The Riddles of Collection Development-part 2

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Continuing where I left off last month, I will now address some common questions that are related to the publishing world. (To read part 1, click here.)

How do you define mass market paperback?

Paperbacks are called “mass market” when they meet some or all of the following criteria:

  • No more than 18cm tall (or 7.25")

  • Relatively inexpensive—over the years the price point has crept up from $4.99 and $5.99 to $8.99 and $9.99

  • Distributed through “mass marketing” channels (i.e., retail establishments other than bookstores)

Other physical characteristics are typical as well: small font size, cheaper paper, a relatively thick spine. The term “mass market” is primarily used to describe adult books, but there is also a small number of juvenile and teen fiction titles that fit the definition.

Then, because things weren’t confusing enough, there is "tall mass market.” These are taller, but not wider, than mass market titles. In addition to physical dimensions, the type size and spacing between lines is slightly (and I emphasize slightly) larger than in the mass market editions. Some readers will find the type and wider line spacing helpful, but the odd size format may frustrate libraries that still use paperback spinner racks.

Are self-published, indie, and print-on-demand the same thing?

Self-published and indie are interchangeable terms relating to the “who” of publishing, while print-on-demand describes the “how.” That said, many indie books are produced using print-on-demand technology. The terms “self-published” and “indie” suggest the publisher is NOT a major or regular trade publishing house. The publisher and author may or may not be the same. The publisher has a small number of titles, maybe just one in the beginning. Indie authors and publishers may seek a distributor to represent them. They may also use a service such as CreateSpace for the digital or physical production of the item. When print-on-demand is chosen as the publishing mechanism, no one is taking a risk on inventory that may or may not sell. The production is “just in time” when a purchaser places an order.

Obviously, indie publishing has increased dramatically in this millennium, making it more difficult for librarians to keep up with all the available titles. There are many noble attempts to call attention to these titles and some of them even make the big time. Kirkus has an indie section that includes paid coverage (yes, you pay to have a review published). Library Journal now has Self-e, a collaborative effort with BiblioBoard to bring attention to worthy indie titles. Libraries are definitely buying more of these than they did in my youth, when we turned up our noses at such titles and referred to them as vanity press.

If there is anything else that puzzles you about publishing, let us know and we’ll address it in a future issue.

Thank you for reading!