I finally got my hands on the Penguin Classics Deluxe edition of CANDIDE with Chris Ware’s cover design. It’s a beautiful production, with French Flaps and deckle-edged paper (where the pages are rough cut on the edges).
So beautiful, in fact, that if I had my pick of format for my first graphic novel, I’d probably skip a hardcover edition completely and put out a high-quality paperback original with French flaps and deckle-edges like the Penguin Deluxe editions.** You wouldn’t make as much profit per book, but for a first book, you’re not necessarily looking to profit, you’re just looking to get your work out there and start your brand. With lower sticker prices, paperbacks attract more buyers, and booksellers are more willing to take a risk on an unknown author.
Martin Asher, the editor in chief of Vintage/Anchor Books, agrees:
“Book for book, you’re obviously going to make more money on a hardcover….But you can usually sell two or more paperbacks for every hardcover, and when you bring in the question of building an audience for a new writer,” the scale tips further in the paperback original’s favor.
Of course, these numbers we’re talking about are for first prose-fiction books. Graphic novels are selling so well, it might be ridiculous to put out a paperback first. You let the hype build with the hardcover, and then wait for new life in paperback. (Pantheon does a good job with their graphic novel paperbacks: Marjane Satrapi’s PERSEPOLIS and Ware’s JIMMY CORRIGAN look great in both editions.)
On the other hand, if you’re looking to build cred with the young audience who is more apt to read graphic novels, the deluxe paperback might be the way to go. Here’s an excerpt from a NYTimes article on paperbacks that ran today:
The target audience for a paperback is often different from that for hardcovers. “I think of paperback readers as the smarter, hipper, younger readers,” said Marty Asher, editor in chief of Vintage/Anchor Books, the paperback imprint of the Knopf Group. He noted that books like “Never Let Me Go” by Kazuo Ishiguro, or titles by Haruki Murakami, the Japanese novelist, tend to appeal to readers who frankly prefer the lower price of a paperback.
Anybody have any opinions on it all? (Maud Newton had a good post on the issue a while back…)
** Of course, let’s be serious: I’ll take what I can get…