The Value of Picture Book Trade Paperbacks
Analyzing the applicability of children's picture book trade paperback collections
One of the things I always planned on doing was publishing trade paperbacks. I love the idea of trade paperbacks, specifically, the concept of the comic book trade paperback in relation to a picture book character or series.
The Comic Book Trade Paperback
For the non-comic book collectors out there, a quick summary. Comic books are most often serialized stories. You have a recurring character or team of characters, and their exploits unfold over one or more issues of the comic book series. For characters that have been around a long time, like Spider-Man and the X-men, this could mean a large backlog of material.
Collecting many of these individual issues could be cost prohibitive, time consuming, or simply not very practical. However, the publisher can do the collecting for you by offering trade paperbacks consisting of a few or many issues. The publisher may opt for low-grade paper printed in black and white to help keep costs and the price tag down. Or the trade could be a slick production printed in full color on high-grade, heavy stock paper -- with a commensurate price tag. The covers to comic book trades are often repurposed interior artwork or cover artwork from one of the original issues.
Comic book trades rose to prominence in the 1990s and continue to sell well in today's digital and print markets.
Value, Exposure, & Good Business
As a reader, even a young reader of picture books, a collected trade of stories staring your favorite character provides a lot of value in its accessibility and packaging. As a parent, a trade offers a much less expensive commitment than purchasing individual hardcover editions.
As a publisher, you get to put another book on the shelf without incurring the costs and effort of publishing a completely new work. A new book can lead to added exposure and, potentially, additional revenue. (And we all know that a small, independent publisher needs all the exposure and revenue it can get.)
There's also, I think, another intangible benefit of doing a trade paperback. Knowing that you will eventually collect your stories into a trade puts you in a certain mindset from the beginning. It won't dictate the stories you tell or the characters you create, but it adds a certain framework around your thinking.
Something Old and Something New
Having a trade paperback collect individual books or issues at a lower price point is a strong value proposition by itself. If there's supplemental material included, like behind the scenes commentary or design sketches, even better. And a lot of comic book trades do include this type of material. New content can go a long way in increasing a trade's value proposition for something that, by its very nature, is a repacking of previously published material.
Now, new material is probably not a top concern for picture book trade paperbacks. How many kids are going to care, or should care, about what the author was thinking while writing a particular story or how long it took her to write it? Not many. However, I think there is an opportunity here.
I do like the idea of providing something new with previously published material. I also think it should be appropriate for the target audience. So, with the first Little Brown Spider trade paperback, along with collecting the first three books of the series, I'm going to include a new mini adventure. It'll co-star our able arachnid, but it's not a full-length story and it breaks slightly from the format used with the series up to this point.
I'm pretty excited about this new, little adventure and will talk about it more in future posts.
Until then, see you next time!
SpiderWriter and Comic Book Trade Aficionado