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bookfreakguy
01-21-2008, 07:05 PM
I have a small trade publisher interested in publishing my book. I always pictured it as a hardcover book, but he says he only does softcover. No advance being offered, but royalties are better than average. Small, but reputable firm with a good track record. All marketing is pretty much up to me, but that's not an issue to me given my numerous contacts.

My question is: Does hardcover vs. softcover really matter? Like I said, I love the thought of having my book in hardcover...but bottom line is that I want to sell books. I'm thinking someone who wants hardcover would not hesitate to buy soft cover if that's the only option - but someone who might want softcover wouldn't necessarily buy hardcover. That being the case, I think maybe I shouldn't worry about hardcover. Any thoughts? Thank you.

Susan B
01-21-2008, 08:30 PM
Congratulations on finding a reputable publisher--that is the main thing!

Are you able to say more about the book's subject--or the publisher?

I'm wondering about this too, but for the opposite reason. My first book (a music memoir) is coming out with a university press in the fall--in hardcover, though I think paperback may follow.

What I've read is that initial publication in hardcover has some advantages (certain places, like NY Times, may not review paperbacks) but it may be present disadvantages for sales as a "trade" book.

SHBueche
01-21-2008, 09:21 PM
As a book buyer, if a book is only offered in hard cover, I wait to buy a used copy. Cost does make a difference for consumers.

flashgordon
01-21-2008, 09:35 PM
Many publishers are moving away from hardbacks. I believe just last year, Picador announced that they will no longer publish any hardbacks (and they are one of the largest UK publishers). It comes down to cost, although it is not impossible to make hardcovers that are reasonably priced and still profitable.

I personally prefer hardbacks - and we still publish them - but for price point comparison, it seems 14.95 for a softcover is what people are willing to pay for a new book. University Presses still publish hardbacks - in a limited quantity - mainly for their library sales.

Either way, congrats on getting your book accepted!

bookfreakguy
01-21-2008, 09:36 PM
Thank you both for your replies. I don't want to say too much more about it at this point. What I can say is that it's a non-fiction narrative - an inspirational story about a person who has overcome some major obstacles. It's just a book I always pictured as hardcover first, then paperback. But then I'm thinking "Why does it have to be hardcover?" I don't know that it does. So I'm just trying to get myself out of that mindset, I guess.

bookfreakguy
01-21-2008, 09:38 PM
Flashgordon - thanks! Just saw your reply after I posted my previous reply. I'm thinking paperback may not be such a bad way to go.

miles111
01-21-2008, 10:59 PM
As far as I'm concerned, it depends on how I feel about a particular book. If it's a fiction masterpiece or the work of a philosopher I love, I would want a hardback copy. These are books I would probably keep for a lifetime and read many times. I also prefer reference books in hard cover.

I'm not fussy about other books. How-to's and books I'll read only once can come in any form. Most of these will eventually be traded for credit toward other (used) books at a great local used bookstore.

CACTUSWENDY
01-21-2008, 11:26 PM
If my book ever gets done....fiction....I would only want it to come out as a soft paperback. I see no reason to pay hard book prices for a cop book. I have had some say that I should want the hard, but most cop stories are fast reads and the folks that buy them usually buy in soft. (Just my two cents.)

LC123
01-21-2008, 11:35 PM
All my books are softcover. There is no reason to do a hardcover unless your book is a coffee-table affair. Anything you can do to keep the price competitive outweighs whatever advantage a hardcover gives. JMO.

Lauri B
01-22-2008, 12:33 AM
There is no stigma to a paperback vs hardcover. Review pubs don't care, including the NY Times--they'll review either hc or pb. Whether or not to do a first run in hardcover is usually a matter of cost for the publisher: hc books are more expensive to produce, and since the retail price is generally higher, they tend to sell fewer. I agree with flashgordon--many trade publishers are foregoing the hc in favor of larger print runs of softcover. Don't worry about it not being in hardcover and enjoy the success your book will have as a trade paperback!

Billingsgate
01-22-2008, 05:36 AM
Just for your information: hardcover books are only slightly more expensive to produce than paperbacks. I self-published numerous books through one of the world's top printing companies located in Hong Kong, which prints a huge number of the coffee table books and quality children's books you see aroud the world. The difference between printing a hardcover and a paperback book is PENNIES, even on a relatively small print run of 5000. They're heavier, so shipping costs are higher. But nevertheless, the so-called price differential is a scam, enabling publishers to have a much higher markup on hardcover books. That's why author royalties are higher on hardcover: the publishers can afford to be generous. Publishers charge more for hardcover because that's what the market supports, not because the printing costs are so enormously higher. If publishers charged the same markup on hardcover books as they do on paperbacks, based on their real costs, then most standard hardcovers would cost maybe a dollar more than paperbacks. But they're not about to do that. How many "bargain classics" - all hardcovers - do you find in book stores retailing for below US$10? Plenty. Why are these hardcovers magically cheaper than a general market hardcover (other than no need to pay royalties)? They're no cheaper to produce. They sell for less because that's the price the market supports.

I believe Picador and others are moving away from hardcovers more because of inventory issues and because the sales life of any book is shorter these days. Plus the general public prefers paperbacks because of the price. And why bother to make hardcovers if they charged based on their real production costs?

bookfreakguy
01-22-2008, 05:41 AM
You guys are awesome! Thanks for your input. I feel much better about paperback than I did before.

DeleyanLee
01-22-2008, 06:29 AM
If you want to see your book in hardcover someday, just don't sell the hardcover rights. Then, after you've proven yourself in trade paper, you still have them to sell later.

This does happen, since I've recently picked up one of my all-time favorite novels (originally published in mass market paperback) in hard cover.

Lauri B
01-22-2008, 02:59 PM
Just for your information: hardcover books are only slightly more expensive to produce than paperbacks. I self-published numerous books through one of the world's top printing companies located in Hong Kong, which prints a huge number of the coffee table books and quality children's books you see aroud the world. The difference between printing a hardcover and a paperback book is PENNIES, even on a relatively small print run of 5000. They're heavier, so shipping costs are higher. But nevertheless, the so-called price differential is a scam, enabling publishers to have a much higher markup on hardcover books. That's why author royalties are higher on hardcover: the publishers can afford to be generous. Publishers charge more for hardcover because that's what the market supports, not because the printing costs are so enormously higher. If publishers charged the same markup on hardcover books as they do on paperbacks, based on their real costs, then most standard hardcovers would cost maybe a dollar more than paperbacks. But they're not about to do that. How many "bargain classics" - all hardcovers - do you find in book stores retailing for below US$10? Plenty. Why are these hardcovers magically cheaper than a general market hardcover (other than no need to pay royalties)? They're no cheaper to produce. They sell for less because that's the price the market supports.

I believe Picador and others are moving away from hardcovers more because of inventory issues and because the sales life of any book is shorter these days. Plus the general public prefers paperbacks because of the price. And why bother to make hardcovers if they charged based on their real production costs?

But if you don't go overseas for printing, they are a lot more expensive. And why would you, unlesss you are doing 4-color?

Billingsgate
01-22-2008, 05:57 PM
I'm talking about relative costs. Whether printed in Asia or in North America, the price differential between printing hardcover and paperback is not nearly as big as the retail prices would have you believe.

Prevostprincess
01-26-2008, 07:19 AM
I went through this same thing with my upcoming book, a humorous travel memoir. I also always assumed it would be hardcover and that's what was in my contract. Then, the publisher said they'd had tremendous success with original paperbacks in this genre and would I consider it? I'm such a book snob, I said "no way." Then, I thought about it. These were the arguments the publisher gave me:

Yes, it's less likely to get reviewed, but review space in newspapers has been so cut back, that it's unlikely to get many reviews, anyway.

People will buy HC if the book is important or by a famous person, but will usually wait for paperback otherwise.

Book groups tend to wait for paperback.

If your book doesn't do so well in HC, then the booksellers won't order many when it comes out in paperback, so the latter will not sell well, either.

You may not agree with these points. I'm just repeating what my publisher said. Personally, I'm glad I thought about it and agreed to paperback. What finally swayed me was polling good, honest friends who told me that for a book like mine (if they didn't know me, of course), they'd wait to buy until it came out in paperback. I had to admit in the end, I would, too.

Prevostprincess
03-25-2008, 04:50 AM
I thought I would resurrect this thread because of what happened to me today. As I just posted in the "Announcements" thread, my upcoming book (in original paperback) was chosen as one of Borders Book Club Selections for June. My publisher told me that would not have happened if it was coming out in hardcover.

Molfitz
03-29-2008, 11:01 PM
Good for you, PrevostPrincess.

And thank you and everyone for the low down of hard and softcovers. I picture my WIP as a softcover, a book you could take with you to bed (you'll love it so much). Thinking that hardcover comes first, in the world of publishing, I was wrestling with the image of cuddling with a hardback.

Prevostprincess
05-30-2008, 09:11 PM
Reserecting this thread, once again, as another thing just happened to the book because it's paperback, and I thought this would be instructive: Anthropologie is going to stock QUEEN OF THE ROAD. It's a woman's clothing, boutique-y kinda store. I hadn't even considered that non bookstores were more likely to carry it if paperback. I thought perhaps this is something others hadn't consider, as well, so wanted to share in this thread.

(And, earlier in the week, I found out that Target has chosen QUEEN OF THE ROAD as one of their Breakout Books - already posted this in announcements thread, but again, this would not have happened in HC, so thought I'd repeat, here.)

I guess the lesson is consider all the markets for your book and honestly assess. Obviously, I'm very, very glad I changed my mind about HC. (Was also recently told by my publisher that they are particularly glad I did, as with the economy the way it is, HC is becoming a harder and harder sell (pardon the pun.)

Susan B
05-30-2008, 09:47 PM
Reserecting this thread, once again, as another thing just happened to the book because it's paperback, and I thought this would be instructive: Anthropologie is going to stock QUEEN OF THE ROAD. It's a woman's clothing, boutique-y kinda store. I hadn't even considered that non bookstores were more likely to carry it if paperback. I thought perhaps this is something others hadn't consider, as well, so wanted to share in this thread.

(And, earlier in the week, I found out that Target has chosen QUEEN OF THE ROAD as one of their Breakout Books - already posted this in announcements thread, but again, this would not have happened in HC, so thought I'd repeat, here.)

I guess the lesson is consider all the markets for your book and honestly assess. Obviously, I'm very, very glad I changed my mind about HC. (Was also recently told by my publisher that they are particularly glad I did, as with the economy the way it is, HC is becoming a harder and harder sell (pardon the pun.)

Too cool, Doreen!

Obviously no problem at all with good quality trade paperbacks, and some definite advantages!

I was actually concerned about my music memoir (a university press book) coming out in hardcover, at least initially. Sometimes academic books are crazily expensive! But I was very relieved to see it's now up on Amazon, and at a pretty reasonable discounted rate.

Prevostprincess
05-30-2008, 10:11 PM
Just checked out your Amazon page - way cool!

benbradley
05-30-2008, 10:37 PM
Last evening I heard a story on publishers moving more toward softcovers (as well as other recent pressures in the book publishing business). I just posted a link to the transcript in this post/thread:
http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=104301

Susan B
05-30-2008, 11:36 PM
Just checked out your Amazon page - way cool!

Thanks! It will be even cooler when my pub. figures out the cover :-)

johnrobison
05-31-2008, 12:06 AM
Reserecting this thread, once again, as another thing just happened to the book because it's paperback, and I thought this would be instructive: Anthropologie is going to stock QUEEN OF THE ROAD. It's a woman's clothing, boutique-y kinda store. I hadn't even considered that non bookstores were more likely to carry it if paperback. I thought perhaps this is something others hadn't consider, as well, so wanted to share in this thread.

(And, earlier in the week, I found out that Target has chosen QUEEN OF THE ROAD as one of their Breakout Books - already posted this in announcements thread, but again, this would not have happened in HC, so thought I'd repeat, here.)



May I suggest that the sales to Anthropologie and Target illustrate the selling power of the big 7 houses. They are pretty much the only publishers with the clout to go out and seek sales opportunities like that. A small press would not have achieved those results. Indeed, small press books seldom appear in outlets like that.

It's one more thing to consider when looking at publishers.

mamawriter
05-31-2008, 12:12 AM
That is awesome about Anthropologie!

As for the hard/soft cover thing, my publisher said that even libraries are starting to buy more and more softcovers lately, for what it's worth!

Prevostprincess
05-31-2008, 01:52 AM
mamawriter - Thanks! Unfortunately, this means I'll feel obligated to shop and buy something at that store :)

John - I have no doubt what you said is true. However, most authors are not in the position to select publishers like you were.

In my own case, I was rejected by 113 agents over 2 years before landing the fabulous Mollie Glick. (For the record, she was NOT my 114th choice. It was a fluke that I hadn't queried her before, and a story for another thread, perhaps.) Then, the book was rejected by muliple editors. (I have to ask Mollie how many, but I believe a few dozen.) Actually, not really the editors, but their sales forces. It's ironic/bizarre/whatever you wanna call it to me that the reason most of the agents and editors gave was, "I love this. I just don't think I can sell it." I say ironic/bizarre/whatever you wanna call it because apparently stores like Borders and Target and Anthropologie think they can sell it.

I guess we'll see, but I think many authors just feel grateful when they get any book deal at all, let alone an agent. I know I did (and still do - I continue to marvel every day that my book is actually going to be published - never mind in just a few days!) and that I was very fortunate.

Susan B
05-31-2008, 02:08 AM
okay, Doreen--my Amazon cart is now loaded, poised to buy your book (and also my own :-) on the appointed release day!

Blair

mamawriter
05-31-2008, 04:41 AM
Prevostprincess, I just left a comment on your (fabulous) blog. :)

I love your site!

scope
05-31-2008, 11:31 PM
Nothing I can add to the excellent advice you already received, but I do have a question. You say that all marketing is pretty much up to you. I can understand that you might want to help with marketing, but what is the publisher doing--if anything? It just sounds strange to me.

Prevostprincess
06-01-2008, 12:13 AM
Hi Scope,

It's not that all marketing is up to the author. But, authors really need to show the publisher that they are willing to work hard and do what it takes for the book from the beginning. (Look, I even did a video of the nudist RV park we went to and posted it on my website. I mean, really. How many authors would do that? :)

I think it might make sense if you think about it this way: How many books is the publisher bringing out in a given season? With a big publisher, several dozen or more? Each author only has one book. How do you make yours stand out to the publisher? For me, it started with my kick-ass website. How could the publisher's sales force not be excited when they saw it? Then, I started to do more and more and let them know about it. Originally, they were not going to do a tour; now I'm going to 8 cities.

It was solely the publisher that got me the Borders and Target (and Anthropologie) promos. How that exactly happened, I have no idea. (I'm just the author, after all.) But, I firmly believe part of it had to do with making my book stand out in the sales force's mind. (I'm assuming it's a given that they think the book is good and that people will respond to it, otherwise, they wouldn't have published it in the first place, but again, that's true for all their books.)

I kept my day job, so didn't need the advance to live on. (Not that I could have, anyway :) I never looked at the advance as "my" money. It was my book's money and I reinvested part of it back into the book via the website, outside publicist, etc. I've posted elsewhere that it took me 113 agent rejections over 2 years to land my agent. That was horribly painful. In ONE way, though, perhaps it was a blessing in disguise: I used that time to learn what I could about book marketing, just in case I ever got a book deal. The most important thing I learned was that authors cannot sit back and assume everything will be done for them.

I don't mean to imply "all" the marketing is up to the author - far, far from it. But, I can't tell you how many writers with books coming out around the same time as mine have seen some of the nice things happening to QUEEN OF THE ROAD and have asked, "Hey, Doreen! It's a few weeks before my pub date. My publisher hasn't done anything for me, what do you suggest I do?" Unfortunately, these writers often haven't done anything for themselves, either.

scope
06-01-2008, 02:35 AM
Hi Prevostprincess,

I am with you 100% when it comes to an author doing any and everything she or he can to promote and market their published book--whatever the publisher may or may do. It's something I've consciously done for every published book of mine and it's something I will continue to do in the future. I'm sometimes surprised that authors take this responsibility so lightly and don't plan accordingly. That some authors don't realize how important a part of the process this is. Of course some can do it better than others, but I believe every author has to do the best she or he can. To dismiss same is to some degree dismissing your our work. After all, the greater the promotion and marketing the more a book will sell and be recognized. And who besides the publisher does that really benefit -- we the writers! So, I think you and I agree about what we have to do.

My earlier post was a reaction to the initial post where it was said that the publisher basically has no plans to market the book and that same would be the responsibility of the author. The way it was said indicates to me--I could be wrong--that the author hadn't pressed the issue and simply accepted this fact. As I said above, if that is the case, OK, but one should make every effort to get the publisher involved in the process. The more they have at stake the more attention they will pay to the book, and if nothing else, the harder they will try to recoup their monetary outlay.

Prevostprincess
06-01-2008, 04:24 AM
Scope -

Oh, I see. I thought you were referring to me, but the initial thread in the post wasn't mine. So, we are in agreement. I think in the initial post, the author said he got no advance, so I suspect that's why the publisher wasn't doing anything at all for the book - it didn't have any monetary outlay to recoup.

When my first (and only other) book was published 10 years ago (by a major publisher, Macmillan) I did nothing. The publisher did do a lot for me (I was on Larry King Live, in People Magazine, on 48 Hours, etc. etc. Way to get over my fear of public speaking - quick!) But, I think that was more the norm in those days, ie authors leaving it all up to the publisher. Most didn't even have websites, let alone blogs or hire outside publicists. Today, I think many authors just don't realize that they have to put the time, effort and money in. (Why their agents don't tell them, is beyond me.) It was boards like AW that helped me understand this and I'm very, very grateful to benefit from others who have shared their experiences and wisdom about this whole crazy process.

scope
06-01-2008, 07:14 AM
Prevostprincess,

Yes, we are in total agreement.

I also agree with your observations about publishers going back 15 or more years. Like you I was there and my experiences are much the same as yours. I've had a good number of books published since the 1970's (I'm not that old--I started in college) but not until the mid to late 1990's did publishers start asking me to do all I could, on my own, to help promote and market my books--over and above what they do. Now it's a given, unless the author is a household name. And not until the "90's did I need an agent. Prior to that time I had no problem personally contacting editors, even in the most prestigious houses. But that all changed, and in the "90's I found that I had to get an agent to approach publishers. Fortunately I got an excellent agent at a marvelous agency. And from day one my agent stressed the need for prmotion and marketing.