Small Press Publishing for Profit, Part 4: ‘The Variations’

The fourth installment of a series in which Valley Press founder Jamie McGarry reveals his tried-and-tested formula for making a living as a self-employed literary publisher. This week: pricing books, print economics, and overheads.

A complete selection of titles published by Valley Press between 2011 and 2015 — some big, some small. (Photo: David Chalmers)
  • 72–96 pages: £7.99
  • 50–70 pages: £6.99
  • 28–48 pages: £5.99

Print budget = (p ÷ 5) × n

Factor ‘p’ is the price we’ve set for the book (the ‘recommended retail price’, or RRP), selected from my list above, based on page count (and rounded up, or things get silly). Factor ‘n’ is the number of copies we need to sell to make our salary, which as I’ve described previously, could be set at 200 to make a respectable full-time wage. This formula, and sticking to the resulting budget, ensures that we never spend more than 20% of the RRP on printing — it keeps the whole model afloat. A case study:

Print budget = ((p ÷ 5) × n) - 73.5

You’ll struggle to print enough books with overheads dragging you down, especially at the higher end of each price bracket, so think very carefully before taking on any additional expenses. I actually have a note on the wall by my desk saying: ‘every pound not spent is a pound earned’. That’s in black biro … but wasn’t enough, so I stuck another note saying in red felt-tip: ‘DO I NEED TO SPEND THIS?’ Making a profit requires a little ruthlessness, I find.

Founder @valleypress. Have mostly written here about small press publishing, but am starting to branch out. Stay with me, people!

Founder @valleypress. Have mostly written here about small press publishing, but am starting to branch out. Stay with me, people!