Or any handmade item for that matter. Time and again, I’ve gotten on Etsy and seen people selling handbound books for what seems to me to be barely more than their materials cost. STOP IT! PAY YOURSELF A DECENT WAGE! I don’t care if you would’ve been making no money otherwise, but you are a (at least somewhat) skilled craftsman and you need to charge as much. What is a decent wage? Not minimum wage, that’s for sure. I’m going to be candid, which is something not a lot of online sellers are willing to do, and tell you that I pay myself $50/hour, and I fully intend to give myself a raise at the end of the year. Maybe all you do is pamphlets, coptics, and stab bindings and you want to pay yourself less. Go for it, but I would never pay myself less than $20/hour, and that might not be a fair wage where you live. If you couldn’t subsist on that wage working at it full time, pay yourself more.
When you are calculating price, you don’t just consider your time and materials; you consider the future, too. Reinvesting in your business, better equipment, continuing education, and advertising, if you choose. Here is my formula for calculating price:
(materials x 2) + (time x 2) = WHOLESALE PRICE
wholesale x 2= retail price
Maybe you think you can get away with just charging wholesale, but what happens when you’re approached by a retailer who wants to carry your products? They’re going to expect to buy a large quantity from you for half of what you charge. This is so they can make a profit and not be undersold by you. If you’re selling at wholesale, you either sell to this retailer for no profit at all, or forego the opportunity.
Maybe you’re charging so little because your materials cost very little? STOP THAT TOO! People do not buy handbound books so they can write in them and have the ink bleed, or have the paper deteriorate around their photos, or rip easily, or you know, just be generally wimpy paper. People come looking for a handbound book because they want an item of quality that did not come from a sweatshop. For bookbinders, your cost is going to paper, leather, cloth, thread, and glue. My paper comes from mills in Italy and the United States, my leather comes from Germany, my thread comes from the UK. I can spend $30-$50 on materials for a single album or book. So you can understand my skepticism when I see a leather book going for $35 on Etsy.
When I first started out, I did not charge enough to make it worth it. I charged what I would be willing/able to pay if I were my own customer. You are not your customer. Use good materials, pay yourself a good wage, be honest about your time. You can sell a whole lot of books for very little profit or a few for a good profit. I know which I’d rather. You’re not competing with Amazon, or even other binders. Your books are as unique as you are; if people like your books, they will buy them from you.
I would love to hear about your experiences trying to price your books (etc.) in the comments!