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It’s Almost a GalleyCat Reunion

That wily Levi Asher: He took his ongoing series of Q&As with publishing folk about the pricing and formatting of literary fiction, and ran the segments with Sarah Weinman and me on the same page. The big question when it comes to publishing literary fiction in hardcover, when many financially strapped readers would love to see a paperback right away, seems to be, “Might publishers be losing more in word-of-mouth than they’re gaining in margin?” I don’t know if I’ve really answered it, but I certainly had fun trying:

“I’m actually somewhat awed that it’s paperback buyers that are ‘rewarded’ with bonus materials in the back of the book, from reading questions to Q&As with the author to original essays. Don’t get me wrong, I understand the rationale behind putting that material in the paperback: That’s the edition reading groups are most likely to buy, so you want to give them as much incentive as you can. But I would think, particularly if the trend is towards simultaneous dual-format, hardcover buyers should be ‘rewarded’ for laying out the extra cash… Maybe instead of asking ‘how can we convince publishers to give us cheaper books sooner?’, the question should be ‘what can publishers do to make hardcovers so attractive to us that we can’t wait until next year for the paperback?’”

Already I got an email from novelist Elizabeth Hand, who observes, “Interesting to read, yet again, about how trade editions will save publishing. I remember this discussion in the mid-1980s, and then again in the mid-90s, when I left a publisher because they were going to publish a ‘breakout’ novel of mine as a trade original; the book was a success in hardcover, and I convinced it would have been lost in trade. I suspect most writers have sinking hearts at the thought of an initial trade release. And I suspect e-books and audiobooks are the next wave, once the paper troglodytes die off, not trade originals.”

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