Most publishing industry professionals have a pitch. The pitch is how you introduce yourself.
If you’re at a convention or a networking event, and you meet an author or agent for the first time, you launch into your pitch. My pitch goes something like this: “Hi! I’m Jordan Hamessley, an editor at Grosset & Dunlap, the mass market imprint of the Penguin Young Readers Group. Our list is half original paperback series fiction and half licensed tie-ins.”
Occasionally, when I get to the phrase “paperback originals” the author or agent suddenly spots someone across the room that they absolutely must talk to. I have grown accustomed to this phenomenon. Sure, mass market lacks the glamour of hardcover, but people sometimes forget that young readers crave series that they can go back to again and again, series that play in genres they love, and series that speak to their specific interests. What is most remarkable about mass market paperback originals is that there are so many varieties. Here are three examples.
1. THE PREMISE. A great mass market paperback series tends to have a solid hook that works across many books. Take a look at one classic paperback series, The Babysitters Club. While each book focused on a specific girl in the club, the friendships and relationships that were set up in Kristy’s Great Idea (BSC #1) continued to evolve throughout the series. That said, even if I didn’t read books 5-15, I could easily read book 16 and pick up on the story and have an enjoyable read.
2. THE EPISODIC. I currently edit the FRANKLY, FRANNIE chapter book series about a young girl who is desperate to be a grown up and get a job. Each book follows Frannie’s attempt at a different career. She has been a restaurant critic, a veterinarian, a fashion designer, and more. While there is a small bit of continuity throughout the series, each Frannie book stands on its own by focusing on the job at hand. It’s kind of like a TV series, where you see the same characters you love solving a different problem every episode. The experience is best if you read each book, but you don’t have to in order to enjoy the series.
3. THE BRAND. In some cases, there is no continuity between books in a series at all. GOOSEBUMPS is the obvious example. Though the characters and the creepies are different in each installment, when you pick up a GOOSEBUMPS book, you know what you’re going to get—spooky stories. Scholastic’s Candy Apple books are one-offs about girls, friendship, rivalries, and crushes. Candy Apple even had a spin-off series called Poison Apple that featured similar stories with a paranormal twist.
Many authors hope for a big hardcover book deal, but there is something special about affordable paperbacks that young readers can find in a book club or at the store and buy for themselves. When I was a young reader, the majority of books I read I bought with my allowance. Mass market paperbacks were what I could afford. In elementary school, I was a competitive figure skater, so I read every book in the Silver Blades series. It was affordable and I felt like it had been written “just for me”. If you visit the paperback section of bookstore, without fail, you will find multiple series for kids who love horses/ponies, sports/camping, ballet/dancing, theatre/drama, etc. Mass market paperback is where kids can find a book that speaks to them AND is affordable.
When you were growing up, what were your experiences with mass market paperbacks?
Was there a series that you read every single book?
What are some of your favorite mass market books that are out today?
Awesome post, Jordan! I have to say, I never thought about mass market series—but I LOVED The Babysitters Club!<
What about you all? If you leave a comment telling us, then you can enter into a GIVEAWAY for Angel of the Battlefield, the first book in The Chest Series—a series which Jordan works on! The contest is open internationally, and we’ll contact the winner in a week!
JORDAN HAMESSLEY LONDON is an assistant editor at Grosset and Dunlap, an imprint of Penguin Young Readers where she edits Adam-Troy Castro’s middle grade horror series Gustav Gloom, Literally Disturbed (an upcoming collection of scary stories from Ben H. Winters), A.J. Stern’s Frankly, Frannie series and more. She is on the editorial team for Ann Hood’s middle grade historical time-travel series The Treasure Chest. When not editing, Jordan can be found on twitter (@thejordache) talking about books, scary movies, and musical theater.