I guess I shouldn't be surprised that yesterday's post provoked lots of chatter, and that I'm not exactly done with the topic.
The expectation, I believe, is that when a mystery author makes his or her debut in paperback original (at least of the mass market variety) there may come a point when the publisher decides to "break them out." This is why I used the term ghetto (which is deliberately provocative) -- not because I necessarily believe it to be the case, but because publisher behavior seems to track that way.
And breaking out, at least in the mystery world, has led to tangible successes. Laura Lippman and Harlan Coben are the best examples right now, but Sujata Massey's reputation and sales are steadily growing, and Jeff Abbott's PANIC -- to be released in a couple of weeks --is getting a ton of attention as well.
But what happens if you start out in hardcover and move to PBO? Is that simply a change in marketing strategy to increase readership, or a backward step in your career?
oIn the comments to the previous post, Rochelle Krich described her take as well as those from others she quizzed:
But another writer, somewhat newer to the business, has a slightly different story to tell:
"I had a two book deal in hardback. There was a fairly high level of enthusiasm at the large chains regarding the first book. Sales, however, far from lived up to this enthusiasm. When the sales force at my publisher went out to the chains with the second book, they were informed that the chains would be purchasing what would have been a disastrously small number of copies. However, they were further told that if the book were published as a TPO that the chains would increase their orders as much as five times.
In the face of those numbers there was really no choice to be made."
Fortunately in his case, his publisher is still committed to publishing his books and he added that the books "probably should have been in PBO in the first place."
But the questions I want to leave people with are these: Is there an actual difference between a book in mass market, in trade or in hardcover? If it's really just a question of marketing, why do publishers go through the trouble of "breaking people out" into a bigger format? And for those who have been published in PBO for several books, what is expected of you to "move up" -- is it the big standalone thriller? Or writing a completely different series?