How Page Count Affects Royalties
Ever wonder how to increase royalties for the print version of a book? I would hazard a guess I would get a resounding yes from most authors. Royalties sit right at the top of the list of concerns when publishing a book.
Of course, the obvious way is to sell more books. Another is to increase the price of the book. Still, are these the only options or is there another factor that might affect the money we earn, that can’t be fixed by additional sales or higher prices?
It is not unusual to find the culprit is the typography or interior design of the book. Margins, fonts and font size, word and line count, tracking, kerning, and line spacing are all variables that impact the total number of pages.
For an author, the page count is critical for one primary reason: page count drives print costs. The higher the print costs, the lower the royalties.
To determine the impact of page count, I set up an experiment. Using a 6”x9” book priced at $12.99 and different page counts, I plugged the values into the royalty calculator for Kindle Direct Publishing.
The first column represents the revenue from the sale of the book on an Amazon website. The figures in the ED (Expanded Distribution), column is the revenue from a sale by other retailers. The royalty will be lower due to the additional fees charged by the secondary distributor.
Pages Royalty ED royalty
250 $3.95 $1.35
275 $3.65 $1.05
300 $3.35 $0.75
325 $3.05 $0.45
A change of seventy-five (75) pages accounted for a loss of $0.90 per book in royalties for both categories. This is not the only financial loss to an author. Here’s why. Using the same values, I identified the print cost for a single book and the purchase of 50 books.
Pages Single 50 copies
250 $3.85 $192.50
275 $4.15 $207.50
300 $4.45 $222.50
325 $4.75 $237.50
As the page count increased, so did the print cost. The seventy-five (75) extra pages lost the author $0.90 in royalties and added an additional $0.90 per book in print fees. Moreover, the damage does not stop there. The additional seventy pages (75) pages will increase the price an author pays for 50 books by $45.
It would seem seventy-five pages is a significant shift in the page count and not realistic. Or is it?
Using one of my manuscripts and with the following simple changes, I added eighty-seven pages.
*Added .1 to the inside and outside margin that accounted for an extra 12 pages.
*Changed the line spacing from 1.1 to 1.2 and added 23 pages.
*Changed the font size from .11 pt. to .12 pt. for another 52 pages.
It is easy to see how the change in just one element of typography impacted the page count. With so many variables, deciding on the best combination can be a daunting experience.
An easy technique for designing the format for the manuscript is to copy and paste two pages of text into a separate word document. Change the page layout to the book size for the manuscript. Then experiment with different fonts, font sizes, margins, and line spacings. Working with two pages of text allows the text to either shift up or down.
Make a single change, then highlight the text on the first page, and check the word count at the bottom of the page. Divide the number of words in the manuscript by the word count on the experimental page. This will provide an estimate of the number of pages for your manuscript. For example, if the word count is 88,000, and there are 315 words on the test page, the approximate page count will be 279 pages.
This method allows an author to judge the appearance and balance for different configurations, and compare the page count, without a significant change to the entire manuscript.
The key is to balance readability versus page count. For the reader, it is providing a book that is enjoyable to read, and for the author—it is not leaving money on the table.