Michele Regenold, Writing for Kids from the Boondocks

A blog about writing for children and the quest for publication.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

On prices and sizes of books

I went to Borders in Ames yesterday to look for a couple of new kids' books that I've heard about. I have them on hold at the library, but for one in particular, Markus Zusak's The Book Thief, there was quite a long queue.

So I bought The Book Thief in hard cover for $16.95 (its list price). Its cover measures approximately 5.75 by 8.5 inches. This YA novel has about 550 pages, fairly tight leading (especially when compared to middle grade novels; I've heard it was originally published in Australia as an adult book), and a smallish font--maybe 10 points. This seems like quite a bargain, especially when compared to hard covers for adults.

Not all books are the same size, of course, but hard cover novels for adults are generally a bit bigger than those for kids and teens.

I measured the cover of Jimmy Carter's historical novel The Hornet's Nest that my husband had lying around. Its dimensions are about 6.625 by 9.5 inches. It has about 460 pages, similar leading to The Book Thief, and a slightly larger font--probably 11 points. The list price is $27.

I wonder if adult books actually cost that much more to produce than kids' books. I know that adult writers' advances are typically much larger, and obviously their royalties will be too since their books cost more. But how much more does the book itself cost to print and distribute? Does the size difference justify the $10 price difference?

I'm sure there are lots of other factors at work. It would be really interesting to see a price breakdown. Are adult novels generally more profitable than kids' novels?

I rarely buy adult hard cover novels except as gifts or unless they're by Sara Paretsky, my favorite mystery writer. Buying them for myself seems frivolous.

I looked at Elizabeth Peters's latest Amelia Peabody mystery in hard cover yesterday, but I wasn't tempted to buy it. I love that series, but it's too light to invest $27 in. I'll just wait and read the library copy.


At 7:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I work at at Borders and I especially like to work in the Kids/Young Adult section. I suspect there is more than just royalties and production cost that go into a book's price. Some of it is the quality of the paper and the binding. Some of it is getting a large initial return on the investment and then going to paper back. 'Wander through the Bargain Books. You will find recent hard covers for $5.99 because they are not going to print anymore. You will also find a lot of really beautiful books, not cheap at all, for incredible prices! There is a mystery about it, too, but I know it is all done for the maximum amount of money. That is what they do and I don't mean that in a bad way.

At 1:47 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think you are looking for sense in a sense-less field.

What other business "loans" its product to the store and the store has the option to return all unsold copies and only pay for the sold copies? (This habit began during the depression of the 1930s, just to get the books out there in the hope that someone might have enough money to purchase some. Why is it still in effect?)

What other business pays its "suppliers" (writers) twice a year? And that payment is for products sold 6 to 8 months ago. Sends a statement promising to pay for said products, but doesn't actually send the payment check for another month or three? (are the people the writers owe money to that patient. of course not.) And then refuses to pay the full royalty if the writers' books don't meet a certain quota of sales for that period.

Not to mention the publishers who don't even send rejection letters. (If you haven't heard from us, your manuscript has either been recycled or is still under consideration.)

But you knew that -- and it's why most writers have to have a 'day' job.


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