Increasing Your Book’s Production Value
What separates a $20 t-shirt from a $200 one? The quality? The prestige? The packaging? Does the manufacturer include bonuses with the $200 one to increase how much shoppers are willing to pay? These may not seem like relevant questions for an author to ask, but it’s useful to view the commercial world with wide-ranging curiosity. After all, principles and practices that apply to one industry can often carry across to publishing. Keep your feelers in the air and you can learn a lot from brands in all sorts of niches, whether they sell clothes, cars, software or books. It’s impossible to tell exactly which source will enrich your ability to increase your income.
Production is one such transferrable concept. After all, if you know how to increase production quality in general, you can increase revenue in any industry. As authors, we soon realise that we can’t simply publish an A4 Word document if we want readers to buy our work. Packaging it in a way that looks, feels and smells like a book is the only way to attract mainstream readers. If you’ve written a book, you’ve probably already started asking questions like, “How can I increase my production value?” Find the answer and you can not only create better art but also convince readers to part with more cash. The better the book, the more they’ll pay.
Any author who has listened to podcasts, read blog posts or taken courses on the subject of publishing understands that many readers wouldn’t pay much for an unedited, amateur-looking book. Hence, if you want to tempt them to part with cash, you need to hit those basic markers. Getting your work professionally edited, covered and formatted gets you a long way. But what happens when you’ve already done that for your work in eBook and paperback formats? Is there anything more can you do to stand out among your peers and charge even higher prices? Indeed there is, as you will discover in today’s post on increasing a book’s production value.
Release More Formats
An easy first step is to release more formats. If you think most indie authors already do this then it’s possible you follow a lot of top 1% authors and are living in an echo chamber. The reality is that most books only ever launch in one or two formats — eBook and paperback. Few go any further. Compare their retailer sales pages to those of leading titles, however, and you’ll notice that many of the market leaders are available in eBook, paperback, hardback, large print, digital audiobook and as an audio CD. Despite requiring little extra effort, this step makes those books look far more professionally produced, enabling their authors to sell at a higher price.
Releasing more formats isn’t just about looking more professional, either. It forces readers to contextualise a format relative to others. Say, for example, you release a book only as an eBook priced at $5.99. Some readers will think that’s a high price for an eBook. Release lots of formats, though, and the line-up will look like this:
Large Print: $14.99
Collectors’ Edition: $49.99
Hidden amidst the other formats, a $5.99 eBook suddenly doesn’t seem that expensive. As a result, readers become happy to pay a higher price for the same work. Retailers often limit what formats you can list on their sales pages, but there’s nothing to stop you from showcasing the full range for readers on your own website.
Get a Custom Run
Print-on-demand (POD) technology has made a huge difference to the publishing industry. Since its inception, it has enabled authors to publish without having to worry about start-up capital and order fulfilment. A reader simply buys a copy online, a manufacturing plant prints one copy, they take a cut, so does the retailer, then the author gets the profit. No work for the author. No upfront costs. Easy. However, while POD books are useful, the technology offers authors limited premium production options. Thus, if you want to produce beautiful books that feature elements POD production can’t achieve, you often need to pay for a traditional print run.
Choosing this unpopular path does require you to take a financial risk. However, if necessary, you could offset the risk by crowdfunding for a print run in advance. The extra production flexibility will help you turn a regular matte or glossy covered book into a multi-layered work of art readers will pay extra to own. Options include:
- Foils (a shiny layer added to select cover elements)
- Spot gloss (a glossy layer added to select matte cover elements)
- Painted page edges (either a solid colour or shiny gilding)
- Embossing (pressed elements that stick out of a cover)
- Leather binding (a leather cover wrapped around hardback boards)
Are these options cheap? Absolutely not. A print run can stretch between hundreds and tens of thousands of dollars. That said, paying for books upfront is worth it if you know you can sell enough copies to turn a profit.
Creating extra formats and getting a print run come with increased costs if you can’t do the extra work yourself or get funding. You don’t have to invest a fortune, though, to increase production value. Indeed, some authors emulate similar success by creating basic assets that require few extra skills and cost nothing to produce: namely, downloadable digital bonuses. Not everybody values a jewel-encrusted cover or extra formats anyway. Some readers prefer a minimalist home and value digital assets over physical ones. Hence, if you want to save money and appeal to this sort of audience, consider what bonuses you could create with your existing skills.
Say, for example, you’re adept at fine art. Could you draw a handful of A4 adult colouring pages, scan them and offer them as a freebie via a BookFunnel link in the back of your books? Alternatively, if you’re a quick writer, could you write a short story about a side character everyone loves? If not, how about easter egg resources? How long would it take you to write up some love letters that feature in a romance novel or case files for your hero-detective? Aim for something low effort and you don’t even have to invest a lot of time into increasing how valuable readers perceive your books to be. And if you’re unsure what they want, poll them in a newsletter.
Create a Community
Mainstream media outlets have increasingly focused on stats about disconnection in society over recent years. The average person spends more hours looking at devices, uncommunicating, than they did a decade ago. We work from home. We order groceries on apps. We even attend gym classes via home gym equipment. Optimising for convenience, we’ve willingly reduced our connections. Fortunately, though, as a creator, you can fix that by creating an environment that reinjects community into your readers’ lives. What’s more, many readers value community so much, they now see access to a support network through a creator as a brand perk.
You could facilitate your community on Facebook, Clubhouse, Zoom, in real life, or mix it up. Either way, readers appreciate the ability to talk to likeminded individuals. It doesn’t matter what subject acts as the launchpad for conversation, either. Your readers could be all about communal learning, as is the case in the SPF Community. Or they could come together once a month to solve a fictional murder mystery you create. All that matters is that you provide opportunities for connection. Create a community your readers can only access by finding a secret code in the back of a paid book and you can add untold value to the book and countless lives.
Increase Perceived Value
In all strategies mentioned so far, we’ve added actual value to books by offering something of substance: more expensive formats; shiny covers; downloadable bonuses; a community. But value is all about perception. Some consumers will pay extra purely due to branding. For example, graphic designers often pay a premium for Apple hardware because it’s branded as being designed for creators, despite having similar functionality to a Windows machine. And animal lovers will pay extra for Tesla’s “vegan leather” upholstery despite the material being plastic in layman’s terms. As British marketing guru Rory Sutherland recently said on the Diary of a CEO podcast:
“Psychology is a better area for exploration than rational improvement. Don’t make the Eurostar faster; make the journey more enjoyable. […] If it makes things feel more valuable, is it a con?”
Branding your work to increase its perceived value is tough but worth it. Take luxury watch brands like Rolex and Patek Philippe, for example. When they launch watches, they limit supply and create waitlists customers can join to ensure they don’t miss the next batch. What’s more, you can’t simply buy one if you get in early. Everyone has to apply. Yes, their approval rate could be 100%, but having a form at least creates the illusion of exclusivity, which enables both companies to charge thousands of dollars per watch. As an author, you could use similar tactics when launching eBooks with a “limited run” of easter egg links. Not only will your superfans pay more to get a limited copy, but they’ll also talk about the achievement to their friends, further advancing your reputation.
You might not have the time to try all these tactics when looking for options to increase your books’ production value. Fortunately, you don’t need them all to be successful. Even if you only use a few of these tips, they will help you boost the quality of your books and your readers’ perception of your brand, allowing you to charge more per book and increase the profit margins in your author business.
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