With the cost of books rising every year, many publishers are moving away from the concept of publishing novels as hardback books before publishing them as paperbacks. The average cost of a hardback book these days is around $22, and those high prices make it difficult to market a new writer. This has given rise to a new line of literary paperbacks from major publishers such as Random House and HarperCollins, as well as many minor publishers who traditionally only marketed hardback books. These new literary paperbacks are being priced at around $14.
The downside of this for authors is that paperbacks are seen as less prestigious than hardbacks. For new writers, however, this represents a chance to build a larger audience than the one available for hardback books. As prices rise, the typical cost of a hardback book could reach $30 within another five to ten years. This is making it harder and harder to launch new authors, especially literary authors trying to compete in markets saturated with celebrity biographies, political manifestos and religion-based mysteries.
For new literary novelists trying to get published in today’s market, the change means lower per-book profits but the chance for higher sales and a larger audience. New authors may no longer get a beautifully bound hardcover book to show off, but most will trade that for a better chance at long-term success. Unfortunately, another downside of paperbacks is that book reviewers tend to give hardbacks more respect, so it may be harder to generate new reviews for paperback novels.
The new trend also means that POD publishers such as Lulu and their $14 paperbacks are beginning to look more attractive to new authors who cannot generate interest from the traditional publishing markets. If all a traditional publisher will produce for you is a $14 paperback that it is hard to find reviewers for, the only significant advantage left is the publisher’s distribution system. That advantage is still considerable, but the domination of traditional publishing over self-publishing is certainly shrinking.