Thursday, April 22, 2010

Did The Lonely Polygamist Go on a Diet?

So our copies of The Lonely Polygamist come in. I've been very excited to get Brady Udall's book. I go to the look at the books and something's wrong. Where is the big fat book that I expected? The book, while quite heavy, was positively compact.

Had the book been shortened? No, it's still 600 pages. The paper, while very pleasant to the touch, is so thin. I'm petrified to tear the pages. What happened? Just to put this in perspective, here is a shot of Udall's advance copy versus the finished book.

What's going on here? Are Udall book buyers being short shrifted? I shoot off an email to our rep Johanna. She sends back a note (pre-coffee, mind you) that W. W. Norton's production is second to none. There's probably an interesting story here. She'll get to the bottom of this. As an aside, I trust her judgment on everything.

So I think, is this a Norton thing? I grab a copy of Jeff Shesol's Supreme Power: Franklin Roosevelt vs. the Supreme Court from double W. While this book is 100 pages less, it bulks out more (at left). So it's something special for The Lonely Polygamist. While this history book looks very interesting, I can really only tackle one history book at a time (or in a year) and my priority is going to be Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition, by Daniel Okrent.

An email comes back, from Bill Rusin, Norton's director of sales and marketing. Because so few bookstore blogs don't talk enough about paper quality (or at all!), I thought this would kind of be fascinating. I have to do some research on what ground wood paper is!

"We decided to use a paper that bulks less than the bound galley (ground wood) paper. Actually it’s a more expensive paper than what is used on most books. The general rule of thumb is the thinner, more opaque the paper, and the less the bulk the more expensive it is. Most publishers including us are switching to ground wood, check out the paper on The Big Short.

"The question everyone is concerned with is how much to bulk up a book, the general feeling is if a book bulks too much it can seem too intimidating a read. We decided to make it less bulky on the first printing but if and when we go back to press we’re switching to a paper that will bulk to 1 ½ to 1 ¾ inches.

"If you want to see an example of one of the most expensive papers around, take a look at any of the Norton Anthologies...it would be cheaper to print the books on gold foil. Tell Daniel to get ready for this fall for the 1100+ page novels…I can hear the forests being cleared now."


My take away:

1. More expensive paper, not less.

2. Less intimidating. I actually disagree with this a bit. I think there's a big market for customers who want to read a big fat book over the summer, but if other pipeline pundits think otherwise, it doesn't hurt us for the book to not look big. I can still tell people it's 600 pages.

3. More books can fit on a faceout. This is very important in a lot of stores. For The Lonely Polygamist, that could be five instead of four.

Boswellian Conrad is reading it now. He loves it too. Here's the Huffington Posts' guest column from Udall, "Why Polygamy?"

1 comment:

Sandy said...

Adding to the mystery: why does this book weigh so much?! Is ground wood paper denser (though thinner) than your average paper? The people (or, at least this bookseller) want to know!