Good vs. high print quality in my book Square Photographs

Square Photographs has not sold well: 23 copies, total. You can’t win them all.

I ran a few experiments with this book. The most important of them was to find out how a higher-priced but high-quality edition would sell against a lower-priced but good-quality edition of the same book. I want to find out how sensitive potential readers are to price vs. print quality. I published the high-quality edition of Square Photographs on MagCloud and charged $24.99. I published the good-quality edition on Amazon and charged $15.99. I made a similar amount per book either way, as MagCloud’s per-copy cost to me is considerably higher than Amazon’s.

Only five people bought the high-quality edition at the higher price. 17 people bought the good-quality edition at the lower price. I don’t think 23 purchases is a large enough sample space to know for sure, but I’m willing to conclude anyway that readers are more sensitive to price than to print quality.

Really, the good-quality edition from Amazon is plenty good. A keen eye can see how the high-quality edition from MagCloud is better, but it’s not that much better.

As a result, I’m going to publish future photo books only through Amazon.

This choice does not come without a key tradeoff. I know a number of people who consider Amazon to be the evil empire and won’t purchase from them. A segment of my audience will never see my books as a result.

Someday I might try having one of my photo books custom printed in advance. I’d have to keep an inventory and handle distribution, which is a hassle I’ve so far sought to avoid. But given that I’m in an experimental place, it would be interesting to try it and see how it goes.

If you’d like to pick up a copy of Square Photographs, go here for all the ways you can do it.

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18 responses to “Good vs. high print quality in my book Square Photographs

  1. Andy Umbo n Avatar
    Andy Umbo n

    Interesting stats…I generally would always go for the higher quality printed item; I have a real aversion to poor quality printing, and in my working life, the higher cost isn’t really at a deterrent level. Unfortunately, in my current condition of fixed income retiree in an ever spiraling expense tornado, I have to watch ever single penny.

    In addition, about 15 years ago, I sold about 80 percent of my books, some I shouldn’t have, because I couldn’t afford to move or store them anymore. I stopped buying books, not because I didn’t love them, but because my nomadic life and marginal photographic income precluded me having that beautiful library I always wished for, and used to see in others homes when I lived in D.C. I may still buy a book I absolutely love, and might be expensive, but it has to be extra-extra special. Everything else is picked up by me at the very first class Milwaukee library (who will buy literally every thing you put a request for, unlike my experience in Indianapolis). I’ve even read a book I loved so much, and got from the library, that I went out and bought it to have.

    Anyway, I have a suspicion, based on your sales, probably to your current readers, that if you had offered only the higher quality book, at only nine dollars more, and did not even talk about the difference or offer one, you might have made the same amount of sales? Yeah, I’m strapped for cash, but nine bucks wouldn’t seem like a deterrent if I wanted the book.

    I also have to say, the last time I checked into doing a direct-to-press book for myself; it seemed like the only way to make real money, was to order a supply and do the sales and fulfillment yourself. Every press I checked was charging a fortune for that service, and the weird thing was, that if you told them the profit margin you wanted to make, then their profit went up too! I’m sorry, but they are NOT the content creator. Their printing and distribution charges should be the same, no matter if you want, five or ten bucks a book in profit. I ordered a book from Blurb one time, and my shipping costs were almost as much as the book! I could have shipped it media rate from the post office, for about a quarter of the price!

    1. Christopher May Avatar
      Christopher May

      Is there a chance that you’d offer a Kindle or other electronic edition? After moving dozens and dozens of boxes of books 3 times in the past 6 years, I find my physical book buying habits have been severely curtailed. I do still love and appreciate the experience of holding a nicely printed book in my hands but I am also appreciating the ability to carry hundreds of feet of shelf space on my iPad, too. The backaches caused by hauling those huge and heavy boxes cause me to pause before hitting the purchase button on physical books in ways that I don’t with eBooks.

      If you don’t want to go the Kindle route and give Bezos even more money to blast himself into space, you could self publish a PDF. I just recently purchased another eBook PDF by Ben Horne. I’d eagerly jump at purchasing your books if they were available in a similar fashion (I did buy, read and review the Kindle edition of A Place to Start).

      1. Christopher May Avatar
        Christopher May

        Oops! That should have been a reply to the original post and not your reply, Andy. My apologies!

        1. Andy Umbo Avatar
          Andy Umbo

          CM, as a “print, paper, analog” guy, I have to say a “pad” version seems to be heresy, BUT, since my main computer blew, and I’m using a fairly new iPad, I have to say it’d be pretty hard to beat any photographic reproduction better than an Apple pad!

          1. Jim Grey Avatar

            I bought my wife an iPad last Christmas and I am similarly impressed with how it renders images.

      2. Jim Grey Avatar

        Kindle is kind of a pain in the neck to make. When I did A Place to Start, I used a thing called to generate the book files, including the Kindle file. I did have to edit the file to fix some problems but that wasn’t a huge deal. But creating it from scratch, oof. Maybe there’s a way to do that that I don’t know about that makes it easier.

        PDF is a lot more do-able, because I have to generate a PDF anyway to send to Amazon. I didn’t offer it for sale this time because I’d have to handle distribution. But maybe that’s not that big of a deal at the end of the day. I can put the PDF in my Dropbox and just link buyers to that. I can accept PayPal no trouble.

      3. Jim Grey Avatar

        PS I hear you about lugging paper books around. I seldom buy them myself for that reason. I do make exception for photo books from friends but even then those start to be challenging to store after a while.

    2. Jim Grey Avatar

      Understand of course that the Amazon book looks really good. If you didn’t know about the MagCloud edition I think you’d be satisfied with the Amazon edition.

      I hear you about Blurb’s pricing. I think most of their sales are one offs to people who want a souvenir book of some family photos, and their pricing reflects it.

  2. Mike Connealy Avatar

    Cost issues aside, Square Photographs is an excellent book which any reader of the blog will enjoy having.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Thank you Mike! I should hire you to do my PR.

  3. Reinhold Graf Avatar

    Tried to order the MagCloud version first, as I was curious seeing that quality, but the shipping costs nearly doubled the price here in Germany and so I stayed with the Amazon version, which was printed and delivered from Prague.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Thank you for buying my book! MagCloud ships all over the world, but it can really cost you in some markets.

  4. Ed Thierbach Avatar
    Ed Thierbach

    I bought both, to compare the two, on the off chance I ever self-publish my photography. Surprisingly, I prefer the Amazon book. To me, the deluxe edition’s colors tended toward yellowish, although not by much. I’m very satisfied with both – I enjoyed the presentation and the subject.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I really appreciate this feedback! You and I might be the only two people who own both editions.

  5. seatacphoto1951 Avatar

    I bought the Amazon version and thought it well done.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Thank you!

  6. Khürt L Williams Avatar

    Hi Jim. Quality things are worth the price if the quality is super important to the buyer. But for some people, the price is more important. Please drop me a link to the Amazon book

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Thing is, I think the Amazon book is high enough quality that the majority will be happy with it!

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