Sunday, January 11, 2009

Print on Demand (POD) and Pricing

The whole point of commercializing a book project is to generate income. When you decide to pursue POD or any other form of self-publication, you need to go beyond merely being an author. You then become a business manager, too.

As your own business manager, one of the biggest decisions you'll make is how to price your offering.

Pricing a POD or any other form of self-publication is an especially difficult task. As a business manager, you need to know the market for your offering. You need to examine comparables. Who or what competes with you? How many other alternatives are there to the product you offer? And finally, how does your current offering fit into your entire portfolio?

One problem that makes market research so difficult in the POD community is the amount of garbage produced by people who are just hoping to get rich quick or who have no ability to read and understand the market. Because the POD sector lets everyone and anyone publish at any price they wish, you may find it difficult to discern a serious piece with a reasonable price from a shoddy product offered by a goof-ball with unrealistic market expectations. You don't want to give your work away, but you don't want to completely price yourself out of your market either.

One thing that most POD vendors let you do is offer hard-cover, softback, and eBook formats for your work. Rather than offer your product in all forms from the beginning, you should consider a sequence of offerings, just as most publishers do with conventional works. Consider where your offering might compare to other works in the market and price your hard-cover accordingly. Give your work 6 to 12 months to sell. At the end of your hard-cover cycle, compare your actual results with your forecasts. Then consider how you might approach a softback pricing scheme, with a similar period of 6 to 12 months to sell. Finally, put your work out as an eBook, with whatever price adjustment you decide is necessary based upon your softback sales.

Pricing is not a one-time task for a manager working a self-published work. It's an ongoing process and demands careful attention to the broader market for works similar to the one you intend to offer. And it demands flexibility on your part should your initial read of the market be wrong.

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