New York Times  Bestselling Author

Hardcover vs Trade Paperback

before the storm for classmates.jpg

A few of you have already purchased my June release, Before the Storm, and at least a couple of you have asked why it’s in trade (large-size) paperback instead of hardcover, so I thought I’d try to answer that question here. The first thing you need to know is that this decision is nearly always up to the publisher and not the author. The second thing you need to know is that, when a decision is up to the publisher, it’s about business rather than aesthetics or status. So, why would a publisher opt to put a book out in trade rather than hardcover–or for that matter, mass market paperback, the size and type we’re most used to seeing in the grocery store racks?

Publishing is an ever-evolving field and what’s true today wasn’t true five years ago and won’t be true five years from now. But here is today’s truth: more and more so-called literary fiction is being published in trade format, especially when a publisher is trying to build a writer’s audience (and yes, after seventeen books, I’m still working on building my readership). That’s because readers are more willing to try an author they’ve never heard of in paperback than in hardcover for an obvious reason: price. Another reason is that many readers (and I’d love you to weigh in on this) prefer trade paperbacks because they’re easier to hold and carry than hardcover, and easier to hold and read than mass market paperbacks. In general, you can expect the paper quality and design to be superior to that used for mass market books. Also in general, you can expect the stories to be more “character-driven” (literary) than “plot-driven” (commercial), although if you’ve read my books, you know it’s a pretty blurry line between those two categories. 

I like being published in trade original, because I’m one of those people who prefers the size and feel of trade paperbacks. But I know many of you adore hardcover books and have collected most of my books in that format. I’m so sorry if this change disappoints you, but hope it won’t keep you from enjoying the story.

The New York Times has recently broken its paperback best seller list into Trade and Mass-Market, so the change is here to stay, at least for a while. If you want a more in-depth look at the factors that go into a publisher’s decision to choose one format over another, you can read this NYTimes article from 2006. But I’d much rather you spend your reading time enjoying a good book, no matter what shape or size in comes in! 

23 Comments

  1. Julie on May 24, 2008 at 3:18 am

    I love trade paperbacks. I’d think more people would be able to buy the book in general when they’re trade because they’re a little less expensive, and that may, in the long run, make your sales higher and your audience wider.
    I bet debut novelists are excited when they get a hardcover right out of the gate, but people are probably less likely to take a chance on a new author in hardcover than an established one.
    I’m glad to see you say you blur the line between character and plot-driven–I think my writing is that way, too, and have been frustrated because I haven’t been able to make a clear delineation on which mine is, so maybe that’s just the case with this psy-fi genre! (Remember, that “new” category we made up? LOL)
    I read Cypress Point last week and liked it a whole lot, by the way! In the voice class I mentioned taking, we tried to pin our writing down to what “big” question we try to answer with our writing. Ater reading many of your books, I am thinkings yours, or one of yours, might be something like, “Are people who they really appear to be on the outside?” It’s kind of fun to think about that now as I read several books in an author’s list.

  2. Liz on May 24, 2008 at 2:33 pm

    Hi – What a fun place to check my e-mail – in the hotel lobby on a gorgeous, sunny Seattle Saturday, waiting for my daughter to pick me up while my husband and his 4 college friends prepare for this wedding. Diane – I am actually thrilled that your book is in the trade style. Much more portable that way, I like the price better. I always donate hard cover books to our local library, but keep the trade ones. So, hope I can find it today as we shop Pike Place Market, or whatever it’s called. I love Seattle. Have a gook weekend.

  3. Denise on May 24, 2008 at 3:22 pm

    I prefer trade paperbacks because the size is easier to tote around with me, they are more comfortable to hold and the print is larger than mass market which helps with eye strain.
    Even before becoming a bookseller, the first table I headed to at Borders was the new QP (quality paperback aka trade paperback) table. I always found something good on that table.
    Diane, love the cover design of your new book. It will stand out really well like CC does! That is another thing about QP’s that I like: their cover designs are more attractive than mass markets. And I am in the large group of people who gravitate towards attractive interesting book covers!

  4. brenda on May 24, 2008 at 4:36 pm

    Since I donated over l000 hardback books to my daughter’s library, it is pretty obvious I have always prefered hardbacks… That being said, with the present economy, I now use my library for many of the books I read. I too love the trade paperbacks and would imagine that more readers could afford to purchase them instead of the hardbacks. It is not the same-holding that hardback and rereading it-they last longer-but let’s face it, the world is changing…we adjust. I LOVE DIANE’s NEW BOOK-the cover is fantastic…the book is wonderful…

  5. Diane Chamberlain on May 24, 2008 at 5:00 pm

    Oh, this is so cool to finally see your comments coming through instantly without me having to approve them first!
    Thanks for the feedback on trade paperbacks, all. Liz, enjoy Seattle. I love Pikes market. Julie, it’s interesting to hear the “big question” you think is in my books: “are people who they really appear to be on the outside?” I think you’re right, especially as I think about Before the Storm and the sequel. A couple of characters who don’t have points of view in B the S, do have points of view in the sequel, and so the reader will see a very different side of them emerge. It’s fun to explore their personalities in that way.
    Thematically, I think my books often tend to be about forgiveness and family love. Not intentionally, but that’s how the story comes out of me whether I mean it to or not. I must be working through something on a primitive level in my writing. . .

  6. Ann on May 24, 2008 at 7:21 pm

    I like the trade paperbacks much better than the mass market ones. I buy both but if the mass mkt books are thick it is sometimes hard to see the words on the inner side of the pages. I have to almost destroy the books to get them to open wide enough to read. I think the cover of Before the Storm is one of the most attractive covers I have ever seen. Am finishing a book tonight and will start Before the Storm as soon as I put that one down. The waiting is really self-discipline! [I think I can do it.]

  7. Gina on May 24, 2008 at 7:57 pm

    Diane – for me, trade paperbacks work best. I read quite a bit (about 4 books a month) and having to buy hardbacks can get very expensive. Also, my bookclub likes choosing picks in trade paperback, again for the price factor. And, yes, holding a trade paperback is much more convenient than those heavy hardbacks. I’m so glad your new book is in trade. Thank you.

  8. Burke on May 25, 2008 at 5:09 pm

    AS I stay at home today (after attending a great concert with Squire Parsons this A.M.), I am eagerly awaiting Internet results of my son’s Ironman in Brazil…he is on the last now-the run…THis is different as I am usually attending with him or watching LIVE on Internet. How can I stay calm? I am reading BEFORE THE STORM again…so much to LEARN from this book-besides enjoying it. Diane, I enjoy and appreciate so much about this book-nothing to mention until all who write on this site have read it…not giving anything away.
    Margo-if you have finished, email me…I am dying to discuss it…

  9. Gina on May 26, 2008 at 6:29 pm

    I went to Borders today to look for Before the Storm but they didn’t have it. Then I went to Barnes and Noble and they had it. YAY! I picked up my copy and will probably start on it right after I finish the one I’m currently reading. Can’t wait.

  10. Diane Chamberlain on May 27, 2008 at 7:30 am

    Gina, I hope you enjoy it!
    Brenda, I hope your son did well in the Ironman. It amazes me that you reread books so quickly! By the way, if any of you ever want to discuss my books on the blog, just put “SPOILER: skip this post if you haven’t yet read the book!” as the first thing in your post. But do wait a week or so before talking about Before the Storm (except, of course, to say that you liked it) to give others a chance to get it.

  11. Margo on May 27, 2008 at 9:07 am

    Lol Ann on the self-discipline…’I think I can do it’…I know exactly what you mean! I only have 100 pages left of BEACH GIRLS and Diane’s new book is staring at me from my bedside table and I can hardly stand the wait!…it’s taking every bit of self control to not put down my current read and begin BEFORE THE STORM!…Brenda, I hope to start it in the next few days & will be sure & e-mail you when I’ve gotten a ways into it…believe me everyone, when I read Diane’s books I take my time & savor every poetic word…I never rush her novels. I’m one of those reader’s who have collected ALL of Diane’s hardcover books and love everyone of them…I accept whatever the publisher decides and the fact Diane’s book is in Trade Paperback would never in a million years stop me from owning it and keeping it…Trade’s are a nice size to hold and it will go on my shelf as a treasured gift right alongside Diane’s other books…I own and read D’s books because SHE wrote them, not based on the format they appear. SUMMER’S CHILD was a WONDERFUL book and published in mass market paperback…it also sits on my Diane C. bookshelf along with the hardcovers so believe me, all hers are keepers. (-:

  12. Margo on May 27, 2008 at 9:42 am

    Julie, I LOVED ‘CYPRESS POINT’ by Diane. The Big Sur area is a fav place of mine and I was immediately caught up in the story with the beautiful descriptions of place. I embraced the unique story and loved the element of surprise at the end. I remember buying this book for many of my friends and family because I loved it so much! I highly recommend it. (-:

  13. Ann on May 27, 2008 at 12:36 pm

    Diane, I did LOVE the book! I cannot wait to visit with these characters again “After the Storm”

  14. brenda on May 27, 2008 at 4:52 pm

    Margo=look forward to getting your email.
    I read Diane’s books quickly the first time…the next day, I read it again-more slowly…
    I read her books every year at least once…just have to do that…learn more each time…
    I don’t want to discuss this one until all of you have had time to savor every morsel…
    My son did great at the Ironman…As we speak, he is supposed to be on Amazon River and Rainforest…
    He deserves this trip…
    My daughter, the little ones, and I will spend some time with him in Florida in June-can’t wait.
    What’s with this? Airlines charging for luggage now…whew…

  15. Ashley on May 27, 2008 at 8:12 pm

    LOVED “Before the Storm”! However, I don’t love the wait for “After the Storm” 😛 The only downside to any of Diane’s books is the fact that before being able to go to bed at night, I have to finish the book. So, other than being sleep deprived, there is NO downside 😛 Enjoy, everyone!

  16. Diane Chamberlain on May 27, 2008 at 10:41 pm

    I’m so glad you’re enjoying Before the Storm!

  17. Gina on May 28, 2008 at 8:12 am

    Hi all, I know we’re all starting or have finished Before the Storm and we all want to talk about it, please feel free to drop by my book forum http://www.thehappybookersclub.com to discuss, in addition to discussing it here. I just thought I would give fans another avenue to discuss the book and most importantly, to get the word out about Diane’s books. I have a thread started specifically for Diane’s books. Just an idea.
    I started on Before the Storm last night before I went to bed and as usual, it’s another one of Diane’s books that you just can’t put down! I love it and so far I’m up to “Marcus” chapter. Can’t wait to read more tonight. Thanks Diane for writing another fantastic book!

  18. Margo on May 28, 2008 at 8:15 am

    Brenda, you must be so proud of your son…and what a thrill for him to be on the Amazon River and Rainforest! Thank you for not giving away anything on BEFORE THE STORM. I stayed up till 1 this a.m. trying to finish BEACH GIRLS so I could move onto Diane’s new book and catch up with everyone…my eyes were SO heavy I’m going to have to re-read some of last nites words, especially since I was up at 4 a.m….not good to only have 3 hrs sleep but it’s my own fault. I think BEACH GIRLS is Luanne Rice’s best book but maybe I’m a little partial since the main character is not only an artist but also a swimmer (-:
    BEFORE THE STORM is staring at me from my bedside table and I think tonite I’ll finally get to start it…YEAH!!

  19. Diane Chamberlain on May 28, 2008 at 9:53 am

    Gina, this is a great idea! (Your happybookersclub.com). Thanks for providing a forum where readers can discuss books, mine and others.
    Margo, now you’ve really made me want to read Beach Girls. Right now I’m reading (listening to) Three Cups of Tea. Then I “need to” read Julie and Julia for my book club. Then I hope I can get to Beach Girls.

  20. Margo on May 28, 2008 at 11:11 am

    Quess what Diane, I just took a lonnnnnnnng break from what I was doing, went outside and finished BEACH GIRLS and simply loved it! It’s simply written with a definite love for the sea, sky, nature and family all in one…it’s artistic and full of beauty along with forgiveness. Luanne Rice has a new book coming out in July called LAST KISS that is suppose to have an element of mystery in it and many of the same characters in BEACH GIRLS. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did…AND NOW I’M READY TO READ ‘BEFORE THE STORM’…I actually have not been able to sleep the last few nites and I just know it’s because the beautiful cover from you new book is staring at me from my bedside table! (-:

  21. Gina on May 28, 2008 at 12:18 pm

    Thank you Diane! Feel free to drop by as well, we’d love a comment from you on our board. 🙂
    I’m off to lunch to read a few more pages of your book. I’m lovin’ it alot.

  22. Fonda on June 2, 2008 at 10:06 am

    Thank you Diane for Trade Paperback. I love that size. Easier to hold, to take with you and cheaper to purchase. I have read all your books and enjoyed every one of them. My favorite’s are the books on Outer Banks. I hope you write another book in that location. Just getting ready to start “Before the Storm”.

  23. Amy on June 9, 2008 at 4:29 pm

    I prefer trade paperback, and I hope this helps you grow your audience. I just came here from authorbuzz, your book looks great. 🙂

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