6.29.2006

TPO-corrected

Heavenly snarkilicious,
(miss snark feels her leg being pulled...oh wait, it's just the dog laughing)

When my hound bays at the moon, he's thinking of KY.
(man, I read that as husband..I need a vacation)

What's your take on trade paperback originals? They seem to be an increasingly viable option--especially for first-timers.


Supposedly a quality look with a lower price, longer shelf life, fewer returns, albeit with lower advance.
I've read that publishers like the lower overhead involved and may promote them as heavily as a hard cover. Some books even start as tpos and then find their way into hardcover.

What kind of experience have you and your clients had with this approach?


I love TPO for certain kinds of books: debut authors, authors who need to rocket up the visibility charts; authors reaching into the book group market.

You lose some library sales, no doubt about it, but overall, I like them.

I've had several clients in TPO for first novels and glad of it. I'll trade lower royalties for increased sales NUMBERS almost any day of the week cause the more people who fall in love with the work, the better my chance at converting them to hc buyers, and auto-buys in libraries.

TPO gets taken seriously for awards too, which is important.

(For those of you who aren't yet versed in the lingo, trade paper refers to the size of the book. It's the one that's bigger than the small book you see on the grocery store racks (those are called mass market) but it's bound in paper, not cloth.) There is a comment from PNH in the comment trail that corrects this--I yield to superior knowledge and experience on this one.

23 comments:

Carmen said...

Marion Zimmer Bradley's "The Mists of Avalon" is one massive paperback and I've never seen it in hardback on a store shelf... but I always see it, so it must still be selling. But oh boy, did I wish that baby was hardback. It's so huge.

Sherry Decker said...

If an author's first book (with small publisher) comes out in trade paperback and does reasonably well, is there a chance the same book can be published again later by a major publisher, especially if the major publisher wants to publish the author's second book?

Anonymous said...

Could you compare the advances and royalties of tpo and hc? thanks

HawkOwl said...

Oh, I love trade paperbacks. My rule of thumb is mass market = quick-read drivel, trade = substance, and sometimes not even drivel! (Which isn't to say I don't read or enjoy mass markets, but I read them when my brain is lazy.) And I hate hardcovers. I never, ever, ever, EVER buy hardcovers. Just no way. Expensive, unwieldy, not portable... No way. If (when? riiiight) I'm ever published, I hope it's a trade paperback.

Ray Goldensundrop said...

TPO = Trade Paperback Originals

Forgive me, it's the tech writer monster coming out, also the snark who hates jargon. There's a special place in hell for undefined acronyms, but then there's googling, so okay, lighten up.

Wheeee! It's F3!




(Finally Freaking Friday)

Miss Snark said...

Ray, I thought about adding that to the comment at the bottom of the post but thought that "trade paperback original" in the original question would provide the information.

Perhaps not.

Anonymous said...

Our library shelves them, but has reinforced the spine. I've been surprised to see them but there they are.

Ann

BuffySquirrel said...

If TPO is an acronym, perhaps someone could tell us how it's pronounced :).

Personally, I like the smaller mass market paperbacks. They're more comfortable for reading in bed, which is where I do most of my reading, and I don't like to shell out £12.99 rather than £6.99 for what's basically a glorified paperback. The contents are after all exactly the same--there are no DVD-style extras to justify the price hike.

But then I don't associate mass market with quick-read drivel, perhaps due to my habit of buying almost any book I want in that format, from classics to candy.

Would I refuse to be published in trade paper? Er, no, I'm not stupid!

K.L. said...

Well, since it's come up--or close, anyway--will someone please explain what cloth bound is? When I buy poetry books, they generally say they're cloth bound, but the covers are paper--is it possible to bind paperbacks with cloth? Or am I not the most observant poetry consumer?

Oh, and Buffy S., TPO is pronounced typo. ;)

Elektra said...

I'm with you, buffysquirrel. At the bookstore I generally pick up a TPO, look at the price, wince, and then search around for eith the mass market or a different book.

And I like the idea of DVD-like extras. Imaginary interviews with the characters. An author commentary throughout. "Behind the scenes" with the agent.
But where would you hide the Easter Eggs?

Berry said...

I thought the "trade" versus "mass market" term meant the distribution channels used, not the size (though indeed TPOs tend to be bigger than MMPBs). Trade books are made for "the trade", that is, for sale in bookstores, while mass market books go out through independent distributors that also get magazines into airports, drug stores, supermarkets, gas stations, and so on. (MMPBs *also* go to bookstores, of course)

HawkOwl said...

Classics in mass market paperback? Where? Mass markets really are easier to handle. Not always cheaper, though. I get my classics in trade paperback for approximately CAD 6 each, new.

That being said I have to revise the quick-read drivel thing a little. I bought both A Suitable Boy and The Jungle as mass market, so it's not always true. :)

Dwight The Troubled Teen said...

Speaking as a consumer, I give almost zero thought to the binding of a book. I look at the front cover, back cover, read the first paragraph, and then I look at the back cover again to find the price tag.

As a kid, I can remember looking lustfully upon the new Stephen King release and counting the days until it came out in paperback.

Nowadays... I'm a pawn to a Border's bookseller's arrangment whims. I shop interest first and price second.

Dwight The Troubled Teen said...

Anonymous, Anna Louise over at Tor publishing has done a phenomenally detailed breakdown of profit and loss for various bindings variations Vs. sales success.

It's an ongoing series, and maybe one of the most important things on the Internets that an aspiring author should read.


Profit and Loss

Harry Connolly said...

Elseweb, (don't ask where, because I can't remember) I thought Patrick Nielsen Hayden had said that the difference between mmpb and tpo was that mmpb were "stripable" but tpo had the whole copy returned. Also, that some tpo were mmpb sized.

Elektra said...

Hawkowl, try the Signet Classics for...well, classics. They're really cheap (5.99 usually), and have nice covers. The only downside is that their ink rubs off very easily, so you tend to finish the book with a black thumb

litagent said...

TPs are generally larger and printed on better paper with better bindings than mass market books. MMPBs are usually what is referred to as "rack size" meaning they will fit into those racks at the checkout counter in grocery and drug stores. Books are often published in all of these bindings. Right now there are hardcover, trade paper, mass market paper and this absolutely WEIRD sized paperback versions of The DaVinci Code, and you can get them all at your local Borders (I know because I was looking for the MM version for my son). I love TPOs for the same reasons as Miss Snark, although an additional downside (besides library sales) is that some reviewers won't review them. (Is it my imagination, or do these word verifications get longer and longer?)

Patrick Nielsen Hayden said...

Harry Connolly is correct. The distinction between "trade paperbacks" and "mass-market paperbacks" isn't one of trim size; it's a difference of distribution terms. Unsold mass-market paperbacks are stripped or pulped, like unsold periodicals. Unsold trade paperbacks are returned to the publisher whole. There are in fact "trade paperbacks" in the smaller "rack" trim size, and larger-format softcovers that are "mass market."

BuffySquirrel said...

Ah. More education for the sqrl :D.

Well, anyway, a publishers here in the UK called Wordsworth scared the big guys half to death a few years ago by releasing out-of-copyright classics for £1 each. Up till then, Penguin were still selling them for £6.99, the same price as new paperbacks. Now almost everyone's doing it, and prices have edged upwards towards £1.99. So I guess we're better off than some of you other folks :). It's ridiculously cheap here to be well read!

litagent said...

Both things are true. Because a mass market book is of lower quality -- paper and binding-wise -- it is treated like a periodical. Trade paperbacks are treated like hardcovers so far a returns go. But it is also true that, as a general rule, MM books are rack size and trade paperbacks are generally a larger size.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden said...

"Because a mass market book is of lower quality -- paper and binding-wise -- it is treated like a periodical."

Well, no. Not to get too deep into the weeds here, but the lower phyisical quality of mass-market paperbacks isn't the reason unsold ones are pulped or stripped.

The real reason we have the mass-market distribution system is that, for decades after advances in printing technology made it possible to produce super-cheap softcover books, retail bookstores persisted in refusing to take them. Finally, in the years immediately after World War II, softcover entrepeneurs hit on the idea of ignoring the bookstores altogether and distributing their paperbacks through the existing networks of newspaper and magazine wholesalers. To secure those distributors' cooperation, the paperback publishers agreed to have their books treated like magazines. Thus the books were released monthly, rather than in seasonal lists; and unsold books were stripped, rather than returned.

Needless to say, this worked; indeed, it worked so well that bookstores were soon clamoring to sell the new 25-cent paperbacks as well. Since then, American mass-market books have been sold through both channels: the direct bookstore trade, and the "wholesale" or "ID" channel, which puts the books into supermarkets, drugstores, newsstands, and innumerable other non-bookstore outlets.

It's true that mass-market paperbacks tend to be more cheaply printed, just as it's true that most of them are printed in the "rack" trim size. But neither attribute is the quality in which "mass-marketness" inheres, and neither is the reason for the system as it began in the 1940s and continues today.

BuffySquirrel said...

I wonder if it's different in the UK, then, as to the best of my understanding, books only started appearing in supermarkets here relatively recently, and much to the chagrin of the bookshops. I see the supermarkets selling their very limited range of bestsellers for £2.73. When the book's Jonathan Strange, that's a real bargain per page.

And I still don't see why I should pay £12.99 rather than £6.99 for the SAME novel :D.

Lydia said...

I'm making a decent income one year out from first publication in mass market only. I also write romance, in which even NYT bestsellers are often released in only MM. Oh, yeah, and I don't write drivel. Only idiots judge a book's quality by its format.

It's more accurate to judge a book's POPULARITY that way...


> Classics in mass market paperback? Where? Mass markets really are easier to handle. Not always cheaper, though.

Signet Classics, of course. Bantam Classics. Pocket Book Classics.

For cheap, go to Dover Books, the poor students' friend.