Hardcover vs. Paperback


The days of books having to be launched in hardcover are over. Important fiction and non-fiction are now releasing in paperback all the time.

According to Independent, Barnes & Noble and Borders book buyers, people don’t buy books in hardcover the way they used to. These days, 75 percent of the DOLLARS spent on fiction are trade paperbacks. Remember how less expensive paperbacks are, factor in the price difference, and this means that less than only a small percentage of the fiction books sold in America are hardcover. And those sales are usually reserved for big houses with established, big-name authors.

Yes, there are exceptions, but if you want to maximize your chances of stocking and sell through, you will not take the chance that you will be one of the very few exceptions. Everyone thinks that they will be different. They aren’t.

I know that hardcover books are more appealing for authors. They think of hardcovers as more legitimate. They believe the hardcover will bring in more dollars. They believe that libraries want hardcover and think that they cannot get reviews with paperbacks. But those ideas are outdated..

Reviewers now review trade paperback fiction all the time. Libraries have less money than ever before and many prefer trade paperback for new authors. The ever shrinking number of Librarians who prefer hardcover can be served with Hardcover Print-on -demand.

Hardcover books from new authors or small houses are rarely, if ever, stocked nationally by major chains; therefore, sales are far less likely than in trade paper. (Example: If a national chain book buyer likes a book from a new publisher, he or she might take in 150 of a hardcover versus being willing to test 800 to 1,000 of a paperback.)

A well-known fiction buyer with more than twenty-five years’ experience has seen the passages of our industry and has kept himself up-to-date with the changing elements. When asked about hardcover versus paperback, he had this to say, “With so many small presses pitching fiction today, publishers should be obsessed with placement. They cannot get placement with hardcovers. Hardcover sales are hemorrhaging…. Please, tell your publishers to stop publishing in hardcover.”

That said, there are times when publishing a book in hardcover is a good idea. Many books are not published for the bookstore shelves. You may be publishing a book destined for corporate sales or you may be a speaker who plans to sell your book from the back of a Marriot Inn conference room. In these circumstances, publishing a book in hardcover and making the extra dollars that come from the higher price might be best.

Always keep the customer in mind when you are choosing the type of book you are going to publish. For example, if you have written a crumpet cookbook, your potential readership may have more disposable income and prefer a book that lays open heavily and will be used and reused often enough to warrant the durability of a hardcover book. If you have written a cozy mystery, your readers may not appreciate a $25 price tag and having to hold up a big, heavy book for hours while they read.

If you are concerned for your older readers, who prefer hardcover because of the bigger type, print your paperback with a larger font.

The bottom line is this… identify your reader and make sure you are creating a book that meets their desires and specifications, not yours.

Til later – AC

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