Friday, February 16, 2007

Do You Want It Hard or Soft?

(That's what she said!)...Er, sorry, that's my homage to The Office. (Jim!!! Pam!!! What are you doing???!!?)

You mentioned in a previous post that getting a hardcover deal was important to you. What are the pros of this? Is hardcover better than trade paperback?

Ooh, goooood question, and I definitely want other people to weigh in with their thoughts.

NO. Let me say first that there's no "better," or "worse." There's really only what's best for your particular book. And in my case, I felt, as did my agent, that hardcover was the right way to release TDLF. How did we reach that conclusion? Well, other books that it was being compared to, such as Good Grief and The True and Outstanding Adventures of the Hunt Sisters, were released in hardcover...and did really well. So clearly, the demographic for my book can and will buy hardcover. Second, hardcover books tend (and I say tend because this is evolving) to get more reviews, and reviews sell books. Third, like it or not, hardcover books are often considered more "prestigious" by people in the industry (and I put that word in quotes because it's a terrible adjective to use, but I'm lacking a better one), and so they might get a bigger push by everyone from your in-house publicist to your sales team to a buyer at Barnes and Noble. (And btw, please know that I'm just passing along what I've heard. I certainly don't believe that my book is any more prestigious or important or whatever than a gazillion wonderful trade paperbacks that I've read.) There's also the fact that, I think, libraries are more likely to order hardcovers than paperback, and libraries can definitely make a dent in your sales. (Correct me if I'm wrong about this.)

NOW. There are also a lot of benefits to coming out in trade paperback. The most obvious is price point. A LOT of people don't want to shell out twenty bucks or more for a book for which there's no guarantee that they'll like. (Though interestingly enough, a book will last you a lot longer than a movie, and these days, tix to the movies for two people are about the same as a hardcover, at least in NYC. Let's not even factor in the price of the evening once you've added in a babysitter and dinner!) I think this is really true for the chick lit market or for first-time writers. You simply might not be able to get people to shell out for an unproven author or for a lighter story. Especially the younger demographic who doesn't have as much disposable income. I think, and this is just my guess, you're also more likely to get book clubs to select trade paperbacks than hardcovers, and book clubs can really bolster sales, especially through word of mouth.

There's also the added pressure of coming out in hardcover vs. trade. I think that the publishing house tends to have greater expectations with their hardcovers, and if you fall short - which you well might, given the price point - your next book deal might be a no-go.

Speaking of reviews (well, I speaking of them in the earlier paragraphs), time for a tiny brag...:)

Booklist just had this to say about TDLF:

"Scotch handles the topic of cancer with humor and hope, never dipping into the maudlin. The changes and realizations that the characters make are profound and moving. An impressive debut."

Anyway, I'd LOVE to hear what other people think about hardcover vs. trade paperback. Please weigh in!


Alison Ashley Formento said...

What an interesting topic! Just from a personal standpoint, except for when traveling by plane, I prefer reading a hardcover book. The numerous stacks of paperbacks at the bookstore tend to be a blur for me, as the hardcover books seem to get better placement.

Trish said...

Love the Booklist review! PW can go fish, right?

Just finished again, can I say "bravo"? Love it, love it, love it.


Larramie said...

As a library-card user during my formative years, I "feel" that the hardcover is a book...though trade paperbacks have improved in quality.

Last week, PW: "A bonbon of a book." Now, Bookist: "An impressive debut." Booklist "gets" it as will your readers.

Therese said...

Allison--great blog! And what a terrific Booklist review--congrats!

My take on the hard/soft is much like yours. So much depends on the anticipated market for the particular book that the only "advantage" to be concerned about is that the best choice, whichever it may be, gets made.

My debut is coming out in hardcover in the US (next Jan., Random House/Ballantine). But my UK publisher (HarperCollins) is bringing it out as a mass market paperback (this July).

The UK market is dramatically different than the US. We were okay with mm paperback because HC is making my novel the launch title for their new Avon UK imprint. I'll get dramatically more exposure than I would as an unknown hardcover author in a market where so few hardcovers sell.

I hear what you say about the pressures of a hardcover debut...but want to add that, in many cases, the publishers have factored in the possibility that a book will take off when it moves to trade (usually 9-12 mos. after debut). This was the case with Kim Edwards' novel THE MEMORY KEEPER'S DAUGHTER.

Jen A. Miller said...

I review a lot of books, and I've found myself reviewing more original trade paperbacks lately, partly because one of my editor likes covering books that might not get a lot of newspaper coverage. A lot of these books are targeted to a younger audience -- 20 and 30 somethings -- and I think that putting it in trade paperback is to make those books a better value to that demographic. But I agree that I might view a hardback release as a more 'prestigious' book -- or at least the publisher's attempt to make it appear to be a more prestigious book.

And that's no offense to Allison's book, which I read in galley form and loved.

MaNiC MoMMy™ said...

I think hardcover carries more clout in the publishing world, however I also think the public is less likely to shell out $22+ for a book when they know they can wait six months or so for the softie. (However, I do purchase everyone of Jen Weiner's the minute that hardcover hits the shelf; Emily Giffin too)..

But in my case, I will take hard or soft, I just want to sell!!!!

Please send karma my way! I need some!