Author Tamela Hancock Murray

Trade Fiction Versus Category Fiction: What’s the Difference?

Often I’m asked, “What’s the difference between a trade book and a mass market category book?”

Great question! Here are some primary differences and as always, the exception proves the rule.

Trade books are:

  • About 95,000 words in length, varying between 85,000 and 100,000.
  • Trim size called “Trade Paperback” is usually 5.5″ x 8.5″
  • Not restricted by the rules of any category or genre.
  • Published seasonally, usually 2-4 times a year, meaning books are promoted for several months.
  • Meant to sell in large part by building an author and author
  • Have no guarantee of a specific number of sales since they aren’t marketed through clubs.
  • More expensive than mass market. In CBA fiction, the typical range for retail is $12.99 to $15.99.

Some publishers, such as Harlequin, have “lines” of “category” fiction that fit into certain genres, such as romance and romantic suspense. This is a primary type of book marketed differently than trade. These books are:

  • About 40,000 to 70,000 words in length, depending on the line.
  • Trim size called “mass market” is usually 4.25″ x 7″. Sometimes a little shorter on the long side.
  • Written to the rules of the line’s genre.
  • Published frequently, often four to six books within several lines each month.
  • Geared so that the reader looks for the publisher’s line first, then the author. However, notable authors should see increased income and contracts.
  • Often marketed through clubs, so a certain number of sales is guaranteed.
  • Less expensive than trade books, currently ranging from about $5.99 to $9.99 retail.

Some authors choose to write one type of book while others write both. When deciding, it’s a great idea to consider what you enjoy writing, and how you ultimately want your career to look, before you set your fingers typing.

Your turn:

What differences did I miss?

Which do you read more: category or trade? Why?

Which do you write? Why?



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