Hard or soft sell? Choosing your book cover

A substantial heavyweight that needs its own table or a frequent flyer that fits easily into cabin baggage? Your choice of a hard or paperback book cover will largely be determined by cost, print run and genre. Before making a final decision, however, do your research. Go to bookstores and libraries and browse online sellers. See what other publications in your genre tend to favour. Always keep your target market in mind and how you want to project yourself as a writer. Is your work geared towards a smaller, more select audience willing to pay a premium or is your focus on mass market appeal?

What are the main differences between a hard and softcover book?

Hardcover books

  • Hardcover books are largely printed on acid-free paper and are more resilient than paperbacks. They are protected by an artistic cover or jacket. Some may have the design printed directly onto the board binding.
  • They are often more prominently displayed in a bookstore or retail outlet. They appeal to collectors and professionals who plan to hold on to them. The higher price means a higher retention rate.
  • They can be quite heavy but their durability makes them an excellent choice for genres such as reference, photography, film, biographies, medical journals etc.
  • They can be costly to print but a higher selling price should compensate for this.
  • Print runs are usually smaller so they may not be found as widely as paperbacks. This, however, may increase their desirability value.


Paperback books

  • Softcover or paperback books are printed on thinner paper or cardboard.
  • They are less costly to print – especially in higher volumes and often have large print runs.
  • They have mass market appeal.
  • Their distribution is widespread through a variety of retail outlets.
  • They are highly portable, easy to handle and easy to store.
  • The lower cost and reduced durability can foster a sense of easy disposability.

Some genres and types of book are fairly simple when it comes to cover type. For example, a coffee table book will largely be a hardcover option. It is also likely to be purchased with longevity in mind, which is reflected in its price. A travel guide may be better suited to paperback so it is easier to carry around. It may have a larger print run but sell at a lower price.

One other factor to consider is whether your book is a one-off or if you envisage it as being the first in a series. Consulting with industry professionals like Toronto print and publishing consultant, Publisher Production Solutions can often clarify the benefits of going a particular route. Remember that books may come out in hardback first, and then be printed in greater volume in paperback but not the other way round. It is important to make the right choice.  

[vc_separator type=’full_width’ position=’center’ color=’#e6e6e6′ border_style=” thickness=’2′ up=’10’ down=’10’]


Mary Vaux-ClarkMary Vaux-Clark is a freelance editor, proof-reader and writer. Her areas of interest include current affairs, travel, history and sport. She has travelled widely and worked in Hong Kong as an editor and ESL teacher for over ten years.