Seriously, stock market? Really? You want to go? Because we can go. You heard me. You might win, but I fight dirty.
Reader Gregory O’Neill wrote with a very interesting question: why are some books originally published in hardcover and some originally in paperback?
Good question! There’s more to it than a coin flip. (Mostly)
In recent years there has been a movement towards publishing more original paperbacks. Mass market (i.e. supermarket-rack-sized) originals had always been a way of building up writers in genre fiction, but over the years, trade paperback (i.e. bigger than mass market, smaller than hardcover) originals have gained steady popularity as well. You’ll have to trust me on that because I don’t have time to find the numbers to back that up. Hooray for expediency!
So what goes into the decision?
Well, there are pros and cons to both.
Pros: More royalties for the author because of higher price point, more review coverage (er, in theory), sometimes treated as more “serious” and “prestigious” because of tradition, two shots at a book catching on (first in hardcover then again when it comes out in paperback — Penguin in particular has perfected the art of turning a relatively modest hardcover run into a blockbuster trade paperback – just look at the Trade Paperback bestseller list)
Cons: Hardcovers are expensive, and it’s sometimes difficult to break out an author at a higher price point
Pros: People love them some trade and mass market paperback, lower price point and thus readers may be more willing to take a chance on a new author, trends younger
Cons: Less review coverage, only one shot
So, you might be thinking, if a hardcover is going to come out in paperback eventually anyway, why not just start in hardcover and then come out with the paperback down the line? Win win (win). Well, here’s the potential problem with that: if a book does very poorly in hardcover, it will probably affect how the bookstores are going to place orders on the paperback. So a book that might have caught on as a paperback original could see a paperback run partially dashed if the hardcover doesn’t do well.
Ultimately it’s a very tricky decision that involves figuring out the target audience, factoring in how much review coverage is going to matter, and many other elements. But more and more authors are starting out on the paperback original side, particularly with books that trend toward a younger/edgier market (because young people are poor!), and for authors who are seeking to build an audience.