POD SECRETS REVEALED: List Prices, Royalties and Author Discounts

When authors are researching POD publishers, they often just look at the setup fees, glance at the royalties (not knowing what they’re a percentage of), and go from there. Unfortunately, they don’t always think about asking what the list price of their book will be, don’t understand how the royalty structure works or when royalties will be paid, and don’t always ask how much they’ll have to pay for copies they purchase themselves after the book is ready to sell.

Many POD publishers now charge up to a thousand dollars or more to get a book to market. Some then charge way more than the market will bear for the finished books. I’ve wondered in the past why they do this because overpricing a book ultimately hurts sales. But, since they’ve already gotten so much money out of the author up front, maybe they just don’t care about subsequent sales? Or maybe they think the book won’t sell anyway so they might as well get as much as they can out of each copy that does sell, perhaps being bought only to the author and their friends and family members? Perhaps most POD publishers believe this because they publish just about everything coming over the e-transom, no matter how bad a book is? (NOTE: Booklocker.com screens manuscripts for quality and sales potential.)


The information below is based on the least expensive package offered by each publisher on similar offers targeting U.S. authors. Fees include interior formatting (based on a 200-page book), original cover design with up to 5 images, print proof, ebook creation, up to 25 interior photos/graphics, an ISBN, barcode, a listing on the publisher’s website and distribution by Ingram, all within 6 weeks.


The list price is the minimum offered by the publisher for a 248-page, 6 x 9 paperback book. Some POD publishers force authors to use specific list prices. Others have minimums and allow authors to price their books higher, if they wish.


Some POD publishers pay royalties based on the list price, some pay royalties based on their net profit, and others provide confusing formulas that are very difficult to decipher.


The author’s discounted unit prices listed below are based on the purchase of 100 copies.

BOOKLOCKER (Owned by the author of this article)

Setup: $517 (deduct $200 if submitting your own cover). Returning authors are only charged $149 setup fees on their second and subsequent books.

List: $14.95 minimum (Authors may, of course, price their books above the minimum)

Author Discounted Price: $7.92

Royalties: 35% for public sales through Booklocker.com; 15% through wholesalers/retailers/distributors


Setup: $999.00

List: $17.95 – $21.95

Author Discounted Prices: $9.87 – $12.07 (depending on list price chosen by author)

Royalties: 10% – 20% (author chooses)


Setup: $1131.00 (Deduct $450 if submitting your own cover)

List: $17.92 assuming the author chooses a $2 royalty per book (only 11%).

Author Discounted Price: $9.46 (manufacturing cost). No bulk discounts offered on orders of fewer than 250 copies (quotes in this article are for 100 copies).

Royalties: Author determines the royalty by choosing a specific price (see List Price above). Lulu’s commission above printing costs goes up as the author’s royalty increases.


Setup: $1324.00

List: $19.49 (NOTE: Trafford did not respond to an author’s request for information so the average list price provided here is from sample 6 x 9, 248-page books found on their website.)

Author Discounted Price: $10.71 (or 45% off the list price above)

Royalties: 10% – 20% (author chooses)


Setup: $1517.00

NOTE: AuthorHouse did not respond to an author’s request for information so the numbers provided here are from their website and/or our 2007 article on this topic.

List: “$10-$18” on AuthorHouse.com and “$14.50-$21.50” at bookstores, including Amazon.com.

Author Discount: $9.31? The author shared copies of all AuthorHouse emails and he nor we are sure exactly what the author’s price would be… nor is it clear if the author would get an additional discount for large quantity orders. See more below.

Royalties: “$0.70-$8.69 per book.” The AuthorHouse representative specifically stated, “Royalty is really not a part of our lexicon.” The author asked (more than once!) for a chart showing their list prices vs. royalties. They never sent it but instead sent examples and more marketing verbiage, even adding him to their spam list without his permission. Their system is beyond confusing! They quoted numerous prices and percentages, but the numbers were examples and weren’t based on the actual book size provided. Again, the author repeatedly asked for their list prices vs. royalties and it was never provided. The rep even apologized at one point, saying, “I apologize for being unable to state our policy clear enough.”

What was the question? It was, “Can you please give me the list prices with accompanying royalty percentage options for my 6 x 9, 248-page paperback?”

How hard can that be to answer?! Yet, they danced around the question and never sent the requested information! Does anyone else have their chart? We’d love to see it. It appears to be a closely guarded secret!


Setup: $1972.00

List: $19.99

Author Discounted Price: $10.00

Royalties: 25% for public sales through Xlibris.com; 10% through wholesaler/retailers/distributors. Pay them $249 extra if you want to be able to alter your list price and royalties. (Price above is their minimum.)

Next week, we’ll investigate how some POD publishers nickel and dime authors, and will compare the prices of those products/services to actual costs if the author obtained these items on their own.

Angela Hoy is the Publisher of WritersWeekly.com and co-owner of the POD firm BookLocker.com. WritersWeekly.com is the free marketing ezine for writers, which features new paying markets and freelance job listings every Wednesday. According to attorney Mark Levine, author of The Fine Print, BookLocker is: “As close to perfection as you’re going to find in the world of ebook and POD publishing. The ebook royalties are the highest I’ve ever seen, and the print royalties are better than average. BookLocker understands what new authors experience, and have put together a package that is the best in the business. You can’t go wrong here. Plus, they’re selective and won’t publish any manuscript just because it’s accompanied by a check. Also, the web site is well trafficked. If you can find a POD or epublisher with as much integrity and dedication to selling authors’ books, but with lower POD publishing fees, please let me know.”

Angela’s P.O.D. Secrets Revealed Series can be found HERE.

Got questions about Print On Demand and Self-publishing? Ask Angela.

Have a POD Book with another publisher? See if BookLocker can give you a better deal. (BookLocker offers “disgruntled author discounts” to those who want to move from other POD services.)

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