Before I start talking about mass markets, I just wanted to plug my last post one more time. Only two people commented, so if you have something (anything) to say about submissions, from an editor/agent or author (published or not) perspective, please comment and/or refer people to the post.
Now, I wanted to discuss the subject of the mass market format because, from the day I entered my first publishing master's class (all those years ago) I have been given the impression that mass markets are the lowest of the low, red-headed stepchild, underbelly of the publishing industry. This makes me sad because, well, I'm a stepchild who has an appreciation for redheads and, well, I love mass market books. And not just the format itself, but as a reader I tend to go for the type of books (usually dark urban fantasy) that start out in mass market.
I've heard a ton of disparaging remarks. I had a friend once who, when asked why she didn't read mass markets, responded with, "because I like to read books that are well-written." Needless to say, I was incredibly insulted and said so. Where had she gotten this notion that mass markets weren't well-written? So I, in my indignant rage, made her read some of my favorite mass markets. Vintage Anita Blake, Bitten by Kelley Armstrong, one of the first Sookie Stackhouse books by Charlaine Harris. Within a month, she was hooked and was making her own discoveries -- Sherrilyn Kenyon, MaryJanice Davison -- and cruising on past the more well-known names to discover authors and subgenres that I had never heard of. Now I can't vouch for the quality of the writing in everything she found, but I opened up a whole new world of reading for her. She still loves books by authors like Sarah Dessen (one of her favorites) or Michael Chabon who are published in hardcover, but she can now appreciate the mass market world. In a way, I feel like that was a gift that I gave her (wow what a cheesy and arrogant thing for me to say).
Somewhere else, I saw someone say something along the lines of, "why would you ever want to have your mass markets autographed?" As if it almost wasn't worth meeting the author and having them personalize the book you had loved so much if it wasn't in a "better" format.
Now I'm aware of the realities. Mass markets are not as good in terms of production quality. The paper is not as nice as its larger counterparts, it falls apart easier, it's cheaper and therefore more expendable/replaceable. But mass markets also give publishers the opportunity to give a shot to some authors who they might not otherwise be able to afford. Because mass markets are cheaper, it's a great place to debut an author, especially in a genre like fantasy, and see how they are received on the market. If they sell well and continuously, they will eventually be released in hardcover as well. Many of the authors I've mentioned above have made this transition. This is such a great plan, and I am so glad for it because otherwise, some of our favorite authors may never have been given a chance. So what's with the negative MM vibe in the air? Where did this come from and when will it end?
Clearly there's a lot that could be said about mass markets. In fact, I almost wish I could go back in time to those graduate school days and change my thesis topic to this very subject. But then I would never have written that L. Frank Baum/Wizard of Oz retrospective, which helped me get my job. Oh bother -- too much paradox. But I'd love to get a good discussion going on mass markets and general thoughts on the subject in general. Mass markets -- how do you feel?
And again, feel free to link me and refer others who can contribute to the discussion. I tend to lean toward HUGE posts and that can deter people from reading, so I'm trying not to do that. But if we can get people to contribute in the comments, that would be great.
ETA: I just wanted to throw in a quick edit to add that, in case it wasn't obvious, I love mass markets and think there are MM authors who write just as well as HC/TP authors. I was having a few moments of terror wondering whether I made that clear and hoping I hadn't implied something offensive, since I've been telling people to "go check out my new blog post about MM books." LOL!