I’ve read that writing is only half the job. After that comes editing and getting published. I still hope that the writing part is the harder half, but on the other hand this is also the half I am most experienced with.

Let me tell you: I don’t like dealing with established procedures and gatekeepers, so I have not at all been looking forward to sending in unsolicited proposals in the hopes that someone will read it rather than sending 230 papers worth on manuscript into the incinerator or trying to find an agent which can get me through to the larger publishing houses. To me it sounds too much like filing job applications.

After rejection #1 that the book was not believed to appeal to a sufficiently wide audience (which is what big publishers are all about), I could kinda see the point (although in my mind it is just a matter of time), so I looked into alternatives.

One alternative which was quite romantic and seemed fairly appealing to me was to do everything myself. Apparently it does not require that much practice to bind a book so well as to make it indistinguishable from a professional binding. The cool factor of writing, printing, binding, publishing, and marketing the entire book from scratch seemed appealing.

It also seemed like a lot of work. Also it would take up a lot of premium space with duplex laser printers, saber cutters, automatic folding machines, and book presses. And it would cost money.

Currently, I am look at print on demand publishing which seems more suitable for a niche book. It scales very well whether the book sells 5 copies or 50,000. The only thing I have to do here is 1) Write it 2) Edit it 3) Design the cover 4) Set a price 5) Upload the files.

Done this way, I figure I would go for a 6×9 paperback (anyone want hardcover?) which will then be about 235 pages long.

The fun part is that I can decide the sales price myself. Normally a big publishing company will pay royalties of 8-15%. Since I am a first time author my cut would be in the low end of this, so say 10% to make calculations easy. If the list price is $14.95, that’s $1.49. Now give the agent 15% which leaves $1.27. Give social security 15%, the State of California 10%, and the IRS 15% and that leaves me 75 cents per book or about one beer per book.

Not a whole lot. Seeing as I like money that’s actually fairly disappointing. Even if we raise the price of the book to $30, that would only raise my after agent after tax take to $1.5 or about two beers.

Conversely, using a PoD publisher my cut would be substantially higher. By substantially I mean 200–1000% or so. Now we’re talking six-packs and cases. At a low price point most of the sales price would go to the printer. At the high price point most of the sales price would go to me.

I have thus been trying to figure out a fair price, unsuccessfully. It is clear that books are not priced according to any inherent value. There may be a book which can save you, say $2000, yet nobody is willing to pay $500 for a book even though he’d net $1500 from reading it. (The same person wouldn’t blink to hire an expert for $500 to save $2000 though.) Balance sheet pricing clearly doesn’t work.

Pricing using a wage method fails as well. 100,000 words is 250 blog posts which is about one year worth of blogging. Since the book is written to a much higher quality than the blog, I would estimate having spent about 750 hours hammering at the keyboard. Add the research as well and I have no idea. How, clearly, if it sells 5,000 copies and I only make $2 a piece, it would be hard to justify writing books as a source of income. Even I couldn’t make a living this way.

Being clueless about value, I use the same method as many people do to evaluate stocks. I compare to similar books and just go from there. Unfortunately, as well shall see below, this does not solve the problem.

My book has 235 pages or about 100,000 words.

Comparing to ebooks (which usually comes with extras like mp3 files, etc.) we have

Comparing to paper books we have

I’m not sure I can conclude much from these numbers. Quantitatively, in terms of content count ebooks are priced much higher (and perhaps more fairly) than paper books, although smaller books seem to cost less, I think the pricing has more to do with the size of the print runs (presuming that ebooks sell in limited quantities, generally). High priced books seem to come from smaller publishers and low priced books seem to come from bigger publishers. This makes sense insofar everybody is trying to get paid the same regardless of how many copies it sells (wage style).