Sneak Peak of Blastin' the Blues!

9:31 AM Posted by Lori Calabrese

I read this recent post from Phil Bildner and wanted to share it with you. It raises an interesting question: What decides whether a book is released in paperback or hardcover and what do young readers prefer? We'll dive into this tomorrow, but first take a look at the cover of Book #5 in the Sluggers series, which releases February 2010. Does it get you excited or what?

"In a few shorts months, Book #5 in my “Sluggers” chapter book series will be arriving in stores.  Blastin' the Blues (Sluggers) will provide the answers to many of the mysteries and questions surrounding the Payne family and the Travelin’ Nine.  At the same time, readers will have to wait for Book #6, the final episode in the serial, to see how everything turns out.

As most of you should know by now, last year, Simon & Schuster, the publisher of the Sluggers series, decided to repackage the entire program.  They changed the name from "Barnstormers" and gave the series a whole new look.  They re-released the first three books in paperback form under the “Sluggers” name (same stories, different titles), and published the fourth book in the series "Water, Water Everywhere" in hardcover.

This seems to have been the right call.  The series is performing much better under the new, baseball-friendly title.  For the most part, the transition from "Barnstormers" to "Sluggers" didn’t cause as much confusion in the marketplace as some had feared. However, many booksellers, librarians, teachers, and readers expressed disappointment that the first three books in the “Sluggers” series were not produced in hardcover.  They keep asking if they will be.

My answer:  I don’t know.  I hope so.

With the publication date for Book #5 rapidly approaching, a decision will have to be made shortly.  Will hardcover versions of "Magic in the Outfield," "Horsin' Around," and "Great Balls of Fire," be produced? Is there going to be a box set?

Some claim “the numbers” aren’t there yet to support such books.  Others counter the sales numbers clearly are.  Some claim there is no longer enough time to put these books together.  Others counter the book templates for these books already exist.  In addition, when a publisher wants to “crash” a book, they almost always can find a way (e.g. see the numerous Barack Obama books that came out in a matter of weeks last winter). 

Some claim the price point for the paperback version is better suited for these economic times.  Others counter that the paperback versions will still be available.  Consumers will now have the option.
For those of you who’ve heard me speak about Book #4 of "Sluggers" I always say it is the most beautifully packaged book I’ve ever been a part of.  Of course, I’m biased, but it’s the truth (and wait until you see Book #5…wow!)  But when lined up on a shelf alongside the first three soft cover books, it doesn’t even look like it’s part of the same series.  Many others have shared this same sentiment.

So I’m asking for educators, booksellers, librarians, bibliophiles and fans to weigh in.  Let’s see if we can make the case together.  Let’s see if we can convince the publisher to give the people what they want."
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