Friday, October 07, 2005

Hardback vs paperback

When Covenant told me they planned on publishing House of Secrets in hardback, I was ecstatic. What's not to like about hardback? It looks better, lasts longer, the % I make on royalty is better. I imagined how good the novels in the Shandra Covington series would look sitting side by side on someone's bookshelf. Great stuff right?

But then some of the negatives started showing up. Because the cost is a few dollars higher, some bookstores worried the new series might not sell as well. A major LDS bookstore chain suggested they might not be willing to carry HOS in their stores because of it being in hardback. How would these things affect my numbers and ultimately the long term success of the series?

In the LDS market most novels are published in a hardback-sized soft cover version. There are a few exceptions, but they are almost exclusively historical fiction. The reason for that is simple; hardbacks cost more. In general people try new authors in mass market paperback. Hardback is for non-fiction (i.e. reference), gift books, and well established authors.

However, the LDS market is a little different. For one thing, paperbacks are not as cheap as the national market because print runs are smaller. So while a Mary Higgins Clark PB might list for $8 in the national market, a typical LDS mystery PB lists for about $15. You would assume then, that hardbacks would also be more expensive. Mary Higgins Clark in HB lists for about $26. However, a typical LDS HB lists for around $20.

So while the difference between HB and PB for a national mystery is about $18, the difference for an LDS mystery is only about $5. Now we all know that Mormons are a thrifty people. So maybe $5 is a big enough difference to dissuade people from buying my new book. But considering how much longer a hardback will last and how much nicer it looks, how much difference will it really make?

I guess that remains to be seen. Of course we are heading into the gift buying season and hardbacks definitely sell better than paperbacks as gifts. But do LDS people buy mysteries for gifts or do we stick with non-fiction and historicals? Also, if readers find the first book gripping enough they may have less hesitance to buy the next one.

What about you? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

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