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Angel’s Bits – Those check boxes on the contract

From l to r: Hardcover, Trade pb's and Mass Market pb (books courtesy of the Angel Personal Library, photo courtesy of Angel the World's Worst Photographer
From l to r: Hardcover, Trade pb’s and Mass Market pb (books courtesy of the Angel Personal Library, photo courtesy of Angel the World’s Worst Photographer

Hi all! For today’s Bits, I wanted to talk a teensy bit about book formats and media. In the past couple of years, I’ve seen more publishers going for a “check box” type of contract where the formats are listed and the ones included in the specific contract are checked off. So what are all these things?


Self explanatory, up to a point, but you should know what formats your publisher offers and where they distribute. PDF, epub, mobi and html are the most common (mobi is the Kindle format, though most Kindles now can handle multiple formats with ease.)


A little trickier – we have to break this one down another level.

Hardcover: Not all publishers offer hardcover these days. It’s quite frankly expensive, though they’re nice to have for the book collector. Big sellers often appear in hardcover first and then in paperback. Usually about 9.3 x 6.4 inches, the hardcover has a rigid binding and higher quality paper than a mass market paperback. (Hard covers come in LOTS of different sizes – children’s books, display/coffeetable/art books, reference books and so on – the size above is what you generally see for genre fiction.)

Trade Paperback: The trade paperbacks are the larger size paperbacks, usually in their own subsection in a bookstore because they need different shelf space. They mirror the size of hardbacks more closely at 9 x 6 or 8 x 5, have better binding and paper quality than a mass market, and a both more and less expensive to produce. I’ll get to that in a second. Stories with illustrations, like King’s Dark Tower series, are better showcased in trade paperback size.

Mass Market Paperback: These are the paperbacks we all grew up with. Smaller than trade at 6.5 x 4 ish, they’re designed to be produced, as the name suggests, in large quantities with cheaper paper and bindings. This doesn’t make them bad, of course. Most of my shelf space is mass market books. They’re more affordable for the consumer. They fit in your purse or backpack so nicely. But a lot of small presses and individual authors can’t afford mass market because you have to contract with a manufacturer for a print run – and it has to be a large one to be effective. Print on demand services like Createspace don’t offer mass market for that reason – it simply wouldn’t be cost-effective. So your Createspace paperbacks are trade paperbacks.


Just putting it here because it’s an option you see more and more often now. With ACX/Audible as a venue and distributor, smaller companies and individual authors are suddenly able to afford audio both in the production phase and in profitability during distribution.

Translations are often included in the check boxes as well, but that’s another kettle of Antarean psi-squid. The point is that print isn’t going away and there are more options than ever that publishers – large, small and indie – are utilizing. Check your contracts, writers, and readers, if you want a format you don’t find, write the publisher. They might not be able to get it for you immediately, but knowing the demand is out there helps drive available formats.


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