the back of books
April 5, 2011 10:05 AM   Subscribe

Why do paperback books generally have synopses of the book on back, while hardcover books generally have quotes in praise of the book in the same space?
posted by LSK to Media & Arts (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
guessing here, but hardcover books usually put the synopses on the inside bit of hardcover paper that folds over the cover, and there's no equivalent for a paperback?
posted by Lucinda at 10:07 AM on April 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

Said synopses usually go inside the front cover flap on hardcovers. It's a factor of having more space to play with.

I think the actual answer is "Because a printer started doing it that way back in the day, and now that's what everyone expects." I.e., it was arbitrary, but now it's customary.
posted by valkyryn at 10:08 AM on April 5, 2011

I think it's possible that hardcovers generally precede the trade paperback and pocket paperback formats. So the testimonials on the back of the hardcover dust jackets are for marketing purposes, compelling people to buy the book based on the strength of critics' and other writers' praise.
posted by methroach at 10:15 AM on April 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

Two things come to mind (both from the realm of plausible speculation, IANABookIndustryPerson):

1) Hardcovers books are more expensive, and are targeted to an audience that already has an idea of what they want. Winning them over with blurbs and name recognition is probably more important than giving them an idea of what the book is about.

2) If every potential customer opened a paperback to read the summary, it would get grimmy, cracked and unsellable pretty soon, so it pays to have the information on the outside. Hardcovers can survive this treatment better and are also less exposed to it due to (1).
posted by Dr Dracator at 10:22 AM on April 5, 2011 [3 favorites]

Hardcovers have flaps!
posted by thinkpiece at 10:34 AM on April 5, 2011

A friend works in book publishing. He told me something like the following when I asked him this exact question:

Harcover books are more expensive and cater primarily to people in the know about the subject matter (if non-fiction) or else are passionate about literature or the writer in general (if fiction). So, for these people seeing the quoted accolades of another person whose name they recognize is a good advertisement as to the quality of the prose inside.

Paperbacks, on the other hand, are mass-marketed to people who, for the most part, care not a whit what certain famous people have to say about the book. These people are interested only in whether the synopsis will whet their appetite sufficiently.

Thus, the different ways of advertising.
posted by dfriedman at 10:35 AM on April 5, 2011 [2 favorites]

Piggybacking: why are paperbacks so much more likely to contain an excerpt from the author's next book?

I have a feeling it's mostly just different marketing strategies.
posted by box at 10:36 AM on April 5, 2011

Piggybacking: why are paperbacks so much more likely to contain an excerpt from the author's next book?

Paperbacks are released months after the hardcover hits the shelf. It is in this span of time that the author's next book is written/edited to a state ready for preview.
posted by m@f at 10:40 AM on April 5, 2011

Hardcovers often have quotes praising the author's previous work on the back if the it's a first run (and most books only ever have one hardback printing) because not many people will have read the book yet.
posted by atrazine at 10:53 AM on April 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

The blurbs praising the author are usually found on one or two pages at the front of the paperback before the title page, with perhaps one or two brief blurbs on the front cover and two or three brief blurbs on the back, before and after the description. Because a paperback comes out 9-12 months after the hardcover, the paperback can even have MORE blurbs/quotes, because it can add all the reviews, awards, etc. that came out after the hardcover was published, while the hardcover can only use praise the book received from readers of advance reading copies. (That's why ARCs always have contact info for the publisher publicity department so you can send them your reviews!)
posted by nicebookrack at 8:06 AM on April 12, 2011

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