Sunday, February 15, 2009

Hardcovers vs Paperbacks

Wow, my fingers are tingling. The huz was working out in the garage, which is insulated but not heated, and I went out there to talk to him. By the end of the conversation, I was more chilled than I realized. Now I'm in my office, and my fingers are tingling as they warm up. It's interesting trying to type like this--kind of like trying to talk after you've just eaten ice cream.

Note to self: It isn't spring yet.

When the new Patricia Briggs book, Bone Crossed, came out in hardcover, I had two different opinions about the change. Like many others, I'd been waiting eagerly for the next installment in the Mercy Thompson series. Of course, all my other copies are in paperback, since that's how the series started out. Now the fourth book comes out and it's in hardcover, which leaves me with the same dilemma that every other book buyer has. Do I buy it in hardcover, or do I wait for a year for the paperback version to come out? Well, my answer is "yes."

The issue is complex. First, I can choose to afford the hardcover if I really want to, but with money as tight as it is, I shouldn't. I should spend the money on food, or bills, or something like that. But I don't. I buy the hardcover for several reasons. One, I want to support Patty's success. She deserves the switch to hardcover, to the big time. I know the book will be fabulous, and I really do love hardcover books, so I don't mind owning the hardcover. It's beautiful, and I'm proud to have it on my shelf.'s expensive, so in the weeks before its release I waffle about it. I put my name on the waiting list at the library, where I clock in at number sixteen for the hold. My intentions are to be patient, save money, and wait for the paperback, yet still get to read the story--at least within a few months of its coming out. But we all know I'll cave. I'll at least go to the bookstore and sit in one of their comfy chairs and read the book there in hardcover. I don't have to buy it. But husband and kids love Mercy, too, and they probably won't have the time or ability to go to the store, sit in the chair and read the book for free. They, too, can wait until the library's copy is made available to us. But who wants to wait? I don't, so I can't expect them to. Plus, if I read the hardcover in the store and don't buy it, but then I want people to buy my books when they're published, what does that make me? I can't hope people will spend money on my books when I'm not prepared to spend money on other people's books, even if I am broke. So what do I do?

I rush to the store and buy the book in hardcover on release day, of course. And then I devour the story over the course of the next two days. Then I promptly start reading it out loud to the Huz...he likes it when I read, and it's good practice for my own author readings someday. So less than a week goes by, I've bought the hardcover, and I've read it twice. When the paperback comes out, I'll buy it, too; it'll match the rest of the series already on my shelves. I've paid it forward, I've supported an author I love, and I'm still broke, so one book more or less isn't going to make a huge difference. I'm really happy about Patty's success, and wish her all the best as her star continues to rise.

The writer in me looks forward to the day when I'm successful enough for my books to come out in hardcover, which the addicted readers will then buy because they can't not do so. It's not that I'd really want to cost them even more of their hard-earned money; I doubt I'd see that much of it anyway. For me, it's not about me getting more money. It's about how well my work can capture the readers' interest. I want my work to be good enough that readers would be willing to spend extra money just to get a new book fix. That's a serious gauge of how good an author is at the writing craft. What writer wouldn't want to be that good?

If I, the reader, am not willing to spend extra money to buy your hardcover, then...I guess I'm just not that into you. If I hurl my money at the hardcover because I can't not have my book fix, then you've hooked me and reeled me in long ago, and no change in book format is going to shake me.

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