Are Books Originally Published in Trade Paperback Lesser Books?

Books and Value

Last week at Book Expo America I had several wonderfully bookish conversations with blogging pals and industry friends.  One conversation continues to haunt me, so to get this bee out of my bonnet, I figured I would ask your thoughts on the matter.

I have always been a lover of books that come out in trade paperback.  I loved the format.  They are lighter and easier to carry, the font size is usually smaller and different than those found in hardcovers (and I am picky about that stuff when buying a book!), and they are easily placed and stacked on my shelves.  Prior to blogging I was rarely aware of what was new in hardcover because I never even bothered to go to that section.  Of course now it’s a totally different story, and I have been re-trained and now seek out hardcovers to buy.  I guess all of those finished hardcovers sent for review finally got to me.

For awhile now, people have made the argument that more books would be sold if they were released more quickly into the formats that people want to buy them in. We have e-books, hardcovers and audiobooks all lining up around similar release dates. Now I have no idea if this is true for most people or not, but my friend mentioned that even though she knew that it probably wasn’t true and had no basis in fact, she still couldn’t escape the thought that  any book where a publisher believes in the quality and saleability of said book, will be released in hardcover first.

I was a bit surprised by this, but the more I thought about it, the more I wondered if there wasn’t something to her feelings and if in the back of our heads, others of us weren’t feeling the same way.  Maybe even subconsciously. All it would take would be to read a few books that you didn’t connect with that were original trade paperbacks to start a trend in your mind. We both agreed that quality of the book probably didn’t play into it on a rational level and my friend accepts that, but what about perceptions and the psychological aspect?  Movies that are released straight to DVD are usually written off as not being good enough to have a showing in a theater, or are never even slated for the theater  in the first place because they either appeal to a niche audience  or might be low budget productions featuring actors whose work is not widely known or whose career has seen better days.  The expectation of huge sales are not high.

I also wonder if this is something that most consumers would even think about.  Back before I had as much knowledge of books and publishing, I would have assumed that the paperback I was choosing to buy had already been out in hardcover at some point. That’s just the way it was done.  I may have caught on by now, but then again, I may not have.

What do you think? Does the way a book is published affect the way that you feel about them?  Do books released in hardcover have more prestige than those released as original trade paperbacks?  Do considerations like these affect your purchasing decisions?

1DA652C2516038AE4D02F55645591F39 Shutter Island, by Dennis Lehane

I’m not completely sure what my feelings are – this is probably something that I will continue to ponder, but  when I was thinking back on books that I know were originally published as trade paperbacks, I came up with The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Bronte and Life After Yes.  I LOVED both books.  Hopefully I won’t subconsciously let the way books are originally published get in the way of such wonderful discoveries.

You may also like


  1. It is certainly more prestigious for an author to be published in hardback, a milestone if you will. Given that I rarely buy hardbacks though (and never have), this really doesn’t influence me. Yes, I’d like to be in on the conversation of the newest of the new but since I prefer the trade paperback size (and price), I’m willing to make that sacrifice. I actually try to go out of my way to buy and recommend books to friends that have originally been published in trade paper in my own little effort to encourage publishers to make more books available that way. I understand there’s a greater profit margin for everyone involved when a book comes out in hardback but I rationalize it by saying I can buy *more* if the book is paperback. For instance, in May alone, I bought 33 trade paperbacks. I bought 4 hardbacks and that’s actually a lot of hardbacks for me in one month but I regularly do this kind of damage in paperbacks (Yes, I am aware it’s an addiction). If all my purchases were hardback, the total number of dollars I pumped into the publishing world would probably be about the same (or maybe not since I am much more leery of buying hardbacks) but fewer authors and publishers would be sharing in my generosity. ::grin:: Maybe that distinction is pointless to anyone but me. I would, however, like to point out that the more books I buy and read, the more free publicity the publishers and authors get since I do review everything I read. And even for people who don’t review books, the more they read, the more potential word of mouth recommendations they can make. So my take on it is that more paperback originals would be a good thing and I’d hate to see them stigmatized in any way.
    .-= Kristen´s last blog ..Review: The One That I Want by Allison Winn Scotch and a brief piece by the author =-.

    1. Kristen, I would love to see your bookshelves! 33 books month seems like a lot, but I am sure that if I were to examine my purchases more closely there arce certainly months where i would have come close. I think the one thing that makes this hard to grapple with is that there are so many issues going on.

      On the one hand I do think that publishers wil try to push a hardcover book if they feel like they have an author who is particularly promising and/or who will sell a lot of copies. I don’t think that everything that comes out in hardcover is a gem by any means, and when you line it up, just as many book are duds in hardcover as are in original trade paperback. I don’t really stigmatize books, but there are choices driving how a book is signed and I think those choices may have the potential to affect perception among people who are aware.

      1. Nah. My bookshelves are an embarrassment, says she who came home with a whole new slew of books today, because, well, it’s a new month). 🙂

        There are a lot of issues on the hardcover vs. paperback front. And I certainly agree that actual quality has very little (if anything) to do with it. When I said that I hoped trade paper books wouldn’t be stigmatized, I was really talking more about amongst traditional review outlets, agents, and publishers themselves rather than the reader. I do tend to know which books have come out in hard cover first (and when) but I spent my entire working career pre-kids in publishing and book-selling so it was something I needed to know and continues to be something to which I pay attention. I’m sort of an odd duck that way. But I do think that, as so many of the authors below have mentioned, more trade paperback originals is the way to go for the publishing industry as it allows readers to risk less on a book, be it because it’s a new author or a subject matter with which the reader is unfamiliar or on the fence about or just because the reader is someone like me who likes volume for her money ($30 for two books is twice as good as for one book in my math-challenged world).
        .-= Kristen´s last blog ..Review: College in a Nutskull compiled and edited by Anders Henriksson =-.

        1. I’m like you Kristen in wanting more bang for my buck as well as portability, and I also want to make book club selections for others mote affordable and not assume that they have $30 to shell out on a book. I hope that the stigma does continue to diminish within the publishing world because from the author replies below and other things I have heard, I do think it exists in some circles and I am glad that some publishing circles are taking a proactive stance about changing that and getting quality books out into tpb first to give some deserving authors a fair chance.

    1. Amy is I hadn’t started blogging I think that it might have taken me awhile to figure out that not everything came out as hardcover first, and as someone who would skip the hardcover shelves, I would not have been tracking to see what had been out in hardcover before and doing a comparison. I am with you in that I do just hope too read good books whatever the format.

  2. An intertesting idea, for sure. I’d been kind of aware of that phenomenon, but when I visited Picador as part of Book Blogger Con, it’d never really crossed my mind. But Picador only releases paperbacks, usually the paperback versions of books that have already been released in hardcover, but they do produce a few paperback-only books. The most noticable one to me was Burned Shadows by Kamila Shamsie because she was a professor at my college, and I bought that book in paperback. But I’d never realized that it only came out in paperback, not in hardcover. I think I probably did have that conception that it was like straight-to-DVD before. After talking to the folks at Picador though, I realized that some books are better suited to paperback, and that they’ve been able to breathe new life into books that failed in hardcover, in the paperback form. Which means that they’ve cut out that middle point of unsuccessful hardcover releases, and done quite well with straight-to-paperback releases. I’m not sure what it means for my buying habits, since I bought mostly hardcovers anyway. But I don’t have the bias against paperback only releases anymore.
    .-= Rachel´s last blog ..Welcome to A Home Between Pages =-.

    1. Hi Rachel! Burnt Shadows is another book that I have heard really good things about. I am more curious about the set of perceptions that can be applied to the hard cover vs. trade paperback issue because there is no getting around the fact that there are some very good books which are coming out in trade paperback. I am also curious to know what the reasoning is behind one method or the other. you mention some books gaining new life in tpb, which is true as many will flock to a book once they reach a particular price point and those book, I am assuming already at least had a try in hardcover.

      1. Oh yeah, I totally know what you mean. I guess my point was that the Picador people see paperbacks as their own separate product, whether they came out in hardcover first or not. So the emphasis for paperback-only releases is that they’re NOT considered less worthy of hardcovers, or that the quality is any less. It’s just a matter of marketing and what’s best for the book. Their attitude about paperbacks as being equally important and worthy products gave me a bit more insight into the straight-to-paperback industry.
        .-= Rachel´s last blog ..Welcome to A Home Between Pages =-.

        1. I am glad that there are publishing companies that are embracing this approach and finding ways to get god book out there. Harper takes a similar approach and they have Perennial and Avon A. Ann Kingman spoke to the fact (in the comments) that the ‘stigma”, which was a real thing is on its way out of existence as people come around to new approaches and ways of thinking.

  3. Well LOL you know what I think. I tend to have a prejudice towards books released in hardcover though sometimes those books are by authors that are big enough names to go for the big buck and has nothing to do with the quality of the content.

    Also I’ve heard it said it’s better for an author to have their first books released in trade and make decent sales that lead to hardcover releases.

    And this is absolutely a result of book blogging and spending so much time thinking about books–I never would have thought twice about it before.
    .-= Amy @ My Friend Amy´s last blog ..5 Impressions from BookExpo America =-.

    1. I agree Amy that there are a few separate issues. I have also heard of authors who originally appeared in hardcover, but once the sales of a few of their books had been less than stellar, they were given paper back releases in the future. I feel like I will be doing my own little informal study now!

  4. I have pretty much known that some books are first published in paperback and some are first in hardback. I have always assumed the hardbacks are considered to be more “prestigous” or mainstream, as opposed to romance novels that come out in paperback. This is probably judgemental on my part, but it’s the marketing too.

    When trade paperbacks made their appearance, I saw them as a bridge between the two. You could almost consider it a niche market now. A lot of HF books some out in trade.

    To me, I don’t care what format the book is in, except e-books since I don’t have an e-reader. Paperback, trade, hardback, it’s all the same to me. I will say I stopped buying hardbacks, because they have become quite expensive. Also, I bought a few too many that were stinkers, despite all of the high praise on the cover. I’ll leave hardbacks to my library.

    Excellent post and great food for thought 🙂
    .-= Jennygirl´s last blog ..Review: The Making of a Duchess by Shana Galen =-.

    1. Good point Jenny. I did realize that some genre fiction did go straight to paperback and I think my own biases made me completely forget about those books in this conversation. I have spent many a day either curled up with a romance or science fiction book, and it never occurred to me that they had appeared in hardcover. I always looked at the trades as hardcovers that came out later.

  5. Well, I have no idea at all on this one. I never even knew (or maybe I did but didn’t acknowledge it) that some books went straight to paperback. I almost never buy a hardcover EVER (I’d get it from the library before I would do that) so I guess that means that it makes no difference to me. But it is food for thought. I will place that on my back burner and see what happens.
    .-= Sandy´s last blog ..Wordless Wednesday: Maui #12 =-.

    1. I think that original trade paperbacks are relatively new. Besides some genre fiction most books came out in hardcover and then paperback. Things don’t seem so cut and dried anymore.

  6. I rarely buy hardcovers, and am thrilled when I discover a new book I’ve been coveting has actually been published as a trade-paperback original – that means I’ll buy it right away instead of waiting a year for the TPB edition :-). I do admit to wondering about why the decision is made, because it does seem like an original HC edition is the more accepted, expected way to go – but as a reader and book buyer who prefers the TPB format to any other, I’m all for it!
    .-= Florinda´s last blog ..HELP WANTED: Guest Bloggers – up to 6 positions available! =-.

    1. Florinda we touched on this briefly when I went n a tour with Harper Perennial and they said that they competed with their other imprints to get books. They also mentioned finding the best fit for the book, so surely whatever these factors are would be discussed at that time.

  7. Definitely makes no difference to me. I actually like paperbacks better and have a tendency to wait for the paperback release (for those published in hardcover first anyway). As for the prestige of hardcover, I just don’t care much about prestige. I’ve read some really bad books by well-known, loved authors, and I’ve read some really excellent books by lesser-known or disliked authors. It’s all about the story.
    .-= Trisha´s last blog ..Book Review: Boy Meets Boy =-.

    1. I agree with you. I was someone who rarely started in the new releases section in a bookstore and went straight to the shelves for the fiction. As a college student TPB were definitely favored because they were more affordable but as Erica mentioned below there are many aesthetics that make them even more appealing to me than a hardcover.

  8. I do tend to think that books published in hardback are the books publishers expect to sell well, but I have learnt that best selling books aren’t always the best ones. I don’t enjoy reading hardbacks (they’re too heavy!) so I avoid buying them normally. I have never worried about a book being released straight to paperback – I am just as likely to enjoy reading it.
    .-= Jackie (Farm Lane Books)´s last blog ..Good to a Fault – Marina Endicott =-.

    1. The thing I wonder about Jackie, is if we take the best sellers out of the equation and narrow it down to literary fiction. Those, I don’t think, are necessarily expected to sell all that well. I wonder how the choices are made then. But I guess this is mainly about perception. Hardcover or paperback, whether you like any book – even by an author you love – is a crap shoot.

  9. Interesting conversation. I actually love trade paperbacks nearly as much as gorgeous hardcovers and truthfully I don’t care which are published first. I hadn’t really thought of the quality of the writing as being a factor in whether or not books first come out in hardcover (I’d love an industry professional to weigh in here!) Some of my favorite books have first been released in trade paperback. You’ve given me a lot to thing about!
    .-= Wendy´s last blog ..Book Bloggers Get Noticed… =-.

    1. I think that publishing houses are probably testing a bunch of different strategies to figure out what will work. I wish that I came across more gorgeous hardcovers. The last that I was tempted by was Children’s Book.

  10. I so vastly prefer trade paperback that it has never occurred to me that they are lesser books if they didn’t come out in hardcover first. In fact, I tend to think that books released in hardcover are the ones the publishers hope to turn into bestsellers and those are so often not the kind of books that I like.
    .-= Lisa´s last blog .. =-.

    1. I think a lot of literary fiction is released in hardcover first, or used to be, but I was perfectly happy to wait for them.

  11. I was aware of the idea that hardcovers are more “prestigious” but I honestly could care less what format a book is first published in. In fact, I’d be happy if they did away with hardcovers, just because they cost more $$. Since I rarely keep my books, hardcovers don’t hold any extra appeal (although I do buy them because I’m into instant gratification).
    .-= softdrink´s last blog ..Wuthering Heights Wednesday, week 9 =-.

    1. I read somewhere else that people thought hardcover were beautiful in design and are collectors item, but I have to tell you that rarely have I seen this to be the case. The instant gratification thing is a much more compelling reason.

  12. I think part of the thing has to do with the different markets a book is expected to sell to. I mean, if you’re going to tout a book as a great beach read, it is totally obnoxious to have it in hardcover. And obviously if you know a book is going to sell like crazy, put it in hardcover first since that’s where the bigger profit margin is.

    I also don’t think any book should be in hardcover that isn’t at least 330 pages long. I find it totally obnoxious to add the weight of a hardcover to a slim little book, and I absolutely cannot justify paying hardcover prices for a 250 page book.

    I’ve always preferred TPB to HC, though. I will only buy a hardcover book if I am planning to have it signed by the author. Otherwise I get it from the library or wait until the TPB release – because honestly, am I going to get to it before it is released in paperback? Probably not.
    .-= Jen – Devourer of Books´s last blog ..The One That I Want – Book Review =-.

    1. But lots of books that re beach reads come out in hardcover as well. I wonder if that more depends on the author in those cases. Elin Hildebrand comes to mind, and Debbie Macomber. They get hardcover releases.

      I agree with the tiny books coming out in hardcover. Iris, by Douglass Clegg was like that and if someone hadn’t given it to me, I would never have read it.

  13. I don’t think it would affect me too much. While I do have the bias about straight-to-DVD movies, somehow that doesn’t translate to books for me. I adore trade paperbacks, so I wouldn’t assume less of a book for it to be released straight to trade. Self-publishing is another issue. I have huge reservations there in general, but those are my biggest book bias.
    .-= Andi´s last blog ..Summer Reading with the Rockets =-.

    1. Andi, I have reservations about self-pubbed as well. I usually like to see a sample first so that I know that the style and quality of writing will be to my liking,

  14. I never knew that books weren’t always hardcovers until I joined LibraryThing. I do think it’s sort of a prestige thing, but I don’t normally buy hardcovers so I don’t pay all that much attention. Trade paperbacks are my favorite format, so I’d be quite happy if they were all released that way!
    .-= Meghan´s last blog ..Review: Wicked Becomes You, Meredith Duran =-.

    1. I am like you. I was oblivious. I went straight to the paperback section and only rarely looked at the new releases. My how times ave changed!

  15. What a great conversation! I personally don’t buy hardbacks for myself – they are too much of a pain in the patootie to carry around. The only ones I have are gifts. I wait until a book is in paperback so if we moved to a world where that was the only format I’d be all for it. It’s cheaper for the consumer and more convenient but I am sure I am missing some major economic principle for the author.
    .-= Amused´s last blog ..Wolf Hall Wednesdays: The End! =-.

    1. I am sure that we are missing something! If there is demand for a book in hardcover then I would think that it would be a higher profit margin if that book continues to sell. I think they pushed The Help’s paperback release back since it was still selling so well. And then whoever has been able to hold off for so long to get it and read it, wil generate paperback sales.

  16. I have always assumed that books come out in hardcover and then are released later, if they sell enough, in paperback. Shows you what I know about the publishing industry! I actually love the trade paperbacks. The font size is right for my eyes (in most cases), they are easy to hold, and the price is right.

    1. I agree on all accounts on the paperbacks Kathleen. I think that publishing used to work exactly as you mentioned but now there are imprints that devote must of their catalog to original trade paperbacks. I am all for it, but the conversation I mentioned did get my wheels to turning.

  17. I recently discovered that not all books are first released in hardcover. I just assumed all new releases were printed and bound by hardcover. My favourite format is trade paperback. However, I will buy hardcover as well. Some hardcovers are very expensive (30+$) and opt to wait for the trade paperback.

    1. I thought the same thing as well, with a few exceptions like romance or some crime novels. I love trade paperback, though blogging has made it so that I appreciate some hardcovers now as well. I think TPB have been introduced over the past few years for various reasons- according to some industry insiders and authors below.

  18. I can help with this a bit! Keep in mind that my comments are general, and it may differ within particular publishers.

    Once upon a time, books were only hardcover. After WWII, the mass market paperback revolution happened, which made books more accessible to the average person. In the 1980s, the trade paperback format started to take off; at the time there was a series of books called Vintage Contemporaries that took the book world by storm: Bret Easton Ellis’ LESS THAN ZERO and Jay McInerney’s BRIGHT LIGHTS, BIG CITY were the poster-children for the movement.

    The problem with trade paperback originals used to be that they would not get reviewed. Much of this probably goes to the “mass market’ mentality, much like the thinking of many about self-published books today — that they were “lesser” books. Works of literary fiction, that needed reviews to get attention and thus sell, would be doomed if they came out in trade paperback instead of hardcover. Another consideration was the library market — libraries until recently would buy only hardcovers. Some publishers got around this problem by doing a simultaneous hardcover and trade paperback release, with TPs going into the bookstores and the HCs for the libraries and reviewers. I don’t think this worked all that well on the adult side, though in many cases it is still being done in children’s publishing.

    The “chick lit” and book group phenomenon has greatly helped the cause of the trade paperback original. Many (most?) book clubs will choose only trade paperbacks to make it affordable for their members. Couple this with the dwindling number of traditional media review outlets, and a faltering economy, and the case for trade paperback originals is becoming stronger. A couple of years ago, the New York Times Book Review ran it’s first ever front-page review for a trade paperback original, REMAINDER by Tom McCarthy.

    The economics are tricky and vary from publisher to publisher, but the realities of the marketplace mean that a hardcover “midlist” book may not get stocked in a bookstore but a trade paperback original will, since the TP is more attractive to customers in terms of price and amount of “risk” involved (it’s easier to pay $12 for a book you may not like rather than $25). Thus it is often easier for a publisher to introduce a new author in TP and then move their next books to HC. With the HC then TP publication, you get 2 “hits” — it’s usually a veyr different audience for each format. Weighing the costs and benefits of the two approaches is an art as well as a science for publishers.

    That’s probably more than you wanted to know. The upshot is that there was a very real “stigma” about TP originals, but much of that is fading. I think we will continue to see more TP originals, even in the literary fiction arena such as what Other Press is doing with books like The Glass Room, which was shortlisted for the Booker Prize in the UK but was released here shortly after as a trade paperback original.
    .-= Ann Kingman´s last blog ..BOTNS Books Podcast #80: A chat with editor Alison Callahan =-.

    1. Thank you so much Ann for weighing in and giving such a detailed history of the situation. I feel like lots of pieces and vague hunches were solidified for me with your answer and you have been able to break it out into the different components that went behind my query. It is definitely not more than I wanted to know!

  19. I guess I’m a “textbook” case for trade paperback. My first book, “I Am Not Myself These Days,” was released as a trade paperback original by harper perennial. because it dealt with a unique subject matter, and some unconventional themes, and I was a new writer, the publisher felt (correctly) that people wouldn’t pay the higher price of hardcover to “sample” an unproven, slightly quirky writer. They were right. Most of my early readers were in their twenties, just starting out, and they passed my book around like crazy. It even made the best seller lists. This gave my publisher the sales they needed to justify publishing my next book, also a trade paperback. My audience grew a little more. By the time I was ready with my third book I had enough industry buzz for the publishers to feel that they, and readers, would invest in a hardcover. This brought me my first major pub reviews, and so far has been a success too. Like other readers, I don’t much care which format a book is published in, and I always advise new writers to avoid the allure of “hardcover prestige.” What’s most important for new writers is for their work to be sampled by as many readers as possible, and that’s far more likely with the lower price point of trade paperback.

    p.s. thanks for coming to the launch party last night!

    1. I knew that I had heard of your first book somewhere. I love Haper Perennial books and now I recognize the cover of your book from a Perennial party that I attended last year. You make an excellent point about publishers being able to take a chance on unknown writers in this way, and I had never thought about that before. I am really enjoying your latest book (in hardcover!) and am looking forward to reading the first one. It was such a pleasure to meet you last night! I am still thinking about those appetizers and that Beekman Blaak Cheese!

  20. There are very few books that are released into hardcover first here in Australia. I would think that something like 90% would go into TPB. Even most big name international authors come out first in trade paperback,and then in mass market.

    I have often wondered why that is the case, although I am always glad that it is the case given that books here are so expensive compared to other countries. Besides, I love the feel of trade paperbacks.
    .-= Marg´s last blog ..Uncertain Magic by Laura Kinsale =-.

    1. It is interesting to hear what is done in other countries. I must say that I like Australia’s approach. I had been hearing about how expensive books are there. It has me feeling so grateful that I have had the means to own hundreds of books in my lifetime.

  21. I generally prefer trade paperback because they are easier to carry around and I’m less concerned with keeping them in pristine condition. Mr. BFR prefers hardcovers because they hold better in the long run.

    Although I am aware of the supposed prestige of a book being released in hardcover, I am rarely so current in my reading that a hardcover is my only choice. The format means little to me in terms of influencing my reading, but I rarely buy hardcover editions of books I *know* I won’t read again (mysteries, for example) and I actively seek hardcovers for books I *know* I will keep or reread long term (nonfiction, cookbooks, for example).

    I realize that I’ve added nothing at all to the conversation, but I’m interested in everyone’s thoughts.
    .-= Beth F´s last blog ..Wordless Wednesday 80 =-.

    1. Well I didn’t add much to the conversation either and I wrote the post! You all in the comments have made my meanderings into a conversation, and a fascinating one at that!

      I love TPB, and I have seen very few hardcovers that have appealed to me enough to buy, knowing that I would probably only read them once. But as you know, I too, am all about the cookbooks.

  22. As the author of a recently released first novel that was bought to be a hardcover but switched to trade paper, I see both sides of this issue. I feel like in some circles the book has been treated with less respect…but on the other hand (and more importantly) far more people can now afford it. (It costs $16, and would have probably been $27 in hc.) It also can cross over into Young Adult–it has a teenage girl as the heroine–and be of greater interest to book clubs in paper.

    Yes, I would have loved a hardcover to look at on my shelves. But in this still struggling economy, it’s much easier for me to urge people to take a chance on my novel at paperback prices!

    1. I remember when your book came out. A friend of mine had an offer for a review copy and loved the premise for the book, and it does sound as if it would be excellent for book clubs. It is unfortunate that anyone wold treat it with less respect but you can take comfort from the fact that almost everyone here has expressed greater interest in hardcover for various reasons. Good luck!

  23. Have to weigh in and say that sometimes we publishg a book as a paperback original because we do have high expectations for it . . . in paperback. This could be for many reasons: an author’s previous books did so-so in hardcover but amazing in paperback, it’s a debut author and we think more people will take a chance on a $13 book than a $25 one, it’s a book whose target is young people, who tend to have less money to spend on hardcovers.

    Also, if a book is released as a hardcover first and doesn’t do well for whatever reason, it can be next to impossible to overcome that record in paperback and get stores to stock it.

    Obviously I have to be pro-pb originals since I work at Harper Perennial, but even as a reader I have to say that I generally only read hardcovers if I get them for free. In fact, I bet that this year the only hc I will consider buying is the new Tana French. Aside from the price, I have a bad back and I just hate carrying hardcovers around in my bag.
    .-= Erica´s last blog ..the coolest printer ever =-.

    1. I agree with you on this and so many of your above points. And for whatever reason I like the fonts better in paperback. I am a big fan of Harper and I think that both books that I mentioned as original TPB books that I loved are from Harper. Josh Kilmer-Purcell stopped by and said that he started with Harper Perennial and I am glad that book was given a chance because I am loving his new one, and now want to go back and read the first one as well.

  24. Fascinating conversation! Waving hello to Josh above my post as another HarperCollins author.

    This comment from Ann Kingman hit home for me: “The upshot is that there was a very real “stigma” about TP originals, but much of that is fading.”

    My two novels thus far — my debut last summer and THE LIFE YOU’VE IMAGINED this August — are out in trade paper from the Avon imprint.

    Generally speaking, this has been terrific for me. My debut has sold well, even went into a second print run fairly quickly, and was carried in Target and warehouse stores like Costco etc. Book clubs seem to love it, and as mentioned above, most will only choose trade paperbacks.

    It feels great that I’m only asking people to spend $12-$14 to take a chance on me!

    But I’ve been aware of the lingering perception of hardcover as more “prestigious” with better quality writing, and sure, that can sting on days when my confidence is flagging.

    Also, I do envy the physical gorgeousness of hardcover books. Two that leap to mind that I’ve purchased — and loved — are THE LAST WILL OF MOIRA LEAHY and THE LOST SUMMER OF LOUISA MAY ALCOTT. Not just the covers, though they’re lovely, but the type design, the interior design. The Alcott book’s endpapers look like they are covered with pressed flowers… Just stunning.

    (Not that I can complain about my covers, I love them. But of necessity, paperbacks are more plain in their interior design.)

    But then I come back to reality. Trade paper is WORKING for me, my readers have been wonderful and I’ve gotten good reviews in PW and Booklist.

    Envy and worries about prestige are rather ridiculous when you consider how well things have been going for me so far! And since my readers love it, I love it, too.

    1. I think that all your readers know is that they are getting a book that they want to read at a price that they can afford. Hopefully that readership will continue to expand. As you can see from this thread, so many of us are all about the trade paperbacks, and if I weren’t blogging about books, I doubt that would have noticed any of this.

  25. I guess I sort of assumed that all books came out in hardcover first (which annoys me because I want paperbacks and will usually wait to make my purchase). I think the straight to DVD comparison is interesting but probably not perfect. And I don’t think many people are aware that some books were not in hardcover so the perception that they are lesser can’t be that widespread outside of the book community.
    .-= Michelle´s last blog ..The 3 BEA Books I’m Most Excited to Read =-.

    1. I agree that this could be an industry type discussion and surely something I have noticed because of blogging. I was always aware that boks came out forst in hardcover but just never bothered to look though them because I knew I wasn’t interested in buying them.

  26. I want to respond before I get everyone else’s ideas in my head, so be forewarned, I haven’t read the responses yet.

    That said, I much prefer paperbacks. I hate hardcovers. They take up more space, they’re heavier, and I hate holding them. They have no give in them, so I can’t really relax with a hardcover.

    Paperbacks, on the other hand, are perfect. For me, they’re just much easier to read.

    You may think price comes into play here, but honestly, I wouldn’t care if the price were the same for a new-release paperback as a hardcover. I just want to be able to fit the book to my hands, rather than stiffly hold each cover ‘just so’ to keep the book open. Also, and I know I’m about to break book-lovers’ hearts here, I like to break the spine. I do that on every book I own. Otherwise I feel like I’m straining to read the text close to the middle. Blah.

    So yeah, my preference will always be paperback. Due to reviewing books, I’ll read hardcovers, but I will always wish I had the paperback instead.

    As it stands, I’m waiting for a book I desperately want to read to come out in paperback. It’ll probably be next spring. That is how much I hate hardcovers.
    .-= Allison O’Connor´s last blog ..Revolution…. Part 2 (Or how I met a hero.) =-.

    1. I agree with you Allison. Even without price being a factor I have loved trade paperbacks more. The line spacing and the font are always big issue for me and in the past tpb appealed to me more. Now, I have read a fair amount of hardcovers and have grown used to them. I have mor appreciation for them if care is taken in their design but trade paperbacks are my first love.

  27. great conversation, Nicole. I am a former bookseller and there was and still is many discussions around the issue of hardcovers vs paperback in the bookselling world. Many booksellers feel there is no need for so many hardcovers and think books will sell better released in paperback, only.

    Personally, I will read a book in any format. And agree with Erica about paperback cover design. Ann, you are right –many book clubs prefer trade paperbacks but our experience and surveys in the reading group market shows groups will buy hardcovers — it’s all about the discussion!
    Thanks, Nicole, for opening up this dialog.
    .-= Barbara´s last blog ..Author On the Bookcase: Carrie Adams, author of The Stepmother =-.

    1. Thanks for stopping in Barbara. I am in a few different books clubs and while most choose books which are readily available in paperback, quite a few members love to go for the hardcovers. I am now reading i all formats except e-books, but prior to blogging about books I never read hardcovers.

  28. What a great topic! You know, I didn’t realize until I started blogging that all books weren’t released in hardcover first–although, to be fair, I never really gave it much thought. I occasionally buy a book in hardcover but I really still prefer trade paperback for all the conveniences you mention in your post. I don’t think I judge a book by whether it came out in hardcover first. Although, I admit that I’ve felt a little twinge of disappointment before when a mass market paperback author suddenly makes the “big time” and her series books (mid-series) suddenly are published in hardcover first. That means I have to either fork over more dough which I don’t have for a hardcover or wait longer to read it.

    And in terms of hard/soft covers, I have discovered that I have a bias when it comes to certain types of books and authors. I enjoy their books so much better in paperback than I do in hardcover. I’m not sure why exactly. I don’t generally buy hardcover books at full price (I prefer to buy them at the same or lower cost as the paperback) so it’s not like I’m spending more money on them. And the content in both is the same . . . I’ll be pondering that one for some time to come.
    .-= Literary Feline´s last blog ..Review: The Last Child by John Hart =-.

    1. i know that even without the money factors I i enjoy the feel and presentation of trade paperbacks more than hardcover or mass market paperbacks. Over the last year I have read lots of finished hardcovers are review and while some of them have been beautiful, they are not all created equal nor deserving of 30 hard earned dollars. That can be quite inconvenient when authors hit the bog time and you have to either fork over more money or wait longer to read their book, but hopefully that will mean that they can give up their day jobs as well!

  29. Unless it’s a book that I must read the instant it is published, like the Harry Potter books, I rarely buy hardcovers. Trade paper backs, followed by mass market books, are my preferred formats. I realize that many books are first published in hardcover, so I regularly scan the hardcover sections of literary magazines and bookstores shelves to see what’s new. I write down the titles and authors that sound interesting and wait for them to be released in paperback. It is perhaps more prestigious for authors to be published first in hardcover. Maybe this is why mystery and romance novels tend to be published in paperback first unless the author is a well known, best selling author already.

    Still, I prefer paperbacks because they’re lighter and easier to carry, which is very important since I carry a book or two nearly everywhere I go, significantly cheaper so I can buy more and smaller making them easier to store on shelves. Also, I just find the physicality of trade paperbacks more appealing – the smaller size makes them easier to hold in one hand and they don’t have the unnecessary paper cover that just gets torn and otherwise damaged after repeatedly sticking it in my purse or backpack. I especially like buying paperbacks when I’m reading a new author. I don’t want to spend $20-30 on a book, I may end up not enjoying.

    1. Tiffani, I can’t agree with you more on all that you have said. I love the way my trade paperbacks are wieldy and easily stored on my shelves, and they just look so pretty. I have even started experimenting with color coding them. You took an extra step in making note of new releases and waiting for them to come out. I would just head straight for the paperback new releases so I wouldn’t have to feel I was missing anything or had to wait a long time.

  30. Interesting blog post! I like the comparison to movies that go straight to DVD. I actually don’t care what format a book comes out in first. I go by reviews that I read on blogs and in the professional literature (I’m a librarian) so the format doesn’t really factor in my perception of a book.

    I do prefer trade paperbacks because they are smaller, but still more pleasant to read than a mass market paperback. I am more likely to wait on the hold list at the library for a hardback rather than purchasing it.

    1. This is so fascinating that so many people are trade paperback lovers. Even librarians! I wonder why that is. Maybe as people who read a lot of books, we need to be able to carry more around. I know that the aesthetics and portability are a big factor for me.

  31. These responses lift the spirits of this fifty-two-year-old trade-paper-original first novelist! I do believe that we’ll keep seeing more and more tpb originals, especially for debut fiction, for all the reasons that people have stated so eloquently. The only reason it hasn’t happened more quickly, I believe, is due to residual beliefs of the kind Nicole heard at BEA–that only “junky,” “less worthwhile” books get published as paperback originals.

  32. You know, I’m hesitant to admit my book snobbery, but I definitely have an expectation that a “great” book will be released in hardcover before it comes out in trade paperback. Your friend seems to be on to something that I’m sure the publishing world could corroborate: books that are expected to sell well will come out in hardcover first. Because they’re more expensive, ergo the profit will be higher.

    That being said, I rarely — if ever — buy books when they’re first released in hardcover. As an avid book buyer, like all of us, my budget would be slashed in half if I invested in hardcovers as opposed to paperbacks. The only time I’ll pick up a newly-released HC is when I’ve established trust with the author and have a sincere feeling that this will be one of my favorites, and one I’ll want in my permanent collection. Otherwise? I get it from the library. Or wait for paperback.

    But do I rationally think books first released in paperback are of a lesser quality than those out first in hardcover? No, I don’t think so. It’s my antiquated way of thinking. Some of the best books I’ve read lately went “straight to paperback,” to borrow your reference to straight-to-DVD films! 🙂

    Sorry for just writing you a book there. 🙂
    .-= Meg´s last blog ..Book review: ‘Life After Yes’ by Aidan Donnelley Rowley =-.

    1. I think that I have heard more on the lines that you have Meg, even though I really had not given it any thought at al until I was having this chat the other day. Just from the way people usually operate and categorize and assign value, it makes sense that this would be an issue. I am glad to hear from everyone chiming in with their perspectives and getting a fuller picture. As readers, I don’t think we rationally think that either, all the original trade paperbacks that immediately came to mind have been ones that I have really loved, and the more I think on it, the more I come up with great books.

  33. Back when I bought books, I was a trade paperback fan. I do love them best, and ARCs are so close, they work for me. The profit margin for the two is usually quite similar, so there’s not necessarily a financial incentive to publish only in paperback. The exception of course, is marketing. I pay no attention to the paperback best seller lists, but I always know what’s on the hardcover. It gets people talking. I know it’s not an indicator of quality (looking at said bestseller lists indicates that), and in fact, one of my favorite reads of the year (If You Follow Me by Malena Watrous) was published in paperback first. In short, as a reader, I don’t like hardcover. As a librarian, I only want to buy hardcover because they last.
    .-= nomadreader´s last blog ..graphic novel review: Wilson by Daniel Clowes =-.

    1. Do you mean the profit margin between TPB and hardcovers are similar? In that case its really a false sense of prestige or whatever if its not even grounded in higher profit margins. I haven’t really paid attention to bestseller lists, but I understand that they can be instrumental in influencing careers.

      1. Actually, I completely misspoke. Sorry! The production costs for hardbacks and trade paperbacks are quite similar, and because paperbacks (full-price) sell for less, it’s a fascinating market structure.

  34. As an author, I can tell you that the decision to come out in trade paper rather than hardcover was a difficult one but one that I’m glad we made. SOMETHING MISSING was originally slated to come out in hardcover, but we sold the book about three days before the 2008 financial meltdown, and assuming that 2009 was going to be a bad year for selling books, we wanted to do everything that we could to get the book into readers’ hands. As a result of the decision to switch to trade paper, some of the large chain sellers like Barnes & Noble agreed to stock larger quantities of the book, and Border’s made it a Book Club choice for October. As you know, book clubs often wait for the paperbacks to come out, but being a first time author, we didn’t want to wait six months for people to begin talking about the book. We wanted some early buzz. And though we were concerned that the book might not get the attention of any reviewer’s because of the format, this proved not to be the case. SOMETHING MISSING was well reviewed and was even mentioned favorably in the Times, and it was featured in USA Today in a piece on the shifting trend of publishing first in trade paper. All in all, I’m very happy that we made the switch mid-stream.

    So when it came time to sell UNEXPECTEDLY, MILO last year, I had already decided that I wanted to come out in trade paper again. The readers appreciated the format a great deal, and as I visited bookstores and libraries and book clubs throughout the year, the reaction was always the same. People struggling through a recession were so pleased to be able to purchase a new release at an affordable price. As long as my readers are happy and the reviewer’s pay me some attention, I can’t see why I would want to publish in hardcover for at least a while. My goal is to get people to read my story in whatever format suits them best., and as an author, I’m pleased to be able to accommodate their needs and help them out in these difficult financial times.

  35. I love this post – it’s given me a lot to think about. I’ve noticed that certain genres seem to go straight to trade paperback more than others. Format doesn’t bother me, but I have wondered the same thing as your friend – if expected sales affect the way a book is published.
    .-= bermudaonion (Kathy)´s last blog ..BEA/NY Day 1 =-.

  36. I feel just as Matthew does above. As I’ve mentioned, my novel was originally bought to be a hardcover, and was switched to trade paper with the dream that more people–and book clubs–would discover me. The other important issue for Diamond Ruby was that the publisher wanted to put a page in the YA catalog along with the adult one. I have no idea how the profit-margin part of this works, but the same exact hc book will cost $6 or $7 more if marketed for adults than for YA. The only way for my book to cross over was for it to come out in trade paper. I thought that was a very compelling reason: I love the idea of thirteen- or fourteen-year-olds reading the book as well.

  37. I used to think that books that didn’t come out in hardback were lesser. But I think that actually because of blogging I see that its not true. Not that I bought hardcovers much, but because I always strive to read the best, I fell into the same trap as your friend. I think that maybe it’s just leftovers from the days when a paperback was sold in a dime store and hardcover was more literary.

    I think it’s more of an indication of the state of publishing that literary fiction is being released solely in trade paperback. Releasing something in a nice trader paperback, maybe with a matte finish, instead of hardcovers is probably a good thing. The only downside I see is that a book that debuts in paperback only gets promoted once, whereas a book that debuts in hardcover gets promoted both at that time, and when it is released in paperback. I often buy hardcovers when they become marked down when a paperback edition comes out.

    Overall, I think it’s probably a good move on the part of the industry. And my pocketbook.

  38. Interesting post, Nicole. I love the trade paperback format and I guess I always kid of assumed that the publisher felt they wouldn’t sell enough hardcovers to make it worth it. But it does have more to do with perception than quality.

  39. I don’t think I really have anything new to add here –lots of interesting comments! Back when I was in college (more than 20 years ago!), I became a member of Quality Paperback Book Club; that is when I was introduced to the concept of trade paperbacks –I think they may have been an early pioneer. Ever since, I’ve avoided mass market paperbacks whenever possible. The only time (mostly) I buy in hardback is like J.T. mentioned — if I happen to find it cheaper after it is released in paperback. One recent exception, though, is when I bought “the Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” recently; I just couldn’t wait until it came out in paperback!

  40. I’m primarily a fantasy/sci fi reader, which generally starts off in the mass market price point and size. That’s what I’m used to, that’s my preference, and that’s why I’m far more likely to check out any trade paperback title from the library instead of buying it even if the author’s blog and online excerpts make me think I’ll love the writer.

    Hardcover is not a plus with me. If anything, it’s a negative, because for me that means it’s far more likely to appeal to the mainstream reader. Sorry, but mainstream really doesn’t interest me.

    I did enjoy The Time Traveler’s Wife, though. But I didn’t buy it.