If you’ve been dreaming of becoming a paperback writer, you may want to know the difference between the different types of paperback books.
Yes, there is more than one paperback book type, and you're about to learn about them. Most people are familiar with the term mass market, but what is a mass market paperback?
What Is a Paperback Book?
If you enjoy reading, it's likely you've read a paperback book at some point.
Hardcover books are easy to decipher, they're hard covered. If it wasn't a hardcover book, then it was some form of a paperback.
There are two different types of paperback books that are common in the United States. They are trade paperback and mass market paperback, and they have their differences, even though both are often referred to simply as being softcover books (to make a comparison to hardcover books).
Trade paperback books are the larger option when it comes to paperback books. These are books that are made to be comparable to hardcovers, often about the same size as them. They're just cheaper to print than the hardcover books, but more expensive than the mass market paperback books.
The cost for consumers falls in the middle of the other two book types as well, if you're buying from the big names in publishing. Self-published books can range in price depending on the author's preferences.
If you're an author and you want to release your book in paperback, this is a better-quality option than the mass market books. If you're working with a publisher, it's likely the advanced reviewing copies (ARC) they send out for your hardcover editions are going to be in trade paperback.
Trade paperback sizes can vary, especially with all of the outlets for self-publishing available to ambitious writers.
Createspace alone offers 15 different trade paperback book sizes, although only 12 of them are “industry standard” book sizes. The most common of these are 5.5” x 8.5” and 6” x 9”, which are also the sizes in which you'll find hardcover books.
Different genres of books have standards in size as well.
Mass Market Paperback
Now you know what a trade paperback is. So, what is a mass market paperback?
Mass market paperbacks are smaller than trade paperbacks and are always around 4.25” x 6.87” in size.
They are the smaller, compact paperback books that most people think of when they imagine a paperback. They're available at bookstores, but they are often found in the magazine aisle at grocery stores and on the racks at gas stations.
They travel well because of their small size. Mass market books have been referred to as pocket-editions because of their portable size.
The fact that these books are available in so many places relates to how they got their name. They are available to mass markets, to get them in the hands of a lot of people.
Often the mass market paperback would come out a few months after the hardcover of a new release, offering readers a cheaper option.
These days you can almost tell immediately when a book is self-published, since self-publishing sticks with the many sizes offered in trade paperback books, instead of printing in the more uniform mass market size.
Though you'll find larger publisher publishing trade sizes as well, depending on the genre of the book, some indie authors experimenting with book sizes. Fiction and non-fiction novels are more likely to come in the traditional mass market size, while poetry and self-help books will be in a trade size.
Why are There So Many Size and Style Options?
To understand why there isn't just one type of book available, you need to consider people and their reading habits.
Hardcovers are collectible, and they fit nicely and uniformly on shelves. People that collect them will often buy the mass market versions to read as well, so their hardcovers stay pristine.
When it comes to trade paperback book sizes, each genre of book has a different industry standard size that makes it look more like the type of book it is (like a larger book for self-help) and allows each genre to sit a little more uniformly on the bookstore shelves.
With print-on-demand and all of the self-publishing outlets, a lot of the standards go out of the window, especially with independent authors that don't understand the typical industry standards for certain genres. It's not a big deal when many of these people sell their books online only or at art shows, instead of going through a traditional bookstore.
Reading Is Good
It doesn't matter what style of book you read, just read. Now that you have an answer to the question “what is a mass market paperback book”, you can feel more “in the know” the next time you're stocking up on reading materials.