‘The Burning Man’ Paperback Is Here

Bryant and May

the burning man

This is how casual one gets about writing after you’ve been doing it for many years; my publication day is here and none of us woke up to it until a fan mentioned it on Twitter. I’ve always thought that publishers focus on the wrong edition. Hardbacks are the first sighting of a new novel, but the numbers they sell are miniscule. One year after the hardback (a whole year! Insanity!) comes the paperback, which is the copy most readers are interested in – but that publication date – the really big one – is sort of thrown away by publishers.

Everyone does it, it’s how the system works. Why? Because critics traditionally review hardbacks. But press newspapers are dwindling, critics are vanishing and now the system could do with a tweak. Certainly, the first thing I’d do is reduce the window between hardback and paperback to three months, and switch part of the emphasis to the paperback, when stores are likely to have your book on their front shelves.

It seems so obvious to me that the version which sells best should have the highest visibility, but for decades we’ve catered to critics who probably won’t have the space to place reviews anyway. Consequently I like to take matters into my own hands and have a wander about the city on paperback publication day. Today I’ll be hitting a few bookshops, starting from King’s Cross and heading into Holborn and the West End, keeping an eye on Twitter – so if you see me about, stop and say hello. Maybe I’ll have a free copy on me…

4 comments on “‘The Burning Man’ Paperback Is Here”

  1. Martin Gore says:

    I’ve always been baffled by the HB/PB thing. Some publishers seem to have smaller windows, others like yourself have huge ones. Double height, wall to wall, bay windows! At least this clears up the mystery. Anyway,I’ll be picking my copy up on Saturday. Can’t wait.

  2. Helen Martin says:

    I agree about reducing the gap time (mind the gap!) but it might be wise if there is a fall first pub. date to watch for holiday purchases. If I am buying a gift I tend to buy the hardcover, unless there is a huge gap between prices and then it’s going to be affected by how much the person is likely to re-read the book or use it for reference or whatever. The covers are long term protection. For some books it’s the sheer beauty of the volume – so hard cover. For some it’s here’s that one you mentioned as wanting to read – prob. PB and they can get the HC if it’s as good as they hope. With some it’s what is available. If I’m filling a set that I re-read it will be HC for sure. Except Sandmen, which was only PB. (That was really good. Any possibility of another along that line – odd location, complex environment, strange happenings sort of thing? Hah! now that was specific I don’t think.)

  3. Vivienne says:

    Lord! Choosing hard covers or not! I suppose I do sometimes give hard backed books for presents, but for me, I haven’t the room. Someone gave me Howard’s End is on the Landing and that is just where it is, with a lot of others without a shelf space. Not only that, but I have got to read so much before I can get to the Burning Man, so I’d better stop now and get stuck in.

  4. Matt says:

    I hope the Hardback doesn’t disappear completely if the Paperback gets more prominence. I love collecting first editions in hard back. Especially the B&M books. I have all of them in HB.

    Wish I lived in London and was able just to bump into you and your free books… You are definitely one of the most accommodating writers I have ever read. Having time for your fans is an amazing thing for us. Thank you.

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