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Passion, People and Principles

Self-Publication: Hardback or Paperback?

post # 420 — August 15, 2007 — a Strategy and the Fat Smoker post

Most new business books are first published in hardback, and then only in paperback about six months to a year later.

What do you think the pros and cons of this choice are? Is a hardback better for image? Does it give an author two chances to promote a “new” book (like promoting the release of a movie on DVD three months after theatrical release.)

What say you all?


Jeff Riegner said:

David, my personal preference is hardback. I’m sure you intend this collection of articles to serve as ready reference, and there’s just something about the heft of a hardback and the quality of its paper that lends it to frequent reference and markup. I bought “Managing the Professional Service Firm” in paperback; as much as I refer to it, hardback would have been a better choice.

Regarding promotional opportunities, “what gets measured gets done.” Do you have access to the sales figures for your previous books by month, and if so, is there evidence of a surge in sales associated with release of the paperback version?

Good luck, and keep the wonderful posts and articles coming!

posted on August 15, 2007

Linas Simonis said:

David, I prefer hardback too. Simply for the image reasons.

If someone wants to save money, they will find almost all articles on your blog. For someone who wants to have psychical book, couple additional bucks is not an issue.

Even in the case you will never publish paperback edition…

posted on August 15, 2007

Nagesh Belludi said:

I prefer paperbacks: lower cost and easier to carry around.

What are the economics of publishing a book in hardcover and paperback?

With thousands of books published every year in every major classification, how many books can authors and publishers expect to sell? Given the popularity of modern distribution streams, viz. Amazon or B&N or Half.com and the availability of used books, authors would expect lower sales volumes.

posted on August 15, 2007

Carl Isenburg said:

It seems like there’s two topics:

  • – Why do publishers publish hardbacks first, then paperbacks later? It seems like a fairly simple market segmentation exercise, and an excuse to charge some customers a premium. If that’s important to you, then you will want to offer the higher-priced book first, then the lower-priced book in the future so you capture more of the market.
  • – What do your readers want? Personally, I like hardbacks; some of your more mobile readers may like a lighter book. How comfortable are you making that decision for us?

Is there a restriction that keeps you from offering both?

posted on August 15, 2007

Kishore Balakrishnan said:

Hardback is for Reference books e.g., Medical / Ency. which contain short pieces of info that are opened many times a week

Rest are paperbacks.

posted on August 15, 2007

Alexei Ghertescu said:

Definitely hardback. Never liked paperbacked books, at least serious ones. (Maybe I’m too conservative in my 26 :) ). Paperback are only good for fiction (and even not for all).

posted on August 16, 2007

Liz Zitzow said:

Other people have commented quite wisely about the marketing and sales reasons behind hardback first, paperback second; and price and “heft” as reasons for choosing between the two.

The real difference (beyond price) is in how long the book lasts. A quality hardback printed on acid-free non-recycled paper and a sewn (not glued) binding is designed to last at least 100 years with good care. A paperback used papers with higher acidity, glued bindings, recycled papers, and all kinds of other materials that degrade at a much faster rate. Paperbacks can die within as little as a couple of years, but usually can be counted on to last between 10 & 20 years, depending on how well you care for it. Therefore, if I think I’ll still be referencing and/or reading this book again in my old age, I buy hardback. If it’s a summer read to be donated in a few years to the local charity shop, I buy paperback.

posted on August 16, 2007

Phil Gerbyshak said:

Great question! I think you should publish first in paperback, and then a few years later, release version 2.0 in hard cover, with some additional information, a refreshed cover, and perhaps a companion audio CD. You’re an amazing speaker, and by being in a constant state of improvement, you show the folks reading your book that you’re not done with the idea, at least not completely.

I self-published my first book in paperback, and version 2.0 came out in paperback as well, and version 2.0 is actually doing quite a bit better than the first version, and you can only get versoin 2.0 from http://morebetterbooks.com or from events where I speak at, whereas you can get version 1 from Amazon.

Good luck with your book, whatever you decide to do. No doubt it will be great!

posted on August 17, 2007

ashutosh wakankar said:

All the marketing rationale aside David, I feel your philosophy has always been to make your work available to people in the most user friendly formats. Now you not only have the choice to do a paperback and hardcover but also an audio version and an online download. Ideally you should aim for it all (if your personal bandwidth permits). Ypou could also do an event on the website for a few hours where people can log in and download the book ahead of its release..this will create some predisposition with your core community for the buzz to build…

In my opinion criteria should be driven by your personal philosophy about the purpose of your work and how much you can handle at any given time in terms of orchestrating it.

posted on August 17, 2007

Jef said:

I like paparbacks more than hardcovers. Because they’re easier to carry around (and I’ll take books anywhere I go).

I really really wanted the last Harry Potter asap after release. But since only the hardcover was released, I had no choice but th buy that one. While all my other Harry Potter books are paperbacks…

So for me, it would be ideal if both hardcovers and paperbacks are released at the same time, so the reader can choose. Off course, that’s less interesting from a marketing point of view, because a part of your readers that would have bought the more expensive hardcover, now buy the cheaper paperback.

posted on August 19, 2007

Wally Bock said:

Seems to me that there are people who won’t buy hardbacks because they’ll wait for the paperback, but they don’t seem like a giant market segment. Most folks will buy the book because it’s available and because they want what’s between the covers. The cover choice often depends on what’s in front of them when desire for wisdom strikes.

posted on August 23, 2007