Hard or soft?

From Mary Jo

Cat_243_dover_3 A Wenchling has asked how books come to be published in hardcover, mass market paperback, or that midpoint format, the trade paperback.  Since this is publishing, the answer isn’t simple.  The kind of book, the genre, the author, and the publisher are all part of the equation. 

In the broadest sense, the choices are made from marketing considerations.  Or to put it in bottom line terms, publishers put the books out in the formats they hope will make them the most money, which is perfectly sensible. 

There’s a direct relationship between price point and profit margin:  the more expensive the book, the more the publisher makes per copy, but the fewer copies are likely to be sold.  A mass market original will make less profit per book, but should sell lots more copies—unless the author is a big bestseller and a zillion people will buy her in hardcover.  A paperback author who sells well will generally be moved into hardcover eventually. 

Sometimes thrillers with a lot of potential will be published in hardcover and take off like a rocket, but romance is overwhelmingly a mass market genre.  A lot of romance readers like to own their books, and they read a lot.  Women also tend to earn less money than men do, and they can buy four or five paperbacks for the cost of one hardcover.  Not only can a reader buy more books, but she’s risking less if she tries a new author and doesn’t love the work.  The average woman will think once, twice, thrice, before buying a $25 hardcover by a new author even if it’s heavily recommended. 

So why are my books in hardcover?  Truthfully, it’s something of a fluke.  When I moved to Ballantine ten years ago, the new head of the romance program wanted to make a splash, so she came up with the idea of doing a little hardcover sized to fit into a mass market book rack.  The idea got lots of publicity, and as the launch book, my story, One Perfect Rose, made the New York Times and Wall Street Journal hardcover bestseller lists.  Yay, team!

One_perfect_rose But little hardcovers never because a standard format because they cost almost as much as a full sized hardcover (lovely paper and binding), but it wasn’t possible to charge as much money for them.  Ballantine did only four books in that format.  They generated publicity, but were never became a standard type.

Still, my books remained in hardcover.  A fair number of copies are bought by libraries, and enough dedicated readers are willing to spring for the higher price to make the format profitable for the publisher. 

Did my content or quality change when I went from mass market original to hardcover?  Not that I noticed.  The day may come when my publisher decides my book will work better as mass market originals, and that’s okay.  There are bestselling romance authors who have moved into mainstream and still write both paperback originals and hardcovers.  As I said above, it depends on the book, the author, and the publisher.

What about the other genres?  Science fiction and fantasy has become more of a hardcover genre, probably because mass market retailers like supermarkets and general merchandise stores no longer stock much paperback sff.  The audience for such books is wide spread but not large, so the mass market retailers can make more selling backlist titles of mainstream bestsellers.  Small genres like sff, Westerns, and subgenres like traditional Regency have been squeezed out of the wholesale outlets. 

So sff sells well in hardcover, with a lot of copies going to libraries, and sff mass market paperback reprints are generally found in bookstores only. 

(Note: I’m making a lot of generalities here!) 

Mystery tends to be split between hardcover and paperback originals.  Again, libraries are huge customers of mysteries—they are one of the largest categories for circulation, I believer.  But a lot of mystery series are launched as mass market originals, too.  If they sell well, eventually they’re moved into hardcover. 

So what else comes out in hardcover?  Most non-fiction and “serious” fiction.  Traditionally, book review sources like the New York Times reviewed pretty much exclusively hardcovers.  The publisher might not sell a huge number of books in that format, but the title will end up in some libraries and if it gets good reviews to plaster on the cover, it should sell well in paperback later. 

AngelsSo why are some books reprinted in paperback and others not?  Again, it comes down to what the publisher thinks will sell.  Some hardcovers are reprinted into the larger, more expensive trade format, especially if they are more literary in style. 

Hardcovers usually have larger type so they’re easier to read, and the production quality is better so the bindings should last longer and the pages won’t turn yellow before you get to the end of the book.  On the other hand, if you drop one in the bathtub, it makes quite a splash.

Trade paperbacks inhabit an interesting niche between hardcover and mass market.  The contents are more likely to be similar to a hardcover, and reviewers like Publishers Weekly review them side by side with hardcovers.  The paper and binding are good, but the price point is ten dollars or so lower than hardcover, which is quite appealing.  Thus a book like Susan Holloway Scott’s Duchess is in trade paper with an eye catching cover, and lots of people will buy it who might be put off by a hardcover price.  (Lots and LOTS!!!)  There are bestselling authors like Philippa Gregory who built an audience in trade and have now been moved into hardcover.               

Trade paper has been quite trendy in the last few years, and became the format of choice for chicklit and books that bridge the gap between mainstream and literary.  I have a historical romance writer friend who was moved into trade because of her beautifully crafted, rather literary prose.  She’s done well, too.

Chrismas_revels_mass_market I’ve been in a couple of trade paperback books.  One was a collection of five of my Christmas stories, Christmas Revels, because the publisher felt like trying the format. A year later, it was reprinted in mass market.  The romantic sff anthology Irresistible Forces was in trade for two years before being reprinted in mass market this past January.  I have no idea if the books benefited by being in trade, but trade paperbacks are often kept on the shelves longer. 

As you might gather, choosing a format is as much art as science.  Me, I just write the books.  As long as they’re out there for my readers to enjoy, I’m fine.

Marriagespell_2_comp_2 Mary Jo, posting more recent hardcover, not that you haven’t seen it before! 

51 thoughts on “Hard or soft?”

  1. That is a most interesting survey of the complexities of the print-run/format/binding aspects of publishing fiction. Thank you very much, Mary Jo.
    If I may just add a few words about non-fiction publishing (from a British viewpoint, but I don’t think it is so very different from the USA), the standard first printing of a ‘popular academic’ type of book is nearly always hardback, and of course the print-runs are smaller, and the prices consequently higher, than in the case of novels. (Books of any kind also simply cost more in the UK than in the USA). One expects to pay £35-50 for a new hardback on an historical or archaeological subject, written by an expert but targeting the interested-amateur reader as well as students and colleagues.
    Going into paperback for a second or later edition is a big event, as it is proof of the success of the book. Usually the paperback will be precisely the same format as the original hard-bound book, even if there have been some revisions, and it will sell at around £12-£20. Sorry, I can’t face converting sterling into dollars at the moment.

    Reply
  2. That is a most interesting survey of the complexities of the print-run/format/binding aspects of publishing fiction. Thank you very much, Mary Jo.
    If I may just add a few words about non-fiction publishing (from a British viewpoint, but I don’t think it is so very different from the USA), the standard first printing of a ‘popular academic’ type of book is nearly always hardback, and of course the print-runs are smaller, and the prices consequently higher, than in the case of novels. (Books of any kind also simply cost more in the UK than in the USA). One expects to pay £35-50 for a new hardback on an historical or archaeological subject, written by an expert but targeting the interested-amateur reader as well as students and colleagues.
    Going into paperback for a second or later edition is a big event, as it is proof of the success of the book. Usually the paperback will be precisely the same format as the original hard-bound book, even if there have been some revisions, and it will sell at around £12-£20. Sorry, I can’t face converting sterling into dollars at the moment.

    Reply
  3. That is a most interesting survey of the complexities of the print-run/format/binding aspects of publishing fiction. Thank you very much, Mary Jo.
    If I may just add a few words about non-fiction publishing (from a British viewpoint, but I don’t think it is so very different from the USA), the standard first printing of a ‘popular academic’ type of book is nearly always hardback, and of course the print-runs are smaller, and the prices consequently higher, than in the case of novels. (Books of any kind also simply cost more in the UK than in the USA). One expects to pay £35-50 for a new hardback on an historical or archaeological subject, written by an expert but targeting the interested-amateur reader as well as students and colleagues.
    Going into paperback for a second or later edition is a big event, as it is proof of the success of the book. Usually the paperback will be precisely the same format as the original hard-bound book, even if there have been some revisions, and it will sell at around £12-£20. Sorry, I can’t face converting sterling into dollars at the moment.

    Reply
  4. I USED to wonder what made a hardcover author. I sorta figured it out by myself.
    I’m sort of on the fence about hardcover vs. paperback. As an aspiring author, I’d like to see my books in hardcover print, but at the same time, there are precious few authors I will buy in hardcover. MaryJo, you’re one of the few (2 actually) I will buy in hardcover. Diana Gabaldon is the other.
    Still, I’m a paperback fan. I love to fold the bindings all the way back, exposing only the page I’m reading. I can fit a paperback in my carry-on. This was especially important when I used to travel a great deal for work.
    I LOVE the look of some Trade paperbacks. Why are they called Trade paperbacks, anyway? Julia Ross’s novel covers make me want to buy them. I get a bigger book, with better type, a good cover and I can fold the binding all the way back.
    Cathy, who is nothing if she’s not idiosyncratic.

    Reply
  5. I USED to wonder what made a hardcover author. I sorta figured it out by myself.
    I’m sort of on the fence about hardcover vs. paperback. As an aspiring author, I’d like to see my books in hardcover print, but at the same time, there are precious few authors I will buy in hardcover. MaryJo, you’re one of the few (2 actually) I will buy in hardcover. Diana Gabaldon is the other.
    Still, I’m a paperback fan. I love to fold the bindings all the way back, exposing only the page I’m reading. I can fit a paperback in my carry-on. This was especially important when I used to travel a great deal for work.
    I LOVE the look of some Trade paperbacks. Why are they called Trade paperbacks, anyway? Julia Ross’s novel covers make me want to buy them. I get a bigger book, with better type, a good cover and I can fold the binding all the way back.
    Cathy, who is nothing if she’s not idiosyncratic.

    Reply
  6. I USED to wonder what made a hardcover author. I sorta figured it out by myself.
    I’m sort of on the fence about hardcover vs. paperback. As an aspiring author, I’d like to see my books in hardcover print, but at the same time, there are precious few authors I will buy in hardcover. MaryJo, you’re one of the few (2 actually) I will buy in hardcover. Diana Gabaldon is the other.
    Still, I’m a paperback fan. I love to fold the bindings all the way back, exposing only the page I’m reading. I can fit a paperback in my carry-on. This was especially important when I used to travel a great deal for work.
    I LOVE the look of some Trade paperbacks. Why are they called Trade paperbacks, anyway? Julia Ross’s novel covers make me want to buy them. I get a bigger book, with better type, a good cover and I can fold the binding all the way back.
    Cathy, who is nothing if she’s not idiosyncratic.

    Reply
  7. I should add that I buy TONS of hardcover books for my daughter. She cannot wait to read the latest Warrior Cats series (Erin Hunter) or Harry Potter or Tamora Pierce, etc., etc.
    I have more willpower than my daughter.

    Reply
  8. I should add that I buy TONS of hardcover books for my daughter. She cannot wait to read the latest Warrior Cats series (Erin Hunter) or Harry Potter or Tamora Pierce, etc., etc.
    I have more willpower than my daughter.

    Reply
  9. I should add that I buy TONS of hardcover books for my daughter. She cannot wait to read the latest Warrior Cats series (Erin Hunter) or Harry Potter or Tamora Pierce, etc., etc.
    I have more willpower than my daughter.

    Reply
  10. A lot of publishers bring out a limited number of hardbound copies of mass market paperbacks mainly for libraries.
    There are also some small presses that specialize in niche markets (I’m only familiar with the SF/fantasy ones) like Meisha Merlin. They will publish new books in trade paperback (with a few hardcovers, as above); and later there will be a mass market edition from a publisher like Ace or Berkley.
    And that’s not even getting into e-books. Have you Wenches any views on them?

    Reply
  11. A lot of publishers bring out a limited number of hardbound copies of mass market paperbacks mainly for libraries.
    There are also some small presses that specialize in niche markets (I’m only familiar with the SF/fantasy ones) like Meisha Merlin. They will publish new books in trade paperback (with a few hardcovers, as above); and later there will be a mass market edition from a publisher like Ace or Berkley.
    And that’s not even getting into e-books. Have you Wenches any views on them?

    Reply
  12. A lot of publishers bring out a limited number of hardbound copies of mass market paperbacks mainly for libraries.
    There are also some small presses that specialize in niche markets (I’m only familiar with the SF/fantasy ones) like Meisha Merlin. They will publish new books in trade paperback (with a few hardcovers, as above); and later there will be a mass market edition from a publisher like Ace or Berkley.
    And that’s not even getting into e-books. Have you Wenches any views on them?

    Reply
  13. I think whoever first thought up the trade size book was very smart. It seems to tap into people’s prejudices about literature very well. I know people who will only look at trade or hardcover books. I know people who will buy a trade over a mass paperback version of the same book because they’ll look “smarter” reading the trade. I don’t know if it was brilliant marketing on the publishers’ parts or what made that idea stick, but it certainly has.
    -Michelle

    Reply
  14. I think whoever first thought up the trade size book was very smart. It seems to tap into people’s prejudices about literature very well. I know people who will only look at trade or hardcover books. I know people who will buy a trade over a mass paperback version of the same book because they’ll look “smarter” reading the trade. I don’t know if it was brilliant marketing on the publishers’ parts or what made that idea stick, but it certainly has.
    -Michelle

    Reply
  15. I think whoever first thought up the trade size book was very smart. It seems to tap into people’s prejudices about literature very well. I know people who will only look at trade or hardcover books. I know people who will buy a trade over a mass paperback version of the same book because they’ll look “smarter” reading the trade. I don’t know if it was brilliant marketing on the publishers’ parts or what made that idea stick, but it certainly has.
    -Michelle

    Reply
  16. Trade paperbacks have a good “hand feel,” IMO. They’re lighter than hardbacks and so are more comfortable to read sprawled on the couch or curled up in bed, and their wider margins and something about the way they’re bound makes them feel sort of looser than a mass market paperback. I’m not sure “looser” is the right word, but they’re just more comfortable to hold and read.
    That said, mass market paperbacks are a lot easier to slip into your purse to read when presented with the unexpected gift of free time.

    Reply
  17. Trade paperbacks have a good “hand feel,” IMO. They’re lighter than hardbacks and so are more comfortable to read sprawled on the couch or curled up in bed, and their wider margins and something about the way they’re bound makes them feel sort of looser than a mass market paperback. I’m not sure “looser” is the right word, but they’re just more comfortable to hold and read.
    That said, mass market paperbacks are a lot easier to slip into your purse to read when presented with the unexpected gift of free time.

    Reply
  18. Trade paperbacks have a good “hand feel,” IMO. They’re lighter than hardbacks and so are more comfortable to read sprawled on the couch or curled up in bed, and their wider margins and something about the way they’re bound makes them feel sort of looser than a mass market paperback. I’m not sure “looser” is the right word, but they’re just more comfortable to hold and read.
    That said, mass market paperbacks are a lot easier to slip into your purse to read when presented with the unexpected gift of free time.

    Reply
  19. Susan’s comments about the better aesthetic qualities of the ‘trade paperback’ size are spot-on. The paper is usually better, whiter and more opaque, the binding stronger, more durable and flexible, the printing better, and above all, the margins and leading (space between the lines) are more generous, which makes the text much more comfortable to read. The proportion of white space to printing has quite a substantial effect on the pleasure and comfort of reading.
    However, this is compared with the average AMERICAN mass-market paperback. Even small paperbacks can be well printed and bound, and most UK paperbacks of the smaller size are better designed and made in purely book-production terms than are the American ones. They are, however, more expensive.
    Cathy, when I read what you wrote about bending the spine right back, I gasped. I can only say ‘aargh!’ That is book-abuse! Although it is for their content that we buy books, some of us also care about books as physical objects, and like to keep them in good condition for reading and re-reading over the years and decades. I would never dog-ear a page to mark a place – that’s what bookmarks are for – and people who write anything on a book, other than an ownership signature or gift greeting on one of the preliminary pages or the title page, make me cringe!
    🙂

    Reply
  20. Susan’s comments about the better aesthetic qualities of the ‘trade paperback’ size are spot-on. The paper is usually better, whiter and more opaque, the binding stronger, more durable and flexible, the printing better, and above all, the margins and leading (space between the lines) are more generous, which makes the text much more comfortable to read. The proportion of white space to printing has quite a substantial effect on the pleasure and comfort of reading.
    However, this is compared with the average AMERICAN mass-market paperback. Even small paperbacks can be well printed and bound, and most UK paperbacks of the smaller size are better designed and made in purely book-production terms than are the American ones. They are, however, more expensive.
    Cathy, when I read what you wrote about bending the spine right back, I gasped. I can only say ‘aargh!’ That is book-abuse! Although it is for their content that we buy books, some of us also care about books as physical objects, and like to keep them in good condition for reading and re-reading over the years and decades. I would never dog-ear a page to mark a place – that’s what bookmarks are for – and people who write anything on a book, other than an ownership signature or gift greeting on one of the preliminary pages or the title page, make me cringe!
    🙂

    Reply
  21. Susan’s comments about the better aesthetic qualities of the ‘trade paperback’ size are spot-on. The paper is usually better, whiter and more opaque, the binding stronger, more durable and flexible, the printing better, and above all, the margins and leading (space between the lines) are more generous, which makes the text much more comfortable to read. The proportion of white space to printing has quite a substantial effect on the pleasure and comfort of reading.
    However, this is compared with the average AMERICAN mass-market paperback. Even small paperbacks can be well printed and bound, and most UK paperbacks of the smaller size are better designed and made in purely book-production terms than are the American ones. They are, however, more expensive.
    Cathy, when I read what you wrote about bending the spine right back, I gasped. I can only say ‘aargh!’ That is book-abuse! Although it is for their content that we buy books, some of us also care about books as physical objects, and like to keep them in good condition for reading and re-reading over the years and decades. I would never dog-ear a page to mark a place – that’s what bookmarks are for – and people who write anything on a book, other than an ownership signature or gift greeting on one of the preliminary pages or the title page, make me cringe!
    🙂

    Reply
  22. Dear AgTigress —
    I LOVE my books and keep them to reread. I have never broken one yet. Actually, I do not bend the binding and only bend it back when there are a few pages in the front and a few pages in the back. Dog earred page… I do that . Don’t loan me your books.
    So, most of us have a love affair with the trade paperback. I think mine might stem from college. Many of my books were not those hardcover things I’d had in high school… well, some where, like math (bleh). I had (still have) this series of short stories, about 4 trade-size paperbacks… Updike, O’Connor, Kafka, etc., etc. I used to read those stories over and over.

    Reply
  23. Dear AgTigress —
    I LOVE my books and keep them to reread. I have never broken one yet. Actually, I do not bend the binding and only bend it back when there are a few pages in the front and a few pages in the back. Dog earred page… I do that . Don’t loan me your books.
    So, most of us have a love affair with the trade paperback. I think mine might stem from college. Many of my books were not those hardcover things I’d had in high school… well, some where, like math (bleh). I had (still have) this series of short stories, about 4 trade-size paperbacks… Updike, O’Connor, Kafka, etc., etc. I used to read those stories over and over.

    Reply
  24. Dear AgTigress —
    I LOVE my books and keep them to reread. I have never broken one yet. Actually, I do not bend the binding and only bend it back when there are a few pages in the front and a few pages in the back. Dog earred page… I do that . Don’t loan me your books.
    So, most of us have a love affair with the trade paperback. I think mine might stem from college. Many of my books were not those hardcover things I’d had in high school… well, some where, like math (bleh). I had (still have) this series of short stories, about 4 trade-size paperbacks… Updike, O’Connor, Kafka, etc., etc. I used to read those stories over and over.

    Reply
  25. I stand corrected, Cathy. I thought you meant really straining the binding. In the case of some small paperbacks, it can be difficult not to do that a bit even if one is careful: if there is hardly any gutter margin – the margin closest to the binding – and the binding itself is too tight, just flattening the page enough to read comfortably can stress the binding. In the case of paperbacks, this can lead quite quickly to pages becoming loosened.
    But I’m glad you don’t hurt your books after all! A turned-down corner is not really such a sin.
    🙂

    Reply
  26. I stand corrected, Cathy. I thought you meant really straining the binding. In the case of some small paperbacks, it can be difficult not to do that a bit even if one is careful: if there is hardly any gutter margin – the margin closest to the binding – and the binding itself is too tight, just flattening the page enough to read comfortably can stress the binding. In the case of paperbacks, this can lead quite quickly to pages becoming loosened.
    But I’m glad you don’t hurt your books after all! A turned-down corner is not really such a sin.
    🙂

    Reply
  27. I stand corrected, Cathy. I thought you meant really straining the binding. In the case of some small paperbacks, it can be difficult not to do that a bit even if one is careful: if there is hardly any gutter margin – the margin closest to the binding – and the binding itself is too tight, just flattening the page enough to read comfortably can stress the binding. In the case of paperbacks, this can lead quite quickly to pages becoming loosened.
    But I’m glad you don’t hurt your books after all! A turned-down corner is not really such a sin.
    🙂

    Reply
  28. From Susan/Miranda:
    The whole trade/mass market question is an interesting one, Mary Jo. So much of it seems to be a matter of perception — an awful lot of people out there do in fact judge a book by its cover.
    I’ve had people buy (and enjoy) DUCHESS who’d never dream of buying my Miranda Jarret books, simply because they “never by those trashy Harlequin books.” They TELL me that, too, which strikes me as even weirder still. Same writer, same words coming out of my printer — but it’s still perceived as vastly different.
    There are probably just as many of my romance readers who don’t buy trade paperbacks from those front tables for exactly the opposite reason: “Those expensive Oprah books are all too depressing.”
    It’s a weird world, isn’t it? 🙂

    Reply
  29. From Susan/Miranda:
    The whole trade/mass market question is an interesting one, Mary Jo. So much of it seems to be a matter of perception — an awful lot of people out there do in fact judge a book by its cover.
    I’ve had people buy (and enjoy) DUCHESS who’d never dream of buying my Miranda Jarret books, simply because they “never by those trashy Harlequin books.” They TELL me that, too, which strikes me as even weirder still. Same writer, same words coming out of my printer — but it’s still perceived as vastly different.
    There are probably just as many of my romance readers who don’t buy trade paperbacks from those front tables for exactly the opposite reason: “Those expensive Oprah books are all too depressing.”
    It’s a weird world, isn’t it? 🙂

    Reply
  30. From Susan/Miranda:
    The whole trade/mass market question is an interesting one, Mary Jo. So much of it seems to be a matter of perception — an awful lot of people out there do in fact judge a book by its cover.
    I’ve had people buy (and enjoy) DUCHESS who’d never dream of buying my Miranda Jarret books, simply because they “never by those trashy Harlequin books.” They TELL me that, too, which strikes me as even weirder still. Same writer, same words coming out of my printer — but it’s still perceived as vastly different.
    There are probably just as many of my romance readers who don’t buy trade paperbacks from those front tables for exactly the opposite reason: “Those expensive Oprah books are all too depressing.”
    It’s a weird world, isn’t it? 🙂

    Reply
  31. Hi MJ!
    Thank you for the wonderful explanation. And yup, hardback books make a bigger splash in the bathtub. And, no, Ag, I didn’t let it drown. It was promptly dried it off, gently aired out and put back in its rightful place. Although, in the night, it whispers of the horrors to the little books standing to its left and right. (Good to have ya back Ag!)
    As a reader, I love books in hard back. To me, a hard back purchase is a show of love and appreciation to a favored author. A mark of an adoring fan.
    Hardbacks are, IMHO, easier to read, hold (spreads out nicely on the sheets) and keep. Next best, I suppose, are trades. I love the feel of DUCHESS. When I purchase a book, I do it as much on content as to how the book looks and feels in my hand. If it ‘feels’ cheep, I simply don’t buy it (Wenches excluded of course).
    As an unpub writer… if I had a choice, which it sounds like I don’t, I think trade would be my preference. Cost, ya know. Although, in my dreams, my book always appears as a beautiful hardback. The background is a deep glossy black ghosted with the image of…
    –the littlest wenchling, dreaming again.

    Reply
  32. Hi MJ!
    Thank you for the wonderful explanation. And yup, hardback books make a bigger splash in the bathtub. And, no, Ag, I didn’t let it drown. It was promptly dried it off, gently aired out and put back in its rightful place. Although, in the night, it whispers of the horrors to the little books standing to its left and right. (Good to have ya back Ag!)
    As a reader, I love books in hard back. To me, a hard back purchase is a show of love and appreciation to a favored author. A mark of an adoring fan.
    Hardbacks are, IMHO, easier to read, hold (spreads out nicely on the sheets) and keep. Next best, I suppose, are trades. I love the feel of DUCHESS. When I purchase a book, I do it as much on content as to how the book looks and feels in my hand. If it ‘feels’ cheep, I simply don’t buy it (Wenches excluded of course).
    As an unpub writer… if I had a choice, which it sounds like I don’t, I think trade would be my preference. Cost, ya know. Although, in my dreams, my book always appears as a beautiful hardback. The background is a deep glossy black ghosted with the image of…
    –the littlest wenchling, dreaming again.

    Reply
  33. Hi MJ!
    Thank you for the wonderful explanation. And yup, hardback books make a bigger splash in the bathtub. And, no, Ag, I didn’t let it drown. It was promptly dried it off, gently aired out and put back in its rightful place. Although, in the night, it whispers of the horrors to the little books standing to its left and right. (Good to have ya back Ag!)
    As a reader, I love books in hard back. To me, a hard back purchase is a show of love and appreciation to a favored author. A mark of an adoring fan.
    Hardbacks are, IMHO, easier to read, hold (spreads out nicely on the sheets) and keep. Next best, I suppose, are trades. I love the feel of DUCHESS. When I purchase a book, I do it as much on content as to how the book looks and feels in my hand. If it ‘feels’ cheep, I simply don’t buy it (Wenches excluded of course).
    As an unpub writer… if I had a choice, which it sounds like I don’t, I think trade would be my preference. Cost, ya know. Although, in my dreams, my book always appears as a beautiful hardback. The background is a deep glossy black ghosted with the image of…
    –the littlest wenchling, dreaming again.

    Reply
  34. From MJP:
    Tigress, you’re right, the American market isn’t that different from the British when it comes to academic hardcovers. They cost more and are seldom reprinted in a cheaper format. A friend of mine wrote a health and safety text. Costs a hundred bucks and the print run was 1000. But it’s been back to press six or seven times for the same number of books (over a period of some years), so it’s a bestseller of its type.
    >>precious few authors I will buy in hardcover. MaryJo, you’re one of the few (2 actually) I will buy in hardcover. Diana Gabaldon is the other. >>
    I’m flattered, Cathy!
    >>I LOVE the look of some Trade paperbacks. Why are they called Trade paperbacks, anyway? << I'm not sure, but bookstores are called the 'trade' market, while drugstores, supermarkets, etc are the 'wholesale' market. So maybe trade paperbacks were called that because they were more the sort of books that sold in bookstores? This is pure speculation on my part. As for buying hardcovers for your daughter--well, they're good books, and less expensive than adult hardcovers. Encouraging kids to read is worth the price! >>And that’s not even getting into e-books. Have you Wenches any views on them?<< There's no official Wenchly policy :), but I think they've been good for niche markets, and also for launching the careers of some very good, imaginative writers who were doing books outside of what NYC understood. Paranormal and crossover books really got their start in e-pubishing, and a number of those authors have gone on to mainstream publishing as some of the more visionary editors brought them over. Mary Jo, intrigued at how format changes perception

    Reply
  35. From MJP:
    Tigress, you’re right, the American market isn’t that different from the British when it comes to academic hardcovers. They cost more and are seldom reprinted in a cheaper format. A friend of mine wrote a health and safety text. Costs a hundred bucks and the print run was 1000. But it’s been back to press six or seven times for the same number of books (over a period of some years), so it’s a bestseller of its type.
    >>precious few authors I will buy in hardcover. MaryJo, you’re one of the few (2 actually) I will buy in hardcover. Diana Gabaldon is the other. >>
    I’m flattered, Cathy!
    >>I LOVE the look of some Trade paperbacks. Why are they called Trade paperbacks, anyway? << I'm not sure, but bookstores are called the 'trade' market, while drugstores, supermarkets, etc are the 'wholesale' market. So maybe trade paperbacks were called that because they were more the sort of books that sold in bookstores? This is pure speculation on my part. As for buying hardcovers for your daughter--well, they're good books, and less expensive than adult hardcovers. Encouraging kids to read is worth the price! >>And that’s not even getting into e-books. Have you Wenches any views on them?<< There's no official Wenchly policy :), but I think they've been good for niche markets, and also for launching the careers of some very good, imaginative writers who were doing books outside of what NYC understood. Paranormal and crossover books really got their start in e-pubishing, and a number of those authors have gone on to mainstream publishing as some of the more visionary editors brought them over. Mary Jo, intrigued at how format changes perception

    Reply
  36. From MJP:
    Tigress, you’re right, the American market isn’t that different from the British when it comes to academic hardcovers. They cost more and are seldom reprinted in a cheaper format. A friend of mine wrote a health and safety text. Costs a hundred bucks and the print run was 1000. But it’s been back to press six or seven times for the same number of books (over a period of some years), so it’s a bestseller of its type.
    >>precious few authors I will buy in hardcover. MaryJo, you’re one of the few (2 actually) I will buy in hardcover. Diana Gabaldon is the other. >>
    I’m flattered, Cathy!
    >>I LOVE the look of some Trade paperbacks. Why are they called Trade paperbacks, anyway? << I'm not sure, but bookstores are called the 'trade' market, while drugstores, supermarkets, etc are the 'wholesale' market. So maybe trade paperbacks were called that because they were more the sort of books that sold in bookstores? This is pure speculation on my part. As for buying hardcovers for your daughter--well, they're good books, and less expensive than adult hardcovers. Encouraging kids to read is worth the price! >>And that’s not even getting into e-books. Have you Wenches any views on them?<< There's no official Wenchly policy :), but I think they've been good for niche markets, and also for launching the careers of some very good, imaginative writers who were doing books outside of what NYC understood. Paranormal and crossover books really got their start in e-pubishing, and a number of those authors have gone on to mainstream publishing as some of the more visionary editors brought them over. Mary Jo, intrigued at how format changes perception

    Reply
  37. I love hardbacks and trade paperbacks because the print is bigger, they’re easier on my old eyes, and I don’t get painful elbows from trying to manhandle the books flat so I can read them (like I do with paperbacks).
    AgTigress cover your eyes: I have difficulty reading tightly bound paperbacks, so I deliberately open them in the middle and bend them back to make a crease in the spine. That is not book abuse. I do it so that I don’t end up with claw hands from tightly gripping a book that wants to close all the time. If a publisher prints margins so close to the spine that I have to crease the spine to read comfortably, I’ll do it. I cherish my books, and have over 5,000 of them (though admittedly most are hardback research). I also turn down the pages, which I prefer over bookmarks.
    I once heard about a writer who was severely chastized as a child, for turning an open book face-down on a table. His opinion was that books were not irreplaceable artifacts to be treated with reverent awe, but were meant to be loved and enjoyed and read over and over, to travel in purses and suitcases, to get a little salt spray from beach reading . He called books with dog-eared pages and coffee circles on the cover “well-loved books.”
    Most of the mass market paperbacks hold up pretty well to having their pages turned down and spines cracked. I’m hoping publishers will start taking reader wishes into consideration and not be so stingy with margins. Two of my clients write for Avon, and they have been told by their editors to stop submitting 400 page MSS. From now on, their MSS must be 360 pages. According to my clients, the books will be the same physical size, but the publishers will increase the type size a little and have more generous margins, so perhaps I won’t have to crease my paperbacks anymore. *g*

    Reply
  38. I love hardbacks and trade paperbacks because the print is bigger, they’re easier on my old eyes, and I don’t get painful elbows from trying to manhandle the books flat so I can read them (like I do with paperbacks).
    AgTigress cover your eyes: I have difficulty reading tightly bound paperbacks, so I deliberately open them in the middle and bend them back to make a crease in the spine. That is not book abuse. I do it so that I don’t end up with claw hands from tightly gripping a book that wants to close all the time. If a publisher prints margins so close to the spine that I have to crease the spine to read comfortably, I’ll do it. I cherish my books, and have over 5,000 of them (though admittedly most are hardback research). I also turn down the pages, which I prefer over bookmarks.
    I once heard about a writer who was severely chastized as a child, for turning an open book face-down on a table. His opinion was that books were not irreplaceable artifacts to be treated with reverent awe, but were meant to be loved and enjoyed and read over and over, to travel in purses and suitcases, to get a little salt spray from beach reading . He called books with dog-eared pages and coffee circles on the cover “well-loved books.”
    Most of the mass market paperbacks hold up pretty well to having their pages turned down and spines cracked. I’m hoping publishers will start taking reader wishes into consideration and not be so stingy with margins. Two of my clients write for Avon, and they have been told by their editors to stop submitting 400 page MSS. From now on, their MSS must be 360 pages. According to my clients, the books will be the same physical size, but the publishers will increase the type size a little and have more generous margins, so perhaps I won’t have to crease my paperbacks anymore. *g*

    Reply
  39. I love hardbacks and trade paperbacks because the print is bigger, they’re easier on my old eyes, and I don’t get painful elbows from trying to manhandle the books flat so I can read them (like I do with paperbacks).
    AgTigress cover your eyes: I have difficulty reading tightly bound paperbacks, so I deliberately open them in the middle and bend them back to make a crease in the spine. That is not book abuse. I do it so that I don’t end up with claw hands from tightly gripping a book that wants to close all the time. If a publisher prints margins so close to the spine that I have to crease the spine to read comfortably, I’ll do it. I cherish my books, and have over 5,000 of them (though admittedly most are hardback research). I also turn down the pages, which I prefer over bookmarks.
    I once heard about a writer who was severely chastized as a child, for turning an open book face-down on a table. His opinion was that books were not irreplaceable artifacts to be treated with reverent awe, but were meant to be loved and enjoyed and read over and over, to travel in purses and suitcases, to get a little salt spray from beach reading . He called books with dog-eared pages and coffee circles on the cover “well-loved books.”
    Most of the mass market paperbacks hold up pretty well to having their pages turned down and spines cracked. I’m hoping publishers will start taking reader wishes into consideration and not be so stingy with margins. Two of my clients write for Avon, and they have been told by their editors to stop submitting 400 page MSS. From now on, their MSS must be 360 pages. According to my clients, the books will be the same physical size, but the publishers will increase the type size a little and have more generous margins, so perhaps I won’t have to crease my paperbacks anymore. *g*

    Reply
  40. Sherrie; I accept your points entirely. Paperbacks that are badly printed and bound, that is, with insufficient margins and a very tight binding, may, indeed, HAVE to have the spine strained a bit in order to make them readable at all. It is not the fault of the reader that this is so, but the fault of the publisher. Unfortunately, quite a high proportion of American small paperbacks are improperly produced in this way.
    As I said above, and as many of you have confirmed, the current generation of trade paperbacks solve this problem – but so do properly-printed and bound small paperbacks. Have a look at any British Penguin paperback, right back to the 1940s, and you will see that it is not NECESSARY to strain the binding in order to be able to read them comfortably.
    I have an American mass-market paperback (published 1993) and a British one (publ.1964)in front of me as I write. The American book is 4 and one-eighth inches by 6 and three-quarters; its gutter margins, and consequently its outer pages margins too, are variable in width, itself a sign of sloppy book-production and binding, and on many pages, the visible gutter margin is no more than one-eighth of an inch wide. I first acquired American-printed paperback novels when I was living in Germany in the 1960s, and I was shocked at how badly made many of them were as physical artefacts.
    The old British paperback I have before me, like most current ones, has a very slightly larger format – 4 and three-eighths by 7 and one-eighth inches. Its margins are regular – half an inch in the gutter, five-eighths of an inch at the outer edges. Although this is a much-read book, and the edges of the pages and the cover are pretty battered, there is no sign of any of the pages loosening, because it is easy to hold and open it for reading without placing a strain on the binding.
    On your point about books not being irreplaceable, that is true only up to a point. As someone who owns many valuable eighteenth-century volumes, and one book printed in 1634, I have to admit to being interested in books-as-artefacts, as well as in the information they contain. Such books are objects of considerable value and beauty in themselves. Even in the case of popular fiction, books are not always as easily replaced as one might expect. Certainly the early category romances of writers who later become NYT best-selling authors are generally reprinted (no doubt sometimes to the author’s chagrin!), but say one were trying to research romance fiction of the 1940s or earlier, by authors who only ever wrote genre fiction: I suspect that obtaining some of these would require months of checking on abebooks – and that the books would be uncomfortably expensive even when found.
    As I remarked above somewhere, the proportion of white page – side margins, top and bottom margins, and leading – to black printing actually has an effect on the comfort of reading over and above the question of the binding and the difficulty of reading the inner words on a badly-produced book. The colour and opacity of the paper also matters, and the paper is invariably better in the trade paperbacks. Some of the US mass-market paperbacks are printed on something that seems no better than newsprint, which yellows very fast.
    Anyway, we all have to do the best we can to get at the meat of the book, the words that the author has painstakingly written, with much agonising and revision. It will be nice if American publishers start to do justice to that effort by improving the production of their mass-market lines.
    🙂

    Reply
  41. Sherrie; I accept your points entirely. Paperbacks that are badly printed and bound, that is, with insufficient margins and a very tight binding, may, indeed, HAVE to have the spine strained a bit in order to make them readable at all. It is not the fault of the reader that this is so, but the fault of the publisher. Unfortunately, quite a high proportion of American small paperbacks are improperly produced in this way.
    As I said above, and as many of you have confirmed, the current generation of trade paperbacks solve this problem – but so do properly-printed and bound small paperbacks. Have a look at any British Penguin paperback, right back to the 1940s, and you will see that it is not NECESSARY to strain the binding in order to be able to read them comfortably.
    I have an American mass-market paperback (published 1993) and a British one (publ.1964)in front of me as I write. The American book is 4 and one-eighth inches by 6 and three-quarters; its gutter margins, and consequently its outer pages margins too, are variable in width, itself a sign of sloppy book-production and binding, and on many pages, the visible gutter margin is no more than one-eighth of an inch wide. I first acquired American-printed paperback novels when I was living in Germany in the 1960s, and I was shocked at how badly made many of them were as physical artefacts.
    The old British paperback I have before me, like most current ones, has a very slightly larger format – 4 and three-eighths by 7 and one-eighth inches. Its margins are regular – half an inch in the gutter, five-eighths of an inch at the outer edges. Although this is a much-read book, and the edges of the pages and the cover are pretty battered, there is no sign of any of the pages loosening, because it is easy to hold and open it for reading without placing a strain on the binding.
    On your point about books not being irreplaceable, that is true only up to a point. As someone who owns many valuable eighteenth-century volumes, and one book printed in 1634, I have to admit to being interested in books-as-artefacts, as well as in the information they contain. Such books are objects of considerable value and beauty in themselves. Even in the case of popular fiction, books are not always as easily replaced as one might expect. Certainly the early category romances of writers who later become NYT best-selling authors are generally reprinted (no doubt sometimes to the author’s chagrin!), but say one were trying to research romance fiction of the 1940s or earlier, by authors who only ever wrote genre fiction: I suspect that obtaining some of these would require months of checking on abebooks – and that the books would be uncomfortably expensive even when found.
    As I remarked above somewhere, the proportion of white page – side margins, top and bottom margins, and leading – to black printing actually has an effect on the comfort of reading over and above the question of the binding and the difficulty of reading the inner words on a badly-produced book. The colour and opacity of the paper also matters, and the paper is invariably better in the trade paperbacks. Some of the US mass-market paperbacks are printed on something that seems no better than newsprint, which yellows very fast.
    Anyway, we all have to do the best we can to get at the meat of the book, the words that the author has painstakingly written, with much agonising and revision. It will be nice if American publishers start to do justice to that effort by improving the production of their mass-market lines.
    🙂

    Reply
  42. Sherrie; I accept your points entirely. Paperbacks that are badly printed and bound, that is, with insufficient margins and a very tight binding, may, indeed, HAVE to have the spine strained a bit in order to make them readable at all. It is not the fault of the reader that this is so, but the fault of the publisher. Unfortunately, quite a high proportion of American small paperbacks are improperly produced in this way.
    As I said above, and as many of you have confirmed, the current generation of trade paperbacks solve this problem – but so do properly-printed and bound small paperbacks. Have a look at any British Penguin paperback, right back to the 1940s, and you will see that it is not NECESSARY to strain the binding in order to be able to read them comfortably.
    I have an American mass-market paperback (published 1993) and a British one (publ.1964)in front of me as I write. The American book is 4 and one-eighth inches by 6 and three-quarters; its gutter margins, and consequently its outer pages margins too, are variable in width, itself a sign of sloppy book-production and binding, and on many pages, the visible gutter margin is no more than one-eighth of an inch wide. I first acquired American-printed paperback novels when I was living in Germany in the 1960s, and I was shocked at how badly made many of them were as physical artefacts.
    The old British paperback I have before me, like most current ones, has a very slightly larger format – 4 and three-eighths by 7 and one-eighth inches. Its margins are regular – half an inch in the gutter, five-eighths of an inch at the outer edges. Although this is a much-read book, and the edges of the pages and the cover are pretty battered, there is no sign of any of the pages loosening, because it is easy to hold and open it for reading without placing a strain on the binding.
    On your point about books not being irreplaceable, that is true only up to a point. As someone who owns many valuable eighteenth-century volumes, and one book printed in 1634, I have to admit to being interested in books-as-artefacts, as well as in the information they contain. Such books are objects of considerable value and beauty in themselves. Even in the case of popular fiction, books are not always as easily replaced as one might expect. Certainly the early category romances of writers who later become NYT best-selling authors are generally reprinted (no doubt sometimes to the author’s chagrin!), but say one were trying to research romance fiction of the 1940s or earlier, by authors who only ever wrote genre fiction: I suspect that obtaining some of these would require months of checking on abebooks – and that the books would be uncomfortably expensive even when found.
    As I remarked above somewhere, the proportion of white page – side margins, top and bottom margins, and leading – to black printing actually has an effect on the comfort of reading over and above the question of the binding and the difficulty of reading the inner words on a badly-produced book. The colour and opacity of the paper also matters, and the paper is invariably better in the trade paperbacks. Some of the US mass-market paperbacks are printed on something that seems no better than newsprint, which yellows very fast.
    Anyway, we all have to do the best we can to get at the meat of the book, the words that the author has painstakingly written, with much agonising and revision. It will be nice if American publishers start to do justice to that effort by improving the production of their mass-market lines.
    🙂

    Reply
  43. The irony is that the type of binding used on mass market pbs is called Perfection binding!
    The NYC Public Library once published a list of the strangest bookmarks it had found left in their books. The weirdest, to my mind, was a strip of raw bacon. (Hope they found it SOON!)
    Here is a query someone asked on another blog; perhaps you people may know the answer:
    Why are some first editions so labeled on the colophon page, but others not? I did a quick check on a batch of hardcovers, and it seems to vary from publisher to publisher.

    Reply
  44. The irony is that the type of binding used on mass market pbs is called Perfection binding!
    The NYC Public Library once published a list of the strangest bookmarks it had found left in their books. The weirdest, to my mind, was a strip of raw bacon. (Hope they found it SOON!)
    Here is a query someone asked on another blog; perhaps you people may know the answer:
    Why are some first editions so labeled on the colophon page, but others not? I did a quick check on a batch of hardcovers, and it seems to vary from publisher to publisher.

    Reply
  45. The irony is that the type of binding used on mass market pbs is called Perfection binding!
    The NYC Public Library once published a list of the strangest bookmarks it had found left in their books. The weirdest, to my mind, was a strip of raw bacon. (Hope they found it SOON!)
    Here is a query someone asked on another blog; perhaps you people may know the answer:
    Why are some first editions so labeled on the colophon page, but others not? I did a quick check on a batch of hardcovers, and it seems to vary from publisher to publisher.

    Reply
  46. From MJP:
    Bacon as a bookmark? Urk!
    >>It will be nice if American publishers start to do justice to that effort by improving the production of their mass-market lines.>>
    A big reason that AMerican paperback are the way they are is because of production costs. Larger type and wider margins translate to more pages, which means not only more money for paper and printing costs, but fewer books will fit into a rack if the books get too fat.
    Price points are determined based on a certain number of pages, and if the book is long, that means it has to be cut, or printed reallyreallytightly. I remember that my fourth book came in about 20K too long for a Signet Regency. My editor didn’t want to cut it because the story was solid. I was pleased–but less so when the book have five or six more lines per page, narrow margins, and it was set in mice type.
    It’s not that publishers don’t know how to make the books more readable–it’s because that would raise the costs.
    As to messing up books: I once heard Lavyrle Spencer say in a speech “God will not strike you dead if you mark up a book.” 🙂 It was very liberating. Research books are my tools, and a book that I use a lot will end up colored with masses of highlighter and Post-it note tags on pages with info that might prove
    useful. My pleasure reading books tend to fair somewhat better.
    Mary Jo

    Reply
  47. From MJP:
    Bacon as a bookmark? Urk!
    >>It will be nice if American publishers start to do justice to that effort by improving the production of their mass-market lines.>>
    A big reason that AMerican paperback are the way they are is because of production costs. Larger type and wider margins translate to more pages, which means not only more money for paper and printing costs, but fewer books will fit into a rack if the books get too fat.
    Price points are determined based on a certain number of pages, and if the book is long, that means it has to be cut, or printed reallyreallytightly. I remember that my fourth book came in about 20K too long for a Signet Regency. My editor didn’t want to cut it because the story was solid. I was pleased–but less so when the book have five or six more lines per page, narrow margins, and it was set in mice type.
    It’s not that publishers don’t know how to make the books more readable–it’s because that would raise the costs.
    As to messing up books: I once heard Lavyrle Spencer say in a speech “God will not strike you dead if you mark up a book.” 🙂 It was very liberating. Research books are my tools, and a book that I use a lot will end up colored with masses of highlighter and Post-it note tags on pages with info that might prove
    useful. My pleasure reading books tend to fair somewhat better.
    Mary Jo

    Reply
  48. From MJP:
    Bacon as a bookmark? Urk!
    >>It will be nice if American publishers start to do justice to that effort by improving the production of their mass-market lines.>>
    A big reason that AMerican paperback are the way they are is because of production costs. Larger type and wider margins translate to more pages, which means not only more money for paper and printing costs, but fewer books will fit into a rack if the books get too fat.
    Price points are determined based on a certain number of pages, and if the book is long, that means it has to be cut, or printed reallyreallytightly. I remember that my fourth book came in about 20K too long for a Signet Regency. My editor didn’t want to cut it because the story was solid. I was pleased–but less so when the book have five or six more lines per page, narrow margins, and it was set in mice type.
    It’s not that publishers don’t know how to make the books more readable–it’s because that would raise the costs.
    As to messing up books: I once heard Lavyrle Spencer say in a speech “God will not strike you dead if you mark up a book.” 🙂 It was very liberating. Research books are my tools, and a book that I use a lot will end up colored with masses of highlighter and Post-it note tags on pages with info that might prove
    useful. My pleasure reading books tend to fair somewhat better.
    Mary Jo

    Reply
  49. WOW… Some of my fav authors reunited her… Mary Jo Putney, Patricia Rice, Edith Layton, Susan Holloway Scott… I can’t believe it !!!! This website is a must…
    Love from France to all of you 😉

    Reply
  50. WOW… Some of my fav authors reunited her… Mary Jo Putney, Patricia Rice, Edith Layton, Susan Holloway Scott… I can’t believe it !!!! This website is a must…
    Love from France to all of you 😉

    Reply
  51. WOW… Some of my fav authors reunited her… Mary Jo Putney, Patricia Rice, Edith Layton, Susan Holloway Scott… I can’t believe it !!!! This website is a must…
    Love from France to all of you 😉

    Reply

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