623: Book Money

A Thousand Things to Talk About
623: Book Money

How much are you willing to pay for a book?

Full episode script

Depending on which article you read, publishing is an industry that is either dying a slow and painful death, or is coming back with a serious vengeance.


As with all statistics, it really depends on how you measure things. After all, with softcover, hardcover, ebooks and more — yes, even coloring books — a “book” can be a lot of different things.


And the math of the publishing business is just that – a business. And often, the books that sell very, very, very well are the ones that help support the books that don’t.


Author Kameron Hurley broke it down on her blog, saying, quote:

The average book sells 3000 copies in its lifetime (Publishers Weekly, 2006).

Yes. It’s not missing a zero.

But wait, there’s more!

The average traditionally published book which sells 3,000 in its entire lifetime in print only sells about 250-300 copies its first year.

The average digital only author-published book sells 250 copies in its lifetime.

It’s not missing a zero.

If you sell fewer than 1500 copies at a traditional publisher, you’re generally considered a commercial disaster by any publisher but a very, very tiny one who paid you an advance less than $1000.


And though the cost of a book – printed or digital – is set by a lot more than what the author wants to take home in percentages. Copyediting, cover art, marketing, and more all play in to the price – as does the expected price.


In March of 2018, the School Library Journal and Follett collate the average price of books for 2017 and 2018. Those prices for hardcover, paperback, and mass-market paperback all vary. For children’s titles, it varies between $6.84 and $18.51. Young adult titles vary between $8.99 and $24.13, and adult titles between $9 and $26.58.

Ebooks, on the other hand, tend to stick between $2.99 and $9.99 each, because that is the range where Amazon and Barnes and Noble pay royalties at a much higher rate– between 65 and 70 percent.

This script may vary from the actual episode transcript.