Let's say you've written a book and had two offers for publication. One's from a hardcover publisher, and the contract's for $10,000. (Just using some hypothetical round figures here.) You're practically guaranteed reviews in the major publications, you'll have a lot of library sales.

The other offer's from a paperback house. $15,000. No reviews in PW or Booklist, no library sales.

Which offer do you take? Why?

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I've read this discussion with interest, especially since my first two books were out in hardcover and the deal for my third and fourth in the series is for mass market paperback. Accepting the new deal was a no brainer for me after having two hardcovers. There have been a lot of numbers thrown around here about library sales. I wish I had 3,500 library sales. I had great reviews in all the major publications: PW, Library Journal, Booklist and even Kirkus liked my second book. And it didn't sell as well as the first. But the first sold double the number in paperback in three months than it did in hardcover in a whole year.

Paperback, baby. That's where it's at. And if you've got a kick ass cover, all the better.
Even Kirkus?

Wow. That pretty much matches any award going Karen!

Maybe my friend meant to say twenty-five hundred instead of twenty-five thousand re: libraries.

The one thing I absolutely agree on is the cover. I think - and this is where people more knowledgable than me can step in and correct me if wrong - that the perception is that it costs more to produce hardcover, therefore it's more of a risk so the decision to publish in hardcover is seen as more of a gesture of confidence and that this carries over to the reviews... and that some people follow that logic to assume the hardcovers get more attention on cover design, etc.
I've got the most totally kick-ass cover for my next book, and even though I've loved my other Evanovich-evoking covers, this one has them both beat. And it's paperback. Go figure.
Even Kirkus? Wow. That pretty much matches any award going

I've had two starred Kirkus reviews. Can't get Publisher's Weekly to like me no matter what I do. Frankly, I'd rather have sales...

My next PB has a pretty nifty cover going for it. Makes a ton of difference, I think.
I'm not sure about that assumption, Sandra. I've never worked at a NYC publishing house, but from a PBO author's perspective, I think that a lot of care is taken to do paperback covers. (For my last one, I was sent six mockups!) I think that it might depend on the publishing house, but generally speaking, publishers want to sell books in whatever form and they will sell a lot more of the paperbacks. So it makes good business sense to make that paperback cover as attractive as possible.

And in terms of Karen's situation, I have observed some kind of shift/trend in U.S. publishing from when my debut appeared in 2004. More and more large presses are producing PBOs. More and more review outlets, including the NYT, are featuring PBOs. More hardcover authors still early in their careers are going PBO. As book sales are decreasing and people's disposable incomes are shrinking (consumer prices are due to rise more with the record-breaking gas hikes), publishers seem to gravitating towards a less expensive end product.

From a global perspective, this is not new. Apparently the Europeans have been supporting PBOs for years, and the Japanese prefer paperback reading for train commutes, etc.
That's good to hear. It means old mindsets are giving way to new thinking... although I think so much is shifting in the business that this is part of the reason it makes it hard to evaluate options.

Though I do still think that the hardcovers have an eye-catching advantage in terms of size.

One other thing: It's a lot cheaper to mail a paperback.

Oh, and we can solve the world's energy crisis. Hemp.

(It was one of those days in my spare surfing time.)
In my case, the cover designs for the Penguin trade paperbacks are much,. much better than the hcs were. I lucked out in getting a topnotch designer.
That would be a tough call. I think I would go with the hardcover contract, hoping for reviews to boost sales. If I went with paperback, I pay close attention to distribution available through the mass market publisher. (I'd be looking at that in both cases.). If it was an agented sale, and let's face it if it was to a NY house, it most likely would be, there wouldn't be that much of a difference between the 2 contract amounts after taxes and agent cuts.
A thing that needs to be considered is that hardcovers and mass market paperbacks also have different audiences. I know a number of people who will not buy a hardcover regardless of the praise and will wait for the paperback. And there are other people who prefer hardcovers and consider a straight to paperback book as a sign the book has less publisher support.

Yes these are old biases that do not reflect the current changes in the industry, but they still exist.

Ray Banks had an excellent point that hardcover deal might lead to a paper back deal. Often the hardcover sets up the sales for the mass market paperback. The hardcover gets the reviews, the award consideration (as most awards are for hardcovers) and the attention. The mass market paperback gets the sales.

That is why so many well-known authors are still published this way and why so many members of the public think that important books come out in hardcover then mass market paperback.

Now I am not say that authors published in mass market are not as good because that would be beyond ridiculous. Many outastanding authors I read are only in mass market paperback.

I do believe it is harder for a mass market paperback to get the respect (As in reviews, blurbs and award publicity) that a hardcover can get.

Without those things, how do you get somebody to buy your book? You need that much more promotion on the back end.

If you look at the anatomy of a book purchase, it becomes even clearer:
- Person walks into the bookstore.
- Person walks to past the front displays of featured books.
- Person walks to mystery/thriller/crime section.
- Person looks at bookcase with 250 books on it.
- Person stares at a shelf with 50 books on it.
- Person sees your quarter inch book spine and pulls it out.
- Person looks at front and back cover.
- Person opens book and reads a few pages.
- Person decides to buy book.

Not every step is valid in all situations, but the premise is basically correct. As any romance writer who is on a shelf with 45-60 identical sized books how hard it is to get someone to select yours.

As far as price goes, everything I have seen indicates that people who prefer mass market paperback because of price compare the book against other mass market paperbacks to make their purchasing decision. That is where the lack of reviews can really hurt you.

One glaring exception to this is Hard Case Crime, but that is due to their unique marketing concept that gives them the best of both worlds.

Something else to consider is at one time an organization I was aware of would not consider you a legitimate author unless your publisher had five PW reviews. So if your paperback house can not get those reviews, you are marginalized.

Trade paperbacks are a different story as some publishers use them as a replacement for hardcovers and they appear to be getting more acceptance. For example, Dying Light by Stuart MacBride came out in Canada first in trade then in mass market paperback.
I've enjoyed all the comments on this. There's no really easy answer, is there.
Paperback. For starters, not every hard cover gets reviewed in PW or Booklist. So to base an acceptance on where you might or might not get reviews is logically unsound.

If you are a new author or have a still-growing fan base, as has been pointed out, it's hard to get strangers to plunk down $20 or $25 for a book. Hell, it's hard to get your friends to do that the second or third time around. A trade paperback or a mass market is a much cheaper, easier entry point for new writers. I'm much more willing to take a gamble for $6 or $8 or $12 than I am at $25.
Hell, at this point, I'd take the HON deal (Handwritten On Napkins) for a plate of nachos.


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