Setting a Retail Price

Setting a Retail Price

There are three major factors that affect a retail price:

  • Retail discount
  • Print costs
  • Profit amount

A fourth consideration would be the similar pricing in your book’s genre. While it doesn’t directly affect your book’s pricing, it should be a consideration in your final decision.

Retail (and Warehouse) Discount

Retailers want a cut of your retail price in order to carry your book. This is called a Retail Discount. Normal percentage ranges from 40% to 55%. So if your retail discount is 50%, and you sell your book for $20, the retailer (Amazon, Barnes and Noble, etc.) will buy that book from the distributor (Ingram) for $10.

[See “Selling Price” Sidebar]

When you enter your retail price in IngramSpark’s interface, you will notice this discount is actually called a “Warehouse Discount”. This is because the warehouse (Ingram) needs to take a cut to handle and ship your orders out. The warehouse discount between Ingram and retailers is unknown as they have their own individual contracts; however, an average you can use for your purposes is 15%.

What discount do we recommend?

It depends. If you plan to mostly sell your book online, you can go for the lower 40%. But if you want your book to be attractive to physical or local bookstores and/or libraries, you’ll want to go for the 55% warehouse discount.


Because the online stores operate off of virtual inventory. [See “Virtual Inventory” Sidebar] Their inventory is pulled from a computer database so your book will most likely be shown as available for sale in spite of the low discount.

But physical stores (mostly independent owners) and libraries pick and choose which books they want on their shelves. They have a relationship with the warehouse (who takes approximately 15% from what you set) to provide them with books. So if you set your warehouse discount to 55%, the warehouse takes 15% and gives the retailer/library 40%, which is usually their minimum.

We personally recommend setting your warehouse discount to 55%. Why? Due to technological changes you can now become your own independent bookstore. So if you put the warehouse discount at 55%, Amazon will most likely sell your book for full price, but you can offer your book for less by dipping into that 40% discount as an independent bookstore. 

Selling Price

Retailers buy books from the distributor at the set retail discount. In the example (on the left) for $10. They have the right to sell that book for any price they want. Most retailers will sell the book at the recommended retail price, in the example $20. Some may sell it below the suggested retail price, say for $15. Some may sell it above the retail price, say for $25.

The amount the retailer sells the book for does not affect how much money you, the author, receive as royalty because they bought the book for the set retail discount assigned to the book. The money you receive is from the amount they pay the distributor.

Virtual Inventory

Someone’s selling my book for a ridiculously high price!

These are mercenary resellers that just hope someone will be dumb enough to try to buy your book from them. As mentioned before, retailers do have the right to sell your book for whatever they want. But…

They do not actually have a copy of your book.

Retailers (legitimate ones like Amazon and mercenary ones) have access to a database of books. They do not have a warehouse of physical books. The mercenary retailers then claim they can get ahold of a copy of your book and then if they get a sale they will try to get a copy afterwards.

Not having physical copies of your book but saying it is available is called virtual inventory. This is what print-on-demand is based on. Your books are printed after they are ordered.

Print cost

It costs money to print your book. With print-on-demand (POD) technology that print cost is built into the retail price of your book. Printers will not allow your retail price to go below a certain amount so that they can make sure they are paid.

Your book’s print cost is set on the options you choose for your book: hardback vs. paperback, black & white vs. full-color, trim size, printing/paper quality, etc.

Here is IngramSpark’s retail price calculator.

Here is KDP’s retail price calculator.

How do I know how many pages my book will be?

You won’t know for sure until the book is finished being designed. Many factors affect page count. For example, a 50,000 word fiction story will have a very different page count than a 50,000 word poetry book. Font size, font style, page margins, etc. also play important rolls.

For a rough, ballpark calculation:

  • For a 5.5 x 8.5 book, you can use 250 words per page (or 26 lines per page for poetry)
  • For a 6 x 9 book, you can estimate about 300 words per page (or 30 lines per page for poetry)

A few items to keep in mind:

  • Most authors write their manuscript on a 8.5 x 11 size page. This does not translate 1 for 1 in the finished book—especially for poetry. If in your writing program you can change the page size to what your final book will be with 1” margins, this will get you in a good ballpark to enter into the calculator.
  • Page count includes all pages, not just your main manuscript. Title pages, copyright pages, table of contents, author bio, necessary blank pages, etc. need to be included.
    (Note: for IngramSpark the last page—which will be a left-hand page—must be left blank…not even a period or doodle can be there.)
  • Most children’s book authors do not remember to plan for a title page, copyright page, and blank last page. Because they are mostly in full-color, remembering to add all the necessary extra pages in the calculation can affect your retail price.

Profit Amount

The third factor on how much your retail price should be is: how much money do you want to earn per sale.

This is a very personal question, and you are the only one who can answer this. What we can guide you with is with a few questions:

  • Can you sell more books with less of a profit, or do you think your book can handle a higher retail price and still have people wanting to buy it?
  • Look at other books in your same genre. Some genres are expected to cost more. Some genres expect a lower retail price.
  • Do you have an ebook version that you can put a lower retail price and then set your physical book at a higher price?

One strategy we recommend is not printing a retail price on your book. This way you can start with one retail price and if it doesn’t seem to be working you can go into your IngramSpark dashboard and change it.
(Note: retail prices do not change instantly. It can take between one to four weeks to have the retail price change permeate the entire book retail system.)


Setting your price

So, how do you set your retail price?

  • First is to visit the retail price calculator and plug in your book’s information—this will get you your print cost. (If your book has not been designed, enter your best guess. Once your design has finalized it is good to run the numbers once more.)
  • Think about how you want to market your book and enter the discount. (We recommend 55% for the flexibility it offers your book.)
  • Plug in your retail price and then hit the calculate button to find your profit.
  • Keep playing with the retail price and possibly the discount until you see a profit you are satisfied with.

Keep in mind that if you don’t print a retail price on your book, you can easily change the price in the future.

Inkwater is always here to help you set your retail price. Contact us for a consultation.


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