Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Judge a Book By Its Cover

We're just working on a new book by Ronna Smithrim & Christopher Oliphant on the subject of 'Radical Acceptance', and in trying to work out the book's target market and pricing, I've realised that online shopping has skewed the book market.

I've said before that cover design is important in selling a book, and that designing a cover for print is different to designing one for that little thumbnail that you see when browsing online.

Printing a book is a fixed cost, so the main variable that determines margin is the cover price. A lower price might mean more sales, but not necessarily. This introduces another variable into the equation - the page count.

A book of 100 pages might cost *2 to print, and a book of 500 pages might cost *6 to print. I've used * as a generic currency symbol here.

However, when you look on Amazon, you see that all of the books in your genre are in the range of *5 to *10. Clearly you can't price a 500 page book at *5, because you'd make a loss on each one you sell. But if you price it at *15, you potentially reduce sales.

When someone walks into a book shop and picks up your book, the size of it communicates perceived value. The thicker it is, the more the reader thinks it is worth, up to a point, which is the size at which the reader decides that they can't be bothered to read something that big.

If you want a light holiday read, you don't buy War & Peace.

If you want a 'ten tips to being a great manager' type book, you don't want something that will take you 6 months to read.

And a book on speed reading? How thick should that be?

So I think that what authors - and publishers - are doing is increasing margins by making books smaller. Take half your content out and save it for your next book.

This creates a problem for anyone with a 500 page book - although Amazon does list a book's page count, do you look at it when you're choosing a book? Do you use it to determine the value of a book?

Probably not. You probably just look at the price and assume that all of the books are about the same size...

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