Catalyst Book Press

The places, ideas, and people that change us

hardcover vs. paperback

Steve Almond wrote an interesting article in this month’s Poets & Writers about the difference between hardbacks and paperbacks. Many publishers these days are publishing first print runs in paperback, knowing that they’re more likely to sell copies that way. It may seem like a press has no confidence in a book’s success if they don’t issue it first in hardback but in today’s economy and today’s book market, that is just not the case. People will buy books for $10-12 when they won’t shell out $15-20. There is a psychological barrier in that leap between $10 and $15, let’s admit it. Even I’m more likely to buy a book if it’s only $10 and I, well, I’m a total whore when it comes to books. (Bookslut is already taken, so maybe I should nickname myself The Book ‘Ho.) Anyway… I love hardback books and I’m glad that Knopf had enough confidence in my novel, The Confessional , to put it out in hardback first. But still, I don’t plan to put any of Catalyst’s books out as hardbacks, at least not right away. Choosing to go paperback seems like a really simple and effective way to cut costs–and according to Almond, it doesn’t have a negative effect on potential reviewers, who review according to interest, not whether a book is a hardback.

It’s disheartening to get into today’s book world. On the one hand, it seems like there are more opportunities and reasons to publish than ever. On the other hand, it seems like it’s a cutthroat business world. (I speak from a writer’s perspective as much as a publisher’s perspective, though I feel personally everlastingly grateful for the agent I have and the editor I ended up with at Knopf.) I don’t know how independent book publishers make money when they have to shell out money for booths at this book fair and that book fair; send out dozens, even hundreds, of free books to reviewers, bookstores, & librarians; and accept returns that are unsaleable from bookstores who couldn’t sell the copies in a few months and thus, send the copies back. It’s a cold, scary world, I’m learning.

February 12, 2008 - Posted by | Catalyst Book Press, hardback, independent book publishers, independent publishing culture, indie, paperback, small press, Steve Almond | , , , , , , , ,

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