My sister Merrill's periodic wish list included a copy of The Accursed, from Joyce Carol Oates. Jason liked this book in hardcover, and we had a pretty respectable sale of 18 copies. Most recently, the book was on The Washington Post best books of 2013 list.
But when I grabbed the copy of the book to purchase it and send it off to Arizona, something was off, "A Casual Vacancy" off. By that I mean that the trim size was akin to a hardcover, not a paperback, making me think that the book was a paperback rebind of the hardcover. I've taken a picture to show folks what I'm talking about, comparing the books to several other popular Harper, Perennial, and Morrow titles.
One never thinks about this, but it's true. While there's a decent amount of variation in hardcover trim sizes, fiction and narrative nonfiction paperbacks are almost always 5.5 x 8 inches. The Accursed's 6 x 9 inch trim stands out on our new release table as noticeably as Rebecca Solnit's The Unfathomable City at 7 x 12 inches.
There are a lot of positives to publishers doing this, most notably a larger typeface and likely a better quality of paper stock. And yet sometimes always seems a bit off when we see this. And it doesn't always mean a disappointment in paperback. I'm pretty sure Tara Conklin's The House Girl didn't do as well as the publisher wanted in hardcover, but the paperback came at standard smaller trim.
I'm actually quite happy with our paperback sales for A Casual Vacancy. Usually a book that comes with a lot of flashy backstory has a strong sale in hardcover, but has a much weaker paperback life. But Rowling's run shows that there really were good reads on the novel, enough to give it good word of mouth, despite the media take on the hardcover that this was no Harry Potter.
Interestingly enough, our hardcover sale died out on The Cuckoo's Calling, well in advance of the holiday. I wonder if the paperback will say "J.K. Rowling writing as Robert Galbraith" to end the charade.
But back to The Accursed. I mentioned that Jason is a fan, and what better place than this post to reprint his recommendation.
"Joyce Carol Oates offers up a gothic tale that takes place in early twentieth century Princeton, New Jersey. A curse has been cast over this sleepy town, and our narrator, one M.W. van Dyck II, is witness to the horrors that strike at one particular family. The Accursed is a story with ghosts, demons, and voices telling characters to do bad things; it is also a story that points to the everyday demons of racism and classism. I loved the way Oates wove in historical figures from Mark Twain and Upton Sinclair, to Woodrow Wilson and Grover Cleveland, who is quite possibly my favorite president. Oates will have you digging your fingers into the novel as you near the end, as the tension mounts to heart-pounding heights."