Why are romance novels most commonly published in paperback?

Ever wonder why romance novels are always published in paperback? During quarantine, I’ve been reading a LOT of romance, and every time I get a new romance novel from the bookstore or a publisher, I noticed they’re always published as paperback. Typically, when a book is first published, they’re produced as hardcover. Hardcover books are more expensive, and can drive a higher profit for publishers in the first six months to a year of a book’s life. It’s after that point that publishers will continue printing the book, but in paperback.

But why is romance different? Why do these books begin their careers as paperback books as opposed to the more expensive and higher quality hardcover?

The short answer is DEMAND. Historically, romance has been the best-selling genre of books in existence. Of course, this fluctuates and changes, and in recent years, we’ve seen an increase in true crime and thriller genres — but from a standpoint of how the industry started, romance was always the highest in demand. Paperbacks are not only cheaper to produce, but they are also easier. So when romance novels were flying off of the shelves, it made sense to get them into the hands of readers as quickly (and cheaply) as possible.

Mass-market paperback novels are also extremely popular in the romance genre. Mass-market paperback novels are the kind you can find for $5 to $10 at airport, grocery stores, etc. They’re often much smaller and more compact than the average paperback. Perfect for tossing in your purse or on-the-go reading! I’ve bought them before simply because they’re the biggest bang for my buck, though admittedly they hurt my eyes!

Notice where they are sold … they’re sold in places that are most convenient to their target audience; middle-aged women. They’re also sold at an affordable price that can act as an add on to any order. I’ve personally been guilty of adding one to my cart at Target simply because it didn’t make that big of a dent in the grocery list, and I doubted that my husband would even notice.

So there you have it; our consistent and constant demand of these spicy, salacious stories are what make them produced at such an affordable price, even right out of the gate. A huge thanks to the publishers for giving us fresh, affordable titles — we see you, and appreciate you for looking out for us and our grocery shopping!