It's Me Again, Margaret...  


TpT: Loving the Prices 

February 2013


Can you spot the errors in this formula?

Materials + Labor + Operating Expenses + Profit = Wholesale X 2  = Retail

     Actually, the whole thing falls apart if you try to use it as a TpT product pricing guide.
  • Materials: That would be our expertise and a lifetime of learning: Priceless
  • Labor: Investing our free time creating materials for our students and sharing the outcome with colleagues: Priceless
  • Operating Expenses: Let's see. A computer that cannot function without our imaginative input: Priceless
  • Profit: Knowing that our work is making us better teachers, supporting fellow educators, and offering monetary benefits: Priceless
Wholesale X 2 = Retail:   NA X 2 = NA:   Useless


Traditional pricing rules clearly won't work for us, so now we're stuck. We love TpT, but product pricing sometimes puts a strain on the relationship. We ponder. . . Is this too much or not enough? What do other sellers charge? This one took two hours, this one three weeks. How about the clip art I bought? I'm not giving away my hard work! I would pay $10 for this, but the teacher down the hall wouldn't. If I price really low, I can beat my competition. Low prices might make my products look cheap.

Welcome to the quagmire of indecision! Putting a monetary value on a product is, in the final analysis, a subjective art, a judgment call, but emotionally-driven pricing strategies drag us all over the place. Right now, with no fact-based criteria for support, there is very little "art" in our product-appraisal skills. This issue creates frustration for experienced sellers and newcomers alike.  

Those of us who have been with TpT since the early days have waded through our share of price confusion. To our advantage, we have had the luxury of starting out slow and picking up speed with the site, giving us time to clarify our thinking and make a multitude of price adjustments. In comparison, TpT's newer sellers are boarding a cyber-space bullet train moving much too fast for SWAG techniques. Without question, the time is right for a suggested pricing guide, a first-round, fact-based analysis that will provide a rational foothold for the inevitable judgment call.

Here goes!

From my point of view, our common goal of offering quality and convenience for busy teachers should form the framework. "Praising the effort" is a reliable teaching technique, but it loses its luster when applied to TpT products. Our buyers aren't concerned with how much time, expense, or brain power we invest in the creative process. Their focus is on the final results and how it fits into their needs and plans. Given this, what happens after a purchase is actually more important than pre-sale activity. If our criteria were results-based rather than input-oriented, I believe we could make much better pricing decisions.

How about thinking in terms of the following customer benefits?      

  • The Number of Pages
    Logically, a teacher should receive more value in a ten-page product than a two-page download. Rachel Lynette has already provided an excellent resource for using page count as a single-criteria approach to pricing. Here, I'm suggesting that it be only one of a group.   
  • Page Saturation
    Sometimes convenience comes in a single page set up for student responses with lots of blank lines and very little or no script.  However, a page saturated with questions, problems, prompts, or activities provides a greater number of resources and, hence, more value. I am not suggesting that white space for student response is worthless. Clearly, different grade levels and product genres require variations in white space/script/page-size ratios, and this must be taken into consideration for a fair analysis. As a general rule, however, the more page saturation, the more bang for the buck.  
  • Product  Mileage
    How much work will this material be able to do in a classroom? Will it provide an hour of instruction, two lessons, a week of individual sessions, six weeks, a whole year? Is it a whole teaching unit, such as a novel study, or a portion? More mileage equals more value.  
  • Content Variety/Flexibility
    Does the product offer one or several different types of activities? Can the content address the needs of various ability levels? Is there a wealth of content that allows a teacher to pick and choose? Varying degrees of built-in variety and flexibility offer different levels of product benefits.  
  • Product Longevity
    This important aspect of our work is the most likely to fall off our pricing radar. Think about it. A teacher pays $5 for a pack of Valentine's Day clip art and then uses it every February for the next five years. That's $1 a year. After that, the clip art pays for itself and eventually adds interest! Theoretically, our work has no foreseeable expiration date. Buy once. Use for years. Factor in this benefit before you decide that a product is worth only a dollar!   

I purposely did not include savings in prep-time as a target point. This ingredient is a non-negotiable requirement! If a posted item does not reduce teacher prep-time, then it is spam, not a product, and it should be removed from the site.

The next step is to organize this approach into an analysis system-a rubric of sorts. Rather than add this document to the newsletter, I have created and posted a Sample Product Pricing-Guide designed to work with paper/pencil materials. PowerPoint files, Whiteboard resources, task cards, clip art, etc. will require different details for each criterion. Since it is based on my expertise, the guide is also better suited for middle/high school use than primary and elementary. I sincerely hope that other sellers will take inspiration and create specific pricing guides to share with our rapidly growing team of sellers.  With a variety of resources structured around a common idea, we can make pricing decisions as individuals and still be on the same page as a group. 

If sellers will leave notices in my Q&A, I'll keep a list of all new pricing guides and include links to them in future newsletters. We can help each other cast aside the confusion and uncertainty of product pricing. Dr. Phil and Dr. Drew aren't available, so it's up to us to find a way to love our prices! Let's go for the Goldilocks effect: Not too little. Not too much. Just right!  

You gotta' love that.       

Margaret's Signature









 Margaret Whisnant             
     TpT Seller                          

P.S. from Amy, TpT Community Manager:
I am so impressed by Margaret's smart and thoughtful approach to the complicated topic of pricing. It's an ongoing conversation and she's offered up a great place to start.

We've heard that you're utilizing, and appreciating, the recent enhancements to your sales statistics including total earnings by product and number of instances a product appears on a wish list. The TpT team is glad to make these improvements possible for you.

I hope you all enjoyed a fantastic Super Sunday Sale! I know I did! We saw record traffic with a record total of 31,146 orders of 165,000+ products and sales of just over $600,000. Wow. If you have takeaways on how to conduct a successful sale, this forum thread is one place to share.


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