Venti Brown!

I was in the Stop n’Shop, and the store is laid out like the universe is conspiring against me. I go to the dairy section to get whatever I need, but then I have to go past the bakery, where the store chocolate chip cookies are the best ever, then past the Giant Table Stacked with Donuts, and THEN past the book aisle. It’s like a gauntlet of increasing temptation before I can even get near the checkout.

So check this out – with my handy camera phone I caught on film a curious phenomenon. Dan Brown is SO powerful, his current paperbacks and his backlist now warrant their own book size. It’s not quite trade paperback, but it’s not a mass market. Anyone else see these on the shelves? It’s just the Dan Browns, too – I checked the other books on the shelves.

I can’t believe he gets his own size. What are they, “Tall?” Or “Venti?”

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  1. 1
    J-me says:

    Actually, Mauve Binchy’s last paperback was the first to get that treatment about 8 months ago for older women to make reading easier.

  2. 2
    Rebecca says:

    Longtime lurker, first time poster, but these things just piss me off. I’ve seen these pain in the ass book sizes already by Nora Roberts, Christine Feehan, and other author’s who sell more books than God. They are taller, more expensive, and DON”T FIT ON BOOKSHELVES! I’d rather buy a tradepaper back for a few bucks extra, or a regular mass market for a few bucks less and have more room to double stack on my bookshelves that are already overloaded. They are labeled as “designed for easy reading” but for someone with small hands, they are just painful. I gave myself a hand cramp just skimming through a book in the store.  I rufuse to buy them no matter what book is only coming out in this new format.

  3. 3
    Karen says:

    Yes, we (meaning, Barnes and Noble in Minneapolis) actually get in a couple titles a month that are in the “venti” (I like that term) size.  My copy of “Northern Lights” is that size.

    They say it is for ease of reading, but I’m betting it’s more because they can charge an extra 2 dollars a copy.

  4. 4
    SB Sarah says:

    I flipped through the Dan Brown Venti sized, and the print was not so much bigger that I thought it made a difference. I thought it was because the book was so damn big in hardback that it was easier to compress into paperback in the “venti” size. I had no idea other books had been released like that.

    But behold the power of Mr. Brown that his whole backlist is released in the Venti size.

  5. 5
    Barbara says:

    The latest Amelia Peabody (Elizabeth Peters) novel is also this size, so I think it may be becoming popular for established authors.

    I actually have _Da Vinci Code_ in the normal paperback size, bought a year or two ago. How, you ask, since it didn’t come out in paperback in the US until a few months back? The answer: I bought it while on vacation out of the country. I’m thinking we were in Mexico, but maybe that was the year we went to Italy. (I might be confused because, of course, I HAD TO read _Angels and Demons_ before going to Rome.)

    Barbara

  6. 6
    Lady T says:

    Venti is actually a good name for that size;they started making them that way several months ago and yes,they are pricer than your drugstore mass market. According to one article I read,the publisher claimed they had excellant feedback from readers on the new size.

    It is tough to shelve those suckers(they stick out bigtime,like that one kid in your class who’s growth spurt kicked in months ahead of everybody else).

  7. 7
    Robin says:

    Are these books coming out of one publishing group/house, or are different publishers trying this out?

  8. 8
    Megan says:

    Is that the new “easier to read” format?  I noticed some that size in the store and I heard they were trying something more comfortable for the reader.  I don’t personally find them more comfortable, in fact they are kind of awkward at that size…but that’s just me.

  9. 9
    Tonda says:

    They’re coming from more than one NY publisher, and I’m seeing them for “name” authors in genre fiction. I HATE THEM! Everyone I know hates them. Bookstores hate them. So far no one I read has been published in this format, so I haven’t faced the choice of buying a format I loathe vs. not getting to read a book I KNOW I’m going to like.

    As far as I’m concerned it’s a scam to charge an extra $2 for a MM book (publishers know that they might lose readers for la Nora et al if they moved them to Trade, but that most fans will shell out a couple more bucks).

    I also read back before these hit the shelves that they were a response to Costco deciding to quit carrying MM books . . . this way the biggies would still make it in through those all important bulk buyer’s doors. But I haven’t noticed any changes to the piles of MM books in my local Costco . . . so it still seems like a gouging scam to me.

  10. 10
    Shannon says:

    They make my thumb hurt, and it must because they’re taller and are therefore more of a strain to hold open one-handed.  I tried a couple—-I got a few as ARCs and I bought the Maeve Binchy one—-but no more for me.

  11. 11
    Sphinx says:

    Allegedly, it’s a new “easy-to-read” format that fits more comfortably in the hand (inside, the text is moved slightly farther away from the book’s spine and slightly nearer to the edge of the page).  From the bookseller-perspective, however, it might as well have been called the “too tall for the damn rack” edition.  It’s not just Dan Brown; a lot of the best-selling paperbacks are being marketed in this edition to test the reader reception.

  12. 12
    Stef says:

    Harlequin NEXT started out with this size, in addition to regular size, but it flopped, so they went to strictly MM.  They called them upbacks, I think.

  13. 13
    Invisigoth says:

    good call “Venti”.  The re-issue paperbacks for Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series are in this size, too

  14. 14
    April says:

    This may be a stupid question, but I have to know. What are the actual dimensions of those books in inches?

  15. 15
    Amiracle says:

    “They are taller, more expensive, and DON’T FIT ON BOOKSHELVES! I’d rather buy a tradepaper back for a few bucks extra, or a regular mass market for a few bucks less and have more room to double stack on my bookshelves that are already overloaded.”

    I totally agree. Never mind that they are too big to fit easily in a bag so it’s almost impossible to take one out with you for reading on a bus or at Uni.

    Amira

  16. 16
    Tonda says:

    It’s not just Dan Brown; a lot of the best-selling paperbacks are being marketed in this edition to test the reader reception.

    It’s not much of a test when the ONLY format to buy a NYT best seller’s new book is this format . . . it’s a forgone conclusion that it’s going to do well.

    If they were really testing it, they’d have the books out in both Venti AND MM so that readers could CHOOSE.

  17. 17
    darlynne says:

    It was mentioned on another board that some authors, Christine Feehan as an example, were given the choice of this new format or hardcover. Since h/c would put authors out of reach of a great many fans, this seemed the lesser of two evils. Cast my vote for not liking the venti at all.

  18. 18
    dl says:

    I read one, promoted as “easier to read”.  It wasn’t.  But, they don’t fit on the bookshelves, and they don’t fit my bookcovers.  Phenom over for me.

  19. 19
    Emily says:

    I could make a comment along the lines of “does size matter?” but it would be a sad, sad cliche little remark and besides, it totally does matter. You can’t read those mammoths in bed. Or even in an armchair. You have to be sitting at a table or counter in order to have something to rest it on.

  20. 20
    Robin says:

    It’s not much of a test when the ONLY format to buy a NYT best seller’s new book is this format . . . it’s a forgone conclusion that it’s going to do well.

    If they were really testing it, they’d have the books out in both Venti AND MM so that readers could CHOOSE.

    This is the form of my complaint with historical Romance, as well; how can publishers REALLY know what would sell, when the vast majority of what they have out there is so homogenous?  The whole argument is based on a logical fallacy.

    But it all leads me back to the question of why publishers spend so much time on these crackpot marketing schemes instead of nurturing great writers, promoting literate prose, and producing well-written, well-edited books everyone can be proud of.  Richard Hofstadter was sooooo right.

  21. 21
    Stephen says:

    I see that GalleyCat has picked up on this one – way to go, Smart Bitches.

  22. 22
    Nora Roberts says:

    I’m very interested in comments—pro and con—on the `easy read’ format. Northern Lights came out in that format a couple years ago. And I immediately hated it. I found it too big, too heavy, too awkward. Because I did, I asked my publisher not to set any more of my paperbacks in this format.

    Northern Lights was originally a hardcover, and a pretty big book in THAT format. It just didn’t work, not for me, in the new style paperback. My publisher agreed to cancel plans for my future paperbacks in that style.

    However, we’ve been kicking around ideas for differentiating my original paperbacks from my hardcover-to-paperback issues. One of the ideas was to start doing them in trade size. I’m not enthusiastic—maybe again because I don’t particularly care for that format as a reader—and frankly I feel the cover price is prohibitive for a story the size of what I do in the originals.

    So we’re currently kicking around the possibility of trying a future trilogy in the new format, as a kind of compromise and experiment. I’m mulling this rather than simply kicking it aside as my original paperbacks are about 2/3s the size of my hardcover books. So maybe it would work—certainly it would work better than Northern Lights did, imo.

    I’m not sold, not completely, but I do understand where my publisher and my agent are coming from. It’s not—I can only give you my word on it—about the price, but the format. How to make the originals just a little different, to separate them from the reprints.

    It’s a nice coincidence for me that I heard about this discussion on the tail of the latest conversation I had with my agent about this very issue.

    While this format costs more, the goal for me is not about pinching the reader for a couple extra bucks a copy—neither is that the goal for my publisher. But we are interested in trying something new, something that nudges the originals into their own space, so to speak.

    So while I’m not saying that opinions here will make up my mind—or my publisher’s—those opinions and reasons will certainly go into the overall mix while I’m mulling this possibility.

    Nora Roberts

  23. 23
    Lydia Joyce says:

    How does everyone feel about the tall paperbacks that are MM width?

  24. 24
    azteclady says:

    I hate the tall ‘easy too read’ format. Not only are they awkward to hold and read, plus being more expensive, but to top it all off, they don’t fit in my bookcases.

    Ms Roberts, I wish I could offer a viable suggestion to separate original works from reprints—other than the NR symbol they have, that is. I can’t—not very good at thinking outside the box, I’m afraid.

  25. 25
    Robin says:

    I wish I could offer a viable suggestion to separate original works from reprints—other than the NR symbol they have, that is. I can’t—not very good at thinking outside the box, I’m afraid.

    But as a reader who is a little cynical about the new format, I think you’re on the right track here, actually.  If the primary goal is to distiguish original paperback pubs from reprints, then obviously the reprints need something consistent AND distinguishing.  What I’d add into the mix as the publisher is a commitment to keeping the price point steady.  So why not just put the creative energy into the cover design, since, after size, that would be what a reader would notice (especially the spine of the book, which the reader would come across on a bookshelf)? I’m not talking about anything as direct as an oviously placed statement of “originally in hardcover,” but how about a particular banner or symbol or cover background or font style that basically ‘brands’ the reprints?  I know it sounds terribly obvious and pedantic, but if the goal is distinction without a clumsy format and increased cost, then it seems to me that innovative use of cover design might just get the job done.  Those blue lady covers of the early In Death series, for example, are recognizable at 50 paces, IMO (and I actually liked them much much better than the later designs).

  26. 26
    Nora Roberts says:

    Actually, this is about branding the originals, not the reprints. As I have hordes of reprints—from my early Silhouettes, the books I wrote for Bantam, and the books I’m doing for Putnam/Berkley, there’s never going to be any consistency there. And this is about pulling the original paperbacks OUT.

    I have no desire to try to brand my reprints. This is all about branding, by look perhaps, originals. To make them distinctive, and perhaps entice new readers to give them a try.

    One of the points made to me when the idea of format was presented (trade) was that many 20-something readers prefer, or seem to gravitate to this format. I don’t know if it’s true, or even if it matters. But it’s interesting. Not interesting enough to have me give my particular thumbs up to change the trilogies to trade due, I think, to my own dislike of the format and my resistence to the price.

    But some sort of look may be an answer. (I liked the blue lady covers, too.) Still this isn’t a series, but trilogies, so that sort of overall look won’t work. There isn’t going to be a specific kind of art or image that suits each. Different trilogy, different tone, different art style. The style of the covers for my upcoming trilogy is very distinctive, but it wouldn’t fit the germ of an idea I have for the next I may write.

    Still we’re looking, I think, for something visual—or visceral.

    You’re entitled to be cynical, and as I said, I’m nowhere near sold on the new format. I actively and instantly hated it when I picked up Northern Lights in that style for the first time. And I still do—for that specific book.

    I’ll have to pick up something else in this format that’s closer to the page length of one of my originals, and see if I feel the same way.

    In general, I don’t worry about this sort of thing. My focus has to be on what’s inside the covers. But this would be a very definite step. Bottom line is I want to think it through carefully, weigh options and some outside opinions before I say go for it, or just uh-uh.

    Nora

  27. 27
    --E says:

    Text designer for one of the large mass market houses chiming in here…

    My company started doing them on a limited basis because other houses were doing them. I have no idea why. Theories ranged from “we can charge more and get people used to paying $10 for a paperback” to “people are complaining that the type is too small and this lets us make it a little bigger.”

    As far as I can tell, the reason we did it was because everyone else was. The reason everyone else did it was because of the Great Fear that mass market is dying. For a variety of reasons, MM is not moving the same number of books, in the same number of titles, as it used to. And so the MM publishers are under pressure to try new things and get creative.

    My house hasn’t done a venti (ooh, I love that term, much better than “premium edition” that we’ve been using) in many months now. We were approaching it as an experiment, only doing it for books where the sales were virtually guaranteed anyway—big authors, not midlist (midlist would have been too risky).

    AFAIK, we had to get author permission first (I remember having to wait on a transmittal while the contract was negotiated). Maybe that was more of a courtesy (don’t piss off the BNAs) than a legal matter.

    Informational stuff:

    Normal mass markets are 4 3/16” x 6 3/4” in the USA. Some publishers may have slight variations (my previous company used 6 7/8” height), but this is pretty standard. The venti books are the same width but 7 1/2” high.

    Yep, 3/4”. That’s what you $2 buys you.

    Except…it also buys you more air. We did a market analysis of other houses’ venti books, and some of them were using the extra length just to squish more text on the page. We honestly used it to add more leading and larger type, and the books as a result were longer than if we had done them as a regular MM.

    It also bought better paper. Again, I can’t speak for other houses, but we used a better, whiter paper instead of the usual crappy groundwood. (This would unfortunately contribute to the general stiffness and difficulty in holding the book open with one hand.)

    As I said, we haven’t done any of those things in months. If they are still appearing from other houses, I guess they are happy with them. But we entered the market with great caution, and seem to have backed off. So there seems to be some hope for all you venti-haters.

    (For the record, no, I didn’t like them either.)

  28. 28
    Nicole says:

    Another thing about these “venti” paperbacks is that they actually don’t seem to hold up as well as the regular MMs.  At work, these are always the ones that have incredibly bad spine damage and creasing.  Probably from the poor reader having to crack it open further to read it easier.  Yeah, the paper might be nicer, but the spine sure isn’t.

    I know it took forever before I saw nice looking copy of Northern Lights.

  29. 29
    Robin says:

    It also bought better paper. Again, I can’t speak for other houses, but we used a better, whiter paper instead of the usual crappy groundwood. (This would unfortunately contribute to the general stiffness and difficulty in holding the book open with one hand.)

    You know, I *would* pay more for better paper and stronger binding.  I don’t know exactly when one publisher I buy trade size from made the switch, but I was not happy the firsts time I bought a new trade size that was flimsier, looser, and thinner (both in paper and cover) than previously purchased books from their house.  I’ve said this ad nauseum, but I LOVED those old Penguin Classics—they were pliable but sturdy, with bindings that survived multiple readings, highlighters shoved in them for months at a time, and even an occasional coffee spill.

    As far as I can tell, the reason we did it was because everyone else was. The reason everyone else did it was because of the Great Fear that mass market is dying. For a variety of reasons, MM is not moving the same number of books, in the same number of titles, as it used to. And so the MM publishers are under pressure to try new things and get creative.

    Since most of the MM reading I do is in Romance, and the vast majority of my lifetime reading has been in lit fic or lit crit or history, I just can’t accept the idea that MM fiction is diminishing because the books aren’t the right dimensions.  Could it be, just possibly, that quantity has become so completely embraced and valued over quality, that a) the market is saturated with literally tons of homogenous, mediocre books, and b) even the most loyal genre readers are getting fed up or burnt out?  When genre readers talk, for example, about paying more for MM books, I wonder if it’s not that they aren’t willing to spend more money on a good book, but rather that the state of a lot of MM fiction is such that it’s not particularly valued by readers *because* the quality of writing, editing, and production just isn’t there.

  30. 30
    Solaine says:

    I co-sign with Robin that a bigger size is not the solution to the problem if publishers are seeing a decrease in MM sales.

    I first saw this size difference with paperbacks, actually – one of Christine Feehan’s Dark stories – and I spent about half an hour looking for a smaller book, and then eventually was told by a manager at B&N that they received all copies of that book in the “easier to read” format. Say what?

    As a twenty-something reader, I can say these books are a turn-off. I like something I can stick in my bag and read on my way to work or while waiting around in line. The bigger size is cumbersome and I *almost* didn’t buy the books because I felt a bit cheated that it was more expensive. I certainly won’t be buying many paperbacks if publishers decide to go the Venti route. In fact, I’d rather start an ebook campaign outside of the romance section of B&N then deal with these bigger books.

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