April 26th, 2009

Publishers Who Don't Know What's Good for Them

That would be Jove (imprint of Berkley, owned by Penguin), who recently published Amanda Quick's latest mass market (The Third Circle). As opposed to Pocket Star (Kensington), who have just reprinted three of John Connolly's backlist titles.

Quick's book is a new paperback release, and Jove has elected to issue it in the new, larger format, priced at 9.99. This format has become increasingly popular among mystery/thriller publishers, but the romance people have thus far eschewed it, so Quick's book stands out. The problem is that in this economic climate, nobody wants to pay $2 more for a mass market book. So, yes, Jove is reaping an extra $1.20 per book sold, but I work at a bookstore in a hard-hit area of the country, and from my point of view the extra $1.20 is not making up for the sales they're losing.

I sell a lot of romance at my store, and Amanda Quick is a popular author. I've never seen one of her titles move so slowly. I've actually overheard customers say, "Oh, wait, why is this more than the others?" and put the book back. And, as I mentioned, The Third Circle is new in paperback--at my store, a great many of the romance customers wait until the paperback comes out before they buy, so the new ones usually go very quickly.

The three John Connolly titles, on the other hand, are not new--they're reprints of older books, and they're priced at $4.99. I really only put them out on the new book table because I was a bit low on titles, and normally I wouldn't have expected them to sell very well. But lo and behold, they flew off the table. I had only put out one of the titles, so I ran and got one of the other ones to fill the gaping hole in my table. And boom! by the end of the weekend, that one was gone, too.

Entertainment historically does well during economic downturns, but there's a lot more entertainment options out there than there used to be, and much of it is cheaper than the current prices of books. Publishers can't afford to rest on their laurels, and I think this example, anecdotal as it may be, shows pretty clearly what customers are looking for when they go into a bookstore these days.