Struggling to choose a price for your paperback book on Amazon? Here are my personal thoughts on how to decide what price your book should sell for. Let’s start at the beginning.

Factors Influencing Paperback Price

Benefits of print on demand

Forgive what may be repetition: The primary benefit of Amazon’s print on demand model is that the author never needs to worry about the level of stock, as Amazon ensures that the book is permanently available for readers. The second benefit being that the impact of printing-costs and courier fees are both funded by the reader themselves. The cost of printing is no longer a burden the author bears.

This makes a difference when it comes to pricing your paperback. Without the worry of monitoring stock levels and arranging couriers, authors are free to potentially price the paperback higher.

Black & white vs colour

One of the biggest factors influencing Amazon’s print costs? Printing your book interior in colour. Aside from your book’s cover, which is always printed in colour, try rather print your book in B&W wherever possible. This helps keep the list price lower.

Choosing to print in colour to benefit just a few photographs at the end of the book results in the entire book interior being printed in colour. Amazon is unfortunately not (yet) smart enough to selectively print only a few pages in colour. It’s either all colour or all B&W.

Pricing sensitivities differ

This bit is for those author publishing from countries outside of the US or Europe. Remember, your readers might not always be from your home country. Readers from the US (or other First World countries) might not be as sensitive to book costs as we are. Whereas countries like South Africa see a consumer who is saving every penny – to spend on candles during load-shedding – a reader from the US is likely to not give a second thought to the cost of a professionally published book.

Changing your mind

Pricing can be changed in within a few clicks. This means a paperback list price can always be adjusted downwards later if your KDP sales reports are making you a little sad. (How to update your paperback pricing.)

eBooks vs paperback royalty rates

When it comes to deciding a list price for eBook editions, Amazon guides the author’s hand by paying better royalty rates for books priced between $2.99 and $9.99 (70% instead of 35%). Pricing for the paperback, however, can feel more open-ended as Amazon rather pays the author a flat rate of 60% of the list price, less the cost of printing.

Paperback royalty rates

Before choosing a final book cost, it’s important to understand how Amazon pays you per sale of each paperback. Simply put, paperback royalty rates from Amazon = (60% x list price) – printing costs = royalty earned.

Paperback pricing example

  • Your chosen list price is $15.
  • Your book is a 333-page paperback.
  • Printed with black ink sold on the US marketplace.
  • Printing cost of $4.85

Your royalty calculation = (0.60 x $15) – $4.85 = $4.15 earned per sale

Read more on paperback royalties.

Now that we better understand how Amazon calculates royalties, here are my thoughts on different pricing strategies.

Choosing a Paperback Price

METHOD 1: A direct translation

Simply take the local sale price of your book, converting it to the Dollar equivalent. This is not a bad option; however, it has one obvious drawback 👉 Amazon’s printing costs for paperback are not as competitive as most local printers.

Printing your book in B&W will help keep the cost of printing (and by extension the list price) competitive,  however any author longing to be printed in colour is bound to be disappointed when seeing the cost of printing, in either standard or premium colour ink from Amazon.

Using a direct conversion example, a book sold locally in South Africa @ R250 could be listed at the equivalent dollar cost of $14. Yeah, our conversion currently hurts more than normal (R17.75 = $1)

METHOD 2: Browse the shelves

A second pricing methodology would to be browse the shelves of Amazon, stalking your competitors. Grab a cup ☕ + pen and jot down the prices for the books populating the top 10 spots of your shelf. What is the average list price? Does that seem like a viable price for your title?

Here’s a link the bestsellers (in print) on Amazon. Happy hunting.

METHOD 3: Choose your royalties, not list price

Putting aside the need to price competitively, an easier option for most authors is simply to decide on the royalties they would like to earn for each paperback sold.

So, if you want to earn $4 (R70) after the sale of each paperback, you could simply adjust the list price to ensure that the royalties match the amount you would like to earn.

Amazon’s Print Cost + Royalty Calculator (Online)

I am hoping you are now a little more comfortable around how to choose your paperback’s price. Let’s do a quick check to make sure your numbers balance. Amazon has a handy online calculator for those of you needing to know precise printing costs before publishing your paperback. Here is what you need to have ready.

  • Book Type = Paperback. (As opposed to hardcover)
  • Interior Type = Either B&W or colour.
  • Paper type = Either white or cream.
  • Page count = Total page count the pages of your print PDF.
  • List price = An example list price.

Have everything ready? Here is a link to the calculator provided by Amazon.

Additional Pricing Resources

👉 Want to know how Amazon actually calculates the cost of printing a paperback?

👉 Further Reading on Pricing from Amazon KDP