I met Sarah Pinneo online, asked her to be on Women’s Fiction Writers and she then asked if she could write about her book coming out in paperback — I think I heard the Hallelujah chorus. My book will also be released in trade paperback and I was curious for Sarah’s perspective. We give so much thought to when our books will be published, do we give much thought to how? I had no qualms about a trade paperback release because – well – being published is BEING PUBLISHED. And I could rationalize upside-down and sideways (as I often do) that it was best for my book. And for my career as an author. I think you’ll relate to Sarah’s post, whether you’re aspiring to be published, self-published, e-published or published in hard cover. Because we all agonize over the decisions that go along with release our books into the world — we want the right packaging and the right perception that will lead to blockbuster sales. And more than anything that includes changing some perceptions of our own.
Please welcome Sarah Pinneo to Women’s Fiction Writers!
Is Women’s Fiction Headed for Paperback?
By Sarah Pinneo
Dear Sir or Madam, will you read my book?
It took me years to write, will you take a look?
—“Paperback Writer” by The Beatles
But when my agent began to shop Julia’s Child, it was the editors of paperback imprints who showed the most interest. I’d always pictured the book as a hardcover, and not merely because I was having delusions of grandeur. The women’s fiction I’d read for years—Alice Hoffman, Jennifer Weiner, Jodi Picoult—was always hardback. Soft cover, I assumed, was for chick lit and genre romance.
So I decided to (very casually) ask my agent about it. “So…” I said, “is this because I’m a loser, and nobody will ever take me seriously?”
A good agent is one who can answer her authors’ questions without laughing, even on those days when their neuroses are poking through like porcupine quills. “That’s just where the market for this book is at this time,” she said.
And so it was. Two years of effort paid off with a successful sale to Plume, a paperback imprint at Penguin, and an editor who met all the definitions of terrific.
Still, I thought about it. And somehow I decided that the reason my book was destined for paperback was because it was a comedy. But when I looked around, that didn’t hold up. My own imprint had quite a few women’s fiction titles in paperback, including titles by the very successful Sarah Jio. And so did Gallery, including Georgia’s Kitchen by Jenny Nelson. And those weren’t comedies.
And over at Berkley, I found Katie Britton’s Her Sister’s Keeper and Liz Michalski’s beautiful Evenfall. Not a one of those books is genre romance or chick lit. As it turns out, Liz had the same reaction to paperback as I did. “Although I would have loved to have walked into a store and seen my novel in hardcover, the bottom line is that I love even more for people to buy and read it, and if coming out in paperback gives me a better shot at that, so be it.”
So it’s definitely a trend. And once I was able to think rationally about it, the economics driving the trend fell into place. Even in hardcover land, there is a notable acceleration toward releasing the paperback sooner than ever, according to The New York Times. Apparently, simultaneously released eBook prices, at 12.99 & 9.99, are making hardbacks look pricey. Even publishers of award winning literary fiction are now going to paperback 6 or 7 months after the hardcover release, as opposed to the full year that was once standard.
Last summer my galleys arrived, and I took them to a few independent bookstores I know in my area. All galleys are paperback, of course. But on numerous occasions I watched the booksellers’ eyes light up when they got to the imprint information on the back: Plume U.S. $15.00 / $17.50 CAN. “Oh, it’s a paperback!” I would hear. “That’s great.”
If booksellers are delighted by the format and price tag on my book, than so am I. So what if I pictured myself in hardcover? I also picture myself an inch taller, and with pre-childbirth abs, and yet the likelihood that I stay the way I am doesn’t keep me up at night. I’m a practical girl. And a lucky one. And a happy one.
Sarah Pinneo writes about food, family & fiction from Hanover, NH. She was a wall street dealmaker for more than a decade before making the transition from breadwinner to bread baker. You can find her at www.sarahpinneo.com, or follow her @Julias__Child.