99. If nothing else, I’m trying to not lose dollars to both inflation into increased print costs. But also, I shouldn’t be leaving money on the table from looking at this as a business.

Occasionally, a customer will see a price tag of a dollar or two lower on a cover and will ask why their total is different when they’re checking out at my till. I’ll explain the increase in print costs and inflation to them. I’ve never had one complain and demand the lower price. I’ve seen a few customers think about it (you know that look they get on their face when they think someone is taking advantage of them.) When I explain it I do so in such a way that mentions how I’m the little guy taking on the big publishing companies and how I don’t have the same buying power is them but have managed to keep my books comparably priced and I thank them for supporting the arts and local writers. Sometimes it actually turns into a tip.

Regardless, don’t be like me. Be smart. Make a book prices evergreen by leaving MSRPs off of your cover.


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