How stepping up pricing and quality is the key to profitable print books

IngramSpark has dropped its annual distribution fees so authors now don’t have to pay a yearly charge to have their books made available through the company’s wide international network of 39,000 retailers and libraries.

I’ve always thought the so-called Global Market Access charge of $12 per title per year was particularly irritating, so it’s good news that IngramSpark has got round to axing it. The charge is still featured on the firm’s website, but presumably this is an oversight, as it has sent out emails proclaiming, ‘Say Goodbye to yearly distribution fees.’

It’s free to set up an IngramSpark account, but there is a charge for title set-up. This fee is $49 (£29) for print and ebook set up simultaneously, or the same fee of $49 for print only, while ebook-only costs $25 (£15).

The set-up cost is waived if you place an initial order of a minimum of 50 copies of your book. The cost will also be refunded if you place an order of 50 copies within 60 days of title set-up.

You can also save 20% on set-up costs if you sign up for a free 18-minute webinar which takes you though the IngramSpark publishing process.

IngramSpark is a publishing platform which aims to integrate print and ebook distribution. I’ve always considered it to be particularly good for its print-and-ship service as it offers excellent quality at good rates.

Here are some price examples for a 7 ins  x 5 ins paperback running to 180 pages, economy service, including commercial shipping:

  • 50 copies: $179 ($3.58 per book)

  • 100 copies: $339 ($3.39 per book)

  • 200 copies: $677 ($3.38 per book)

  • 500 copies: $1,321 ($2.64 per book)

  • 1,000 copies: $2,381 ($2.38 per book)

For the UK, the corresponding prices, including shipping, would be:

  • 50 copies: £120 (£2.40 per book)

  • 100 copies: £227 (£2.22 per book)

  • 200 copies: £454 (£2.27 per book)

  • 500 copies: £882 ($1.76 per book)

  • 1,000 copies: £1,630 (£1.63 per book)

IngramSpark has a very wide range of book sizes and finishing options available and a fast, easy-to-use print-and-ship calculator to add up the costs for your choice.

This is, of course, only good for you if you have a book which you can sell direct from your own website or through other websites or perhaps at conferences, seminars, etc. You could also use the books to sell direct to local booksellers, send out review copies to publications, use for other promotional purposes or send to family and friends as presents.

Even at the level of just 50 copies, these prices per copy are still very good and the price break becomes particularly appealing at the 500 mark where the cost per book drops by 21% from an order for 200 copies.

You could start off with a small order of, say, 50 books and gauge demand from there, so you wouldn’t be stuck with a box of books in your garage that you find you can’t sell.

The market for print books is still strong and, apart from readers who prefer print, there are also many readers who like to buy a print copy of an ebook they’ve enjoyed or found useful, so the market could be wider than you might think initially.

Selling direct has the great advantage that you can set your own price and keep all the revenue, although you will have packing and mailing costs.

IngramSpark also offers print-on-demand services, but it’s important to consider the issue of pricing very carefully in this sector.

For example, using the same 180-page 7 ins x 5 ins paperback and setting a list price of $10 with a 50% wholesale discount, the payment to the publisher per POD sale would work out at just $1.76, after a print charge of $3.24. The IngramSpark print charge for POD is perfectly fair as it’s pitched somewhere around the level of ordering 250 copies print and ship.

Raising the price of your book could bring in considerably more revenue. For example, making the list price $12 would increase the payment to the publisher to $2.76, as the print cost stays the same and the $2 increase is split evenly between bookseller and publisher.

On a list price of $15, publisher compensation would rise to $4.76, so you can see that raising your list price by 50% from $10 to $15 actually produces a whopping 170% increase in payment to the publisher. The question is just how much readers would be prepared to pay for your book.

I believe $15 is a fair price for a well produced print book offering good entertainment or information, but the key really is to have high production values to justify a higher price. Non-fiction is generally the area where higher prices are more accepted as useful information has a perceived value and print books still dominate non-fiction although ebooks are making inroads in some sectors.

For ebooks, IngramSpark isn’t attractive as it offers 40% of list and agency price with Kindle opt-in or 45% without. It’s easy to go direct with Kindle and Kobo for 70% royalties and Nook for 65%, or go though a distributor such as Draft2digital, which charges only 10% of list price.