Why Hardback Books Come Out Before Softcover

So you’re waiting for your favorite author to release their next a course in miracles bookstore You may even be that author. In any case, you’re sitting with bated breath waiting for the release date. And suddenly it’s here. So you sign on to Amazon or Barnes & Noble or Chapters/Indigo and what do you find?

It’s available only in hardcover!

Why do publishers do that to you? What is it about hardback books that turns publishers’ cranks? What gets them moving with a hardcover book?

For that matter, why do publishers even bother with hardback books? After all, they seldom make any money at all!

In this article, I’m going to try to answer some of those questions for you. You might think that publishers release hardback books before they release softcover for historic reasons or some antiquated print production reason. But the truth is that there are some very good reasons for the order in which books are released.

Our first clues can be found by looking at the customers for these early hardcover or hardback books. There are four main customers for hard cover books.

The hardcover market is a much smaller market. However, the break even point is also much smaller. As a result, publishers could traditionally test the viability of a book in the mass market with a smaller exposure. In addition, remaindering or discounting is a standard method of disposing of hardcover books. Unlike the paperback market where most returns result in the destruction of the book. As long as a book is able to recover its cost of production in the discount market then the risk is reduced. Couple this with the fact that hard covers have a longer shelf life and you have much greater probability of creating a profit.

2. To build a buzz. Three of the major customers for hardback books are directly related to building a reputation for the book. One of them, in fact, is a non-paying customer! Libraries and book clubs are both excellent ways to build up a reputation for an author and a book. Their recommendations are often responsible for creating bestsellers in the much larger paperback market. By publishing the hardcover first, enough time is allowed for buzz to build and the softcover market to be maximized.

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