WHEN TRADE PAPERBACKS WORK
Gee, I am still not hearing much enthusiasm from mainstream houses in New York about my idea that book publishers should stop putting out expensive and wasteful hardcover editions at the start of a book’s life and begin with original trade paperbacks instead.
(Here’s how most of the response went: You idiot. Original trade paperbacks are an old and outdated idea. Everybody’s tried it and everybody fails because trade paperbacks don’t get reviewed, don’t make enough profit for booksellers, aren’t taken seriously by TV/radio shows, and are too easily damaged in shipment. Even when they get to bookstores and even when they’re displayed face-up [too rarely!], the covers curl up on the table, so you lose about one out of ten.)
Remember, I’m not talking about established best-sellers that have found an audience willing to pay $30 per copy. I’m talking about books by new authors of midrange or serious literary books who don’t have a marketing budget behind them and can no longer depend on affluent readers who’ll take a chance on unknowns.
A Sales Rep Speaks
So: Do original trade paperbacks ever succeed? Thanks to Lise Solomon, a sales representative for the book distributor Consortium, here is a case in point:
“Last season I sold a first novel (‘Tinkers’ by Paul Harding), which I loved and wanted to make happen in my territory of Northern California. ” ‘Tinkers’ had the help of a Marilynne Robinson blurb on the cover and a great package from the relatively unknown independent publisher, Bellevue Literary Press, which announced the book as a trade paperback original. I had ARCs for key buyers and sold it passionately everywhere I could. Continue reading
A NEW KIND OF PARALYSIS?
I may end up posing quite a number of Things I’d Love to See in the publishing industry, but a recent email from an editor in New York points out what a tangled knot mainstream publishing has become — too tangled, it seems, to make any substantive changes.
The editor’s message responds to a recent column about publishers ending the tradition of publishing a book in hardcover first, then waiting a year for the trade paperback (if any). I proposed that publishers start with the cheaper but still beautiful trade paperback edition first. Especially for books by unknown or midlist authors, the already wasteful practice of publishing hardcovers seems senseless.
And now that money is short, readers are far more likely to take a chance on trade paperbacks; book reviewers who used to require hardcovers (honestly! I haven’t heard that one in 20 years) have been overtaken by bloggers who LOVE paperbacks; and since even publishers dismiss hardcovers as “promotional copies for the trade paperback,” my thought is: Just reverse the process. Continue reading
WHEN PAPERBACKS DID THE WORK
Last week’s column about publishing trade paperbacks first and letting them earn their way into hardcover publication (rather than the other way around) brought a delightful and informative email exchange with California writer Lois Levine.
If you read yesterday’s New York Times piece about authors establishing themselves on the Internet by selling enough self-published books to lure New York publishers into offering a contract, here’s how this was done in BC [before computer] times.
The only difference is that Lois and co-author Marian Burros didn’t have a clue to what they were doing, as evidenced by Photo #1. (Burros went on to write for the old Washington Star and now the New York Times, but that would come much later.)
1) Self-published edition in mimeo
Here’s how the email exchange went after Lois read the column asking publishers to start the publishing process not with hardcovers but with trade paperbacks:
Lois: You are probably not old enough to remember that my first cookbook, “Elegant but Easy,” was published in paperback by Collier Books (1968). When it became their best-selling book, it was then brought out in hardcover by Macmillan. It still sells, though Marian Burros and I revised it in 1998 for Simon & Schuster. It has sold more than 500,000 copies. Continue reading
#1: ONLINE ROYALTY ACCOUNTS FOR AUTHORS
(Note: This seems like an obvious next step for the book industry, although publishers hit the roof when I’ve shown it to them, as you’ll see. – Pat)
If you were an author, wouldn’t it be great if your publisher gave you a password to your own royalty account?
This would be an online, frequently updated, always accessible, entirely confidential page on your publisher’s website that would replace the current system.
As frequently as you wish, you could check sales of your book, the rate of returns, the percentage taken out for reserves and varying royalty rates for bulk sales, special sales, premium sales, electronic sales, and so forth.
As it is now, most authors have to wait six months for a printed, snail-mailed royalty statement that’s filled with outdated information that’s mired in financial gobbledygook their own agents can’t decipher. Continue reading