I have a question for you, Bark readers. So let’s crowdsource it and see what we come up with. Why do we publish hardback original editions of books? As in, why do we publish novels or memoirs or even, occasionally, short story collections in hardback form? Why shouldn’t all new editions, which are currently released in hardback form, just come out in paperback form on their pub date? Related question: does this make me a socialist?
In the current model, some, but nowhere near all, new releases come out in hardback, and then are released later in paperback. The books released in hardback supposedly carry more prestige, and are able to generate more buzz and more reviews, which can lead to better sales, consideration for awards, and so on. However, many books are released in paperback, and the conventional wisdom is that it’s harder to generate national publicity for those books, because hardback first editions usually come from big publishers with a lot of marketing muscle, and thus it’s harder to get reviews for first edition paperbacks.
The obvious answer is that hardbacks make more money, for both the publisher and author. My understanding is that the profit margin is significantly higher on hardbacks, but I’d be curious to know exact figures. What I’m wondering is whether, if all new releases were in paperback, the sales (in terms of revenue, not units sold) would be the same or greater than our current system. This is one of those situations where I’m ignorant about the business side of publishing, so if you have answers, please share.
Here’s the thing: I love books, and I buy way more of them than my income should allow for. I support buying books, and buying them often, and buying the books of people who are hardworking and good literary citizens and wicked awesome people. However, I actually cringe upon seeing that a hardback novel is $30. Thirty dollars? That’s two weeks worth of gas; nearly a week’s worth of groceries; ten lattes; three pairs of men’s jeans; 2-3 months worth of cat food; a nice bottle of whiskey to last through Spokane’s 4-6 months of winter…you get the idea. Do I value art more than I value those things? Maybe. But I could also buy two brand-new paperbacks for that price. Read more »