Should your book be a paperback or a hardback? What about the size of the book? There’s not a simple formula or a cookie-cutter answer, but there are several factors that you should take into consideration.
- What will the market bear? Is price a consideration? Hardback books typically have a retail price about $5-$7 higher than paperback. Plus, they will cost you probably only a couple of bucks per book more to purchase, so financially it would make sense to publish a hardback over a paperback, right? But if your audience has some price sensitivity then going with a hardback book could cost you in both sales and influence with your audience.
One of our clients is a successful medical professional. His book will appeal to other medical professionals (doctors, dentists, etc). That audience won’t flinch at spending $20-$25 for valuable information. But if you are competing for the attention and the dollars of a summer romance novel reading audience, think twice about going with a hardback. Your audience may be willing to try something from an unknown author, but probably not willing to spend twice as much as they spend to purchase a mass market novel from a well-known author that only costs them $7.99.
- What is the value of the information? Are you publishing exclusive information that is not readily available? Then you might be able to go with an oversized hardback and charge $29.95 or more for that information. (Heck, some professional newsletters can cost hundreds of dollars a month and are nothing more than 4-8 pages long.) If that information can bring the reader hundreds—maybe thousands—of dollars of benefit, then the cost is clearly worth paying.
- What is the value of the author? The more well-recognized the author, the easier it is to expect the audience to be willing to pay for the added expense of a hardback book. Tim Tebow released his memoirs a few years ago (don’t get me started on what a 24-year-old kid has to share with the world), but he is a sports and media darling for a variety of reasons. So when his book came out, even though he’s a first-time author, and the publisher released it in hardback, thousands of people stood in line for hours at a time waiting to buy a copy.
- The limited access to the material. Why do you think college textbooks cost so much? In part it’s because the information is not intended for a mass market or widely read audience. It’s targeting a specific type of student taking a specific course at a limited number of colleges and universities.
There are many, many other aspects that go into creating the “ideal” size, shape, thickness, cover design, and even binding style of a book. Does it need to fit into a purse or pocket? Is it better to be an oversized book with a few words and big pictures (like a children’s book)? Or will a manuscript that’s over 100,000 words appear too daunting a read if it’s too thick, so the publisher chooses a thinner paper stock and perhaps tighter margins in the interior layout? Maybe it’s important to be a different trim size—just to be different. Good publishing takes all the subtleties into account when determining the final specifications of a book. You should too.