ePub Author Question – Should My Book Be in Color or Black and White?

Color printing is great but it will really jack up the retail price of your book’s hardcopy version.  I’ll show you the figures for one of my books printed in both B&W and color. The difference between the retail prices of each print type needed to provide the same royalty per sale is almost astonishing.

Clarify the Question

Before we break out the numbers, let’s clarify the opening question. What we are really asking is whether the hardcopy version of your book (the Print-On-Demand version if you are self-publishing) should have color images or black-and-white images. A book’s images are the only difference between the color book and a black-and-white versions of the same book. Both versions can have the same full-color cover and same B&W text. The difference between the two is whether the book’s images are printed in color or in gray scale. The images that appear in a B&W book have been printed in gray scale using only black ink. The images in a color hardcopy book have been printed in a color mode called CMYK.

The question of whether to use color or gray scale images is relevant only to printed, hardcopy books. An eBook’s price is not affected by the amount of color contained in the images. eBook images are displayed on the screen of an e-reader. Adding color to an eBook’s images doesn’t add cost to creating the .epub file or displaying the images. Printing a colored image on paper, on the other hand, is way more expensive than printing a gray scale image.

How much more expensive? Here are the numbers for one of my books.

If you are self-publishing, you’ll be using a print-on-demand (POD) company to print and ship your hardcopy books. The POD company partners directly with all online bookstores. When an Amazon customer purchases a hardcopy book, the order is sent to the POD company, who then prints and ships the book to the customer.  The only involvement that you the self-publisher have in this whole sales process is to receive royalty payments at the end of the day. Not bad.

Lightning Source as a POD Company

I use Lightning Source is my POD company for one simple reason. They allow me to make the most money. Lightning Source is the largest POD company with the most retail partners in the world. Lightning Source’s clout makes them the only POD company that can dictate to Amazon what Amazon’s wholesale discount will be. I set my wholesale discount for all of my POD books at 20%. That means that Amazon will receive only 20% of the sale price of one of my POD books. That is significant considering that Amazon keeps a full 65% of sale price of most of my Kindle eBooks.

Lightning Source also gets paid during the sale of each hardcopy book. Lightning Source is the printer and charges a fixed fee for printing each book during each sale. Lightning Source’s fixed printing fee depends on the type of printing, the binding type, and the number of pages in the book.

Lightning Source’s Publisher Compansation Calculator

Lightning Source has a convenient Publisher’s Compensation calculator on their web site that enables you to determine the retail price of your book that will provide a specific royalty payment. Simply input the following information into Lightning Source’s Publisher Compensation calculator:

– Type of book (color or black-and-white)

– Binding type from Lightning Source’s available choice of bindings

– Page color (white or creme)

– Number of pages

– Wholesale discount (the percent of the sale price that you allow the retailer such as Amazon to keep)

– Retail price of your book

The Publisher Compensation calculator then displays Lightning Source’s print charge and your publisher’s compensation.

Here Are the Actual Numbers

Here are the number for one of my books, just to illustrate the difference in pricing between the color and black-and-white versions of the same book.

One of my better-selling books is a 478-page manual entitled Practical and Clear Graduate Statistics in Excel. I originally printed the book in color and was selling it in hardcopy from Amazon at a retail price of $79.95. My royalty from each of these sales was $19.94. Here are the inputs and output of Lightning Source’s Publisher Compensation calculator in this case:

Numbers for the Color Book

– Color, 8.5 X 11 inches, Perfect Bound on White Pages with Gloss Laminate

– 478 Pages

– $79.95 List Price

– 20% Wholesale Discount


– $44.02 Print Charge

– $19.94 Publisher Compensation

If I simply convert all of the book’s images from color to gray scale and sell the book as a black-and-white book, here are the new figures (make sure you are sitting down when you read these):

Numbers for the Black-and-White Book

– B&W, 8.5 X 11 inches, Perfect Bound on White Pages with Gloss Laminate

– 478 Pages

– $39.95 List Price

– 20% Wholesale Discount


– $9.90 Print Charge

– $22.06 Publisher Compensation

By merely converting all images to gray scale, I was able to cut the book’s retail price in half and increase my profit from each sale. The difference is that the black-and-white print charge is only $9.90 compared to $44.02 for color.


If you want to earn the most money from the sale your books in hard copy, use Lightning Source is your POD company and sell your books in black-and-white.

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