Wednesday 23 June 2021

Writers’ Questions: What’s in a format? Hardcover, paperback, e-book and more.

My debut novel, Bronte’s Mistress, came out in paperback yesterday (!), having been released in hardcover, e-book and audiobook in August 2020. So, in this latest post in my Writers’ Questions series, it felt apt to talk about the different formats books can be published in, and what you need to know about them as an author. Check out the rest of the series for other publishing questions I’ve covered, on everything from finding an agent to formatting dialogue


A digital book might not be the first format you think of if I ask you to imagine “a book”, but I’m starting with this format for a reason. E-books are the cheapest type of book to produce and, for this reason, they’re a natural first choice for self-published authors as well as, nowadays, always part of the equation for traditionally published authors like me. E-books are accessible for those with eyesight issues and because of their lower price point. They also allow people to start reading right away when they order your book online. For these reasons they are particularly popular in high volume genres (think of readers who race through several romances or mysteries a day), but e-book sales are now crucial no matter what you write and for whom.


Not every book comes out in hardcover, but those that do seem to fall into four main and overlapping categories. 1: Books deemed high brow/elevated/literary by a traditional publisher. 2: Books predicated to sell a lot of copies. 3: Self-published books, where the author wanted to see their book in this format. 4: Books that were paperback for the consumer market but which had a hardcover edition for libraries. In this last instance, this is because hardcover books are more durable than paperbacks, so can withstand the wear and tear of multiple readers. Hardcovers are more expensive to produce than paperbacks and retail at a higher price point. Typically, traditionally published writers receive a slightly higher royalty on hardcovers than paperbacks.


The modern publishing industry distinguishes between two types of paperbacks—trade paperbacks, of the kind you find at bookstores, and “mass market” paperbacks. Mass market paperbacks are shorter, fatter books, printed on lower quality paper, which you might pick up at a mass grocery store. Again, not every book will have a mass market paperback edition. These are most common for bestsellers, genres with widespread appeal like romance and thrillers and authors with a huge readership.


We’re in the midst of an audio revolution, and this has affected the fiction business too. Yet, while increasingly popular, audiobooks are expensive to produce (prohibitively so for many self-published writers), and not every traditional publisher will exercise audio rights even if they purchase them. Some established writers have sought to have the audio rights to their backlist returned to them, to self-publish and ride the audio wave. Meanwhile, pay-per-minute vs. credit business models for audio are gaining popularity abroad, demonstrating that the audiobook landscape it still evolving.

So, there you have it. I hope that this quick overview has been helpful for you as you navigate the complex world of publishing. Check out the other posts in my Writers’ Questions series here and get info on my novel, Bronte’s Mistress, (now in all of these formats!), here. You can always contact me on Facebook or Instagram, or by tweeting @SVictorianist. And you can stay in touch by signing up to my newsletter below.

Get updates on my novel - Bronte's Mistress

* indicates required

No comments:

Post a Comment