Monday, December 10, 2012


You've written your book. You've sent it out there, your agents has told you it's wonderful, darling, and the 'but' that usually comes a few minutes later hasn't appeared.  The editor she sends it to loves it and pitches it so successfully to the editorial meeting that they agree to buy it. You're ecstatic and invite everyone round for champagne when it's published.

So far, its success has depended on the quality of your writing. Now, as your little, helpless creation huddles in the cold winds of the literary world, its survival is in the hands of the department known as marketing.

If you're JK Rowling, the allocated budget means that marketing can go to town.  If you're not – well, not so much.

Despite authors' dark suspicions, marketing staff do really want to sell books. Most times, it's like the Israelites in Egypt – they're being forced to make bricks without straw.

The market out there is tougher than ever now, when bookshops give books prominence in their displays on the basis of what the publisher is prepared to pay rather than the bookseller's belief in a good book. (And whatever anyone says about Amazon, at least it's a level playing-field.) So there are very few low-budget ways to promote the mid-list author's book.

I think this is what lies behind the proliferation of editions and the the confusion about when they should be released. It used to be perfectly straight-forward: a hardback came out and then a paperback a few months later. Then between them came the trade paperback – the mid-price edition. The slightly-larger mass-market paperback appeared, and if the book was still selling another paperback in the old size was brought out possibly even a year later. Now, of course, the e-book is on the scene too.

It must make it so much more complicated to work out how to get the most out of sales. By and large, it's with the paperback that most of the sales will come. So should that come out at the same time as the hardback – which will get the reviews – if the hardback sales are mainly to libraries? Indeed, should there be a hardback at all, or should the book go straight to mass-market paperback? And should the e-book be held back to sell the other, more expensive editions, risking the fury of Kindle owners who don't want to get it later than everyone else?

It can't be easy for them. But I wonder sometimes, with all the expense of the designing and setting of different editions, if anyone has worked out if these elaborate ways of trying to get an extra bite at the cherry really do sell more books?

1 comment:

Charlotte Hinger said...

Actually Poisoned Pen now releases five editions at once and they all have their separate markets. Hardcover, trade paper, large print, audiobooks, and digital. They all have their own niche.