Even Book Size is Relative (& Relevant)

I had an email from a concerned reader through my Goodreads page. Polly is a bookseller with a valid worry:

Hello there, so sorry to bother you, but I just had to voice my concerns over the recent transition of “Into the Wilderness” from a mass market paperback into trade paperback format.

I’ve been a small bookstore owner for 22 years and have sold a lot of your books, because frankly, I love them (it’s easy to sell something you love!). I keep the full set available at all times on my shelves and recommend them often. So when I attempted to reorder “Into the Wilderness” a few weeks ago from Ingram, I was informed it is now only available in a $16.00 trade paperback. I doubt very seriously it will keep a place on my shelves, especially now that the first book does not match the other books in the series in size, and it is a considerable increase in price for the first book – the one that gets the reader hooked on the series. I expect this is a publisher decision, but I’m so disappointed to see this wonderful series disappear from my shelves.

Polly’s impressions and experiences are to be taken very seriously, as she is at the heart of the business, but (and you knew this was coming) I have no control over the format of the novels.

The increased cost is the biggest issue, of course. I haven’t seen any figures from the industry, so I can’t speak to trends more generally and I don’t know where ITW fits into the larger scheme of things. I do know that sixteen bucks is a chunk of money to pay for a novel. The long-term result is going to be some combination of 1) fewer sales of new books and 2) increased sales of used books.  The other complicating factor has to do with ebooks. The whole Wilderness series sells really well on Kindle, but I’m not sure how that’s relevant to the changed format for ITW.

And again, there’s nothing I can do about any of it.

I will say that I really like the cover art for the trade paper edition of ITW, far better than I liked the original. I would hope it would draw in potential readers. Is it possible that a person would decide to buy ITW in trade paper and then give up on the series because of the change in format — that is, the difference in size and how that looks on the shelf? Anything is possible, I guess. Can I do anything about it? Not a thing, of course. People are by definition idiosyncratic, and make decisions based on all kinds of things that can’t be anticipated or controlled.  Given the current state of flux in the industry, very little can be predicted. The only thing I can do is strive to write a really good story. And that’s what I’m doing.

5 Replies to “Even Book Size is Relative (& Relevant)”

  1. A real frustration and again points to the lack of influence a writer has on the finished product of work they put so much time and effort into. I am certain some people will find the size an issue– what will it look like on the shelf, how will it fit on the shelf– but the real issue is price, I think. And the decision behind the publishers is unfathomable as the great Oz.

  2. Personally I like the Trade Paperback size and once found a copy of ITW in that size in a second hand store and bought it, even though I had one in mass market paperback. Every one is different but i agree, the price will probably be an issue. I wouldn’t care how much your next book is, when it’s out, I’m buying it.

  3. I also love trade paperback formats. Honestly, because the first book is so good, I’m sure people would get hooked and still buy the rest of the series. That email should have been sent to the publishers though.

  4. Knock, knock. Anybody home?

    Matching books? Almost never happens. Well, one time, SOMEONE recommended Dorothy Dunnett’s series Noccolo Rising. I read the first at the local liberry, then ordered the whole series. So they all match. Neither do Sara Donati’s match. My own unfinished one matches. But, then again, how does one book not match itself!

Comments are closed.