Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Why are books so expensive?

People see books at boot sales (garage sales) for a few pennies - certainly $1.00 would be the top price. In bookstores the retail price seems high in comparison to buying them used or borrowing from a friend makes us stop short.

Libraries buy 2 - 3 copies of the best sellers at a discounted price and hundreds of people read them, but there was only 2-3 purchased and that means only the revenue from 2-3 came to the publisher and eventually to the author, if the advance had been met.

All of that expected loss revenue is factored into the list price of the book - exactly what I did when I priced my books to go onto Amazon.com. (BTW, my books will be on sale on my website in June for my birthday gift to you.)

It is far too complicated to talk about wholesale pricing with co-ops in bookstores without making this a long post (and online retail is another set of formulas). Leave it to say for now that the math would make any reasonable person's head spin.

Even when large advances are not paid, there is still the staff to pay, electricity and plumbing, building rent or mortgage payments with property taxes, building insurance and all the employment taxes, the computers, the special equipment plus the standard copy, fax, printers, water coolers and furniture... to be bought or paid for in any business, even publishers.

Since there are few bestsellers in comparison to the number of books published in a year (estimated by one source as 20,000 a day), those are the ones who carry the weight of the budget. Without them, risks couldn't be taken on debut writers or new twists to old genres.

In today's publishing industry the digital explosion has meant that not only are print book formatted by experts in fonts and layout, but digital books (eBooks) require a unique layout. (Yes, I know there are some who think a pdf version of the print book is an eBook - it isn't exactly so.)

And there is a web presence element that is in the budget of any business, especially publishers. Joyce, my web designer, and I have been working for months on the website for Cactus Rain Publishing. We started last fall. After we drafted two designs then we had to have the logo designed professionally. Joyce helped and there is a blog on that somewhere. Laura did the graphic design work on the logo.

This past weekend Joyce and I worked on the fourth draft of the website template. We have spent hours of conversations and emails discussing what the site needed to achieve and how it should function.

Above is the tweaked version four. What do you think?


  1. Oh, that is a question I ask myself over and over?
    And then they say kids don't read. How could they, when books are more expensive than to go buy sweets or a videogame, in some cases.
    That's what it's like in Arg, anyway.

  2. Ella, and when you look at the dollar per use, the videogame is going to be used over and over. How often do we reread a book? Of course, the fewer sales, the more of the budget a good selling book has to carry. Is the answer eBooks and eReaders? Because I was so slow to decide on the VHS or Beta players, it sorted itself out and I didn't buy the wrong one. The question is, is a universal format coming for eReaders? We still have PCs and MACs. But those have each found their particular audience.

  3. Hi hon, I think the website looks a bit too 'busy' but I love the colours and fonts.

  4. Thanks, DJ. Anyone else with comments?