From above of composed colorful paperback novels with colorful covers and inscriptions placed in rows on white marble surface

Bargain or Bust: The Average Cost of Paperback Books

Like any other product, a lot goes into publishing your book’s paperback edition. Factors like production costs, market demand, competition, and even the author’s reputation play a role. It’s a careful balance of understanding the average cost of printing a paperback book, the competition, and what your audience is willing to shell out. 

So you may be asking…

How much does the average paperback book cost?

In 2017, a 200-page book cost between $9.99 and $18.99. 

But for 2023, the pricing has changed slightly. 

For a 365-page book, the range is $13.95 to $17.95. 

That’s a modest jump.

So, if you’re getting set to publish your own novel, aiming for around $16.96 won’t be too much. But Amazon has set the standard — authors are paid a 35% royalty for ebooks priced between $0.99 and $2.98

While those priced between $2.99 and $9.99 earn the author a 70% royalty. 

At this point, you get the idea about book prices.


How should you price your book?

White price Label

Your mind may be full of questions and doubts. 

Should you go high, knowing the quality of your writing? 

Or should you go low, hoping to attract more readers with a budget-friendly book? 

Math may be the best tool to solve this.

Here are some of our examples…

Print book pricing formula

Let’s start with the average cost of paperback print books. 

When deciding your price, consider factors like the cost of printing and distribution, retail margins, your desired royalties, and what readers are willing to pay. 

The cost of printing and delivery for your book is $2.00. 

If we consider the strategy of pricing the book at least eight times the cost, you will price your book at:

$2.00 * 8 = $16.00

You would price your print book at around $16.00.

You may also consider…

Retail book pricing formula

Retailers typically take a discount, which can go up to 40%. 

If you want to make a certain amount per book, you need to price it high enough to cover the retailer’s cut and your expenses. 

Now, let’s say you want to make a royalty of $3.00 per book after accounting for a retailer’s cut of 40%. 

You must also consider the fixed handling fee of $1.00 per book and a $0.02 per page charge for a 200-page book.

Total costs (printing + handling + per page charge) = $2.00 (print) + $1.00 (handling) + $0.02*200 (page charge) = $2.00 + $1.00 + $4.00 = $7.00.

To calculate your retail price, you’d need to add your desired royalty to the cost:

Cost + Royalty = Retail price without retailer’s cut.

This gives us $7.00 (fee) + $3.00 (royalty) = $10.00.

However, this still needs to account for the retailer’s cut. 

We know the retailer wants 40% of the retail price, so the $10.00 we’ve calculated so far only represents 60% of the final price.

To find the final retail price (100%), we need to divide $10.00 by 0.60 (60% expressed as a decimal):

$10.00 / 0.60 = $6.67 + $10 = $16.67

To have a royalty of $3.00 per book after accounting for the retailer’s cut and your costs, you should set your retail price at around $16.67.

Now there are a lot of types of books to consider the price.

Here are some of our suggestions for the type of book you have…

Pricing a nonfiction book

One rule of thumb is to ensure the price of your book covers the costs to produce it. 

These costs can range from $2,000 to $4,000, including editing, formatting, proofreading, and book cover design. 

You should divide this number by your projected sales for a base price. 

Pricing a fiction book

Page count matters. 

An average trade paperback novel (about 375 pages) is often priced between $13.95 and $17.95. 

The key here? Look at what similar books are selling for and find your sweet spot.

Pricing a children’s book

Children’s book prices are slightly different due to illustrations, color printing, and the premium for hardcovers. 

You’ll need to consider and compare these factors with what’s out there. 

The range can range from about $10 to $20 for a print book.

Now let’s talk about…

The role of publishers and their pricing strategies

person pointing at sticky note paper on whiteboard wall

Think of it as taking a look at the behind-the-scenes of a movie. 

You get to see all the props, costumes, and rehearsing for the scene. 

It’s the same with publishers; there’s a ton of work, strategies, and decisions we rarely know. 

It’s a carefully thought-out process.

Especially with the…

Pricing strategy and influence of volume sold

Pricing can vary widely and depend on different factors, including the type and size of the market, genre, author’s reputation, and the paperback book’s production costs.

If a publisher can anticipate a high volume of sales (like in the case of an established author or a highly anticipated book), they can set a higher price due to the demand. 

However, they could also set a slightly lower price to encourage more sales and increase revenue, banking on the higher volume to compensate for the lower per-unit profit.

In contrast, for less-known authors or niche genres, where the volume might be lower, the price per unit may be higher to ensure profitability. 

It’s a balancing act between price and volume.

The publisher must find the sweet spot where multiplying the expected volume by the price yields the highest potential earnings.

And this also affects the….

Markup and wholesale fees influence retail price

Markup and wholesale fees significantly affect the retail price of a book.

Markup is the amount added to the cost price of goods to cover overheads and profit. 

The retailer usually applies it, and it’s a percentage of the cost that the retailer pays the publisher or 

distributor for the book. 

This percentage varies but often ranges between 40% and 50% in the book industry. 

This covers the retailer’s costs, such as rent, salaries, and utilities, and contributes to their profit.

On the other hand, wholesale fees are the costs incurred by publishers when selling their books to retailers or wholesalers. 

These fees discount the recommended retail price (RRP) and can range from 40% to 60%.

To understand how this impacts the retail price, consider a book with an RRP of $20. 

A retailer might buy it from the publisher at a 50% discount ($10), then sell it in their store for the full RRP ($20). 

The difference of $10 is the retailer’s gross margin, out of which they need to cover their costs and make a profit.

In essence, the markup and wholesale fees represent the difference between the price at which the retailer buys the book from the publisher and the price at which it is sold to the customer. 

The following are key components that would make the book successful:

Cost of paperback book production

This includes costs for editing, designing, marketing, printing, and distributing the book and overhead costs such as salaries and rent.

Market demand

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Publishers must also gauge the market demand for a book. 

If a book is expected to be highly popular, publishers may decide to price it higher, capitalizing on its demand.

Author royalties

Publishers must account for author royalties when determining a book’s price. 

This usually forms a percentage of either the list price of the book or the net worth that the publisher receives.

Retailer discount

Publishers often need to offer discounts to retailers who will sell the book. 

The level of these discounts can significantly affect the book’s final price.

Ebook pricing

As the production cost of an ebook is lower, they are often priced less than physical books. 

However, publishers must still cover the costs of digital rights management and platform distribution fees.


Publishers also consider competing publishers’ pricing strategies and similar books’ prices in the market. 

It’s important to only price a book compared to its competition, as this could deter potential buyers.

Dynamic pricing

Some publishers also use dynamic pricing strategies, where the price of a book is adjusted over time. 

For instance, a book might be launched at a higher price, which is then gradually lowered as the demand decreases.

Geographical pricing

In a global marketplace, publishers must also consider differences in purchasing power and market conditions across different countries. 

Hence, they may adopt differential pricing, where the same book is priced differently in different markets.

Subscription models

With the digital revolution, many publishers have moved towards subscription-based models where users pay a recurring fee for access to a range of content. 

This has its own pricing strategies and considerations, requiring an understanding of customer lifetime value and churn rates.

Now the last thing on your list is…

Considerations for the final price

closeup of purchase receipt

While it’s true that traditional publishing routes can eat up a fair chunk of the revenue, self-publishing has its unique costs. 

You’re playing author, publisher, publicist, and many more roles. 

It’s a one-person show that needs a pretty penny to pull off.

So the first thing you should do is to figure out if…

The price is right…or is it?

Setting the right price for your book is like playing a game show; instead of winning a brand new car, you’re trying to win readers. 

The perfect price shouldn’t be too high to make readers hesitant but also not too low that you get short-changed for your hard work.

Factors like the genre, the length of the book, and the prices of similar titles should be considered.

Readers want to feel they’re getting their money’s worth – if they invest their time and money into your book, they want to be sure it’s a journey worth taking.

Take a peek at your competition. 

What’s their average price? 

Doing your homework lets you know the price of your book without undervaluing your work or putting off potential readers.

And ask yourself…

How much can it potentially make?

On average, self-published authors can expect to earn between $1 and $5 per book sold.

So is that how much we would earn?

The per-book income might not sound like a fortune, but volume can change that.

Imagine selling thousands or even tens of thousands of copies. Suddenly, that little $1 to $5 per book looks much better.

The numbers game is fickle. 

One day, sales are speeding upward; the next, you could watch the line roll down across your chart. 

It’s a rollercoaster, but if you’re lucky and have a story that really resonates, you could be looking at a nice payday.

You may also want to…

List your goals

This may start with questions.

Are you aiming for a bestselling status or merely to share your story with a niche audience? 

Understanding your goals is crucial in shaping your self-publishing strategy. 

This isn’t just about having a plan. 

It’s about having a plan perfectly aligned with your goals.

If you’re targeting a niche audience, your strategy might focus on connecting with those specific readers through targeted marketing and personal interactions.

Your goals will direct how you approach self-publishing, from the first draft to the final product.

And this may affect you while you read the…

Expense reports

Like any venture, self-publishing comes with its fair share of expenses. 

These include proofreading, editing, cover design, formatting, and marketing. 

You can do many of these tasks yourself if you’re willing to learn, but if you want better results, be prepared to invest. 

This investment ensures your book appears as polished as possible when it hits the (virtual) shelves.

You’ll also want to invest a lot in marketing. Social media, email newsletters, promotional events — a whole world of marketing strategies. 

They can be as creative and fun as you want them to be. Use it wisely! And if you need a hand in marketing or any other step in the publication process, Leaders Press has you covered. Learn more about our services here.

And this may be your chance to improve by…

Stalking your competitors

No, not in a weird way! 

We are only asking you to pick up a thing or two from their strategies to potentially give you the shortcut to your own big win.

Look at their pricing, their covers, and their marketing efforts. 

Learn from their choices, what works and what doesn’t, and use that insight to create a tantalizing image that will have customers swooning over your offerings.

Learning from those who’ve been down the road can provide invaluable insights and even help you avoid a few potholes.

After all, it’s all just…

Working on what’s best

It’s all about balancing your needs as an author with your readers. 

You’ve got to make a living, but you also want to reach as many people as possible with your words. 

The math and the money are essential, but your content matters most.

At the end of the day, you need to find a price that makes everyone happy.

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