Trade / Mass Market Books

Date: Mon, 24 Aug 1998 21:23:30 EDT
Subject: illustration: Mass Market verse Trade

Ok I did ask my Reps about this and this is what they said....

"Trade and Mass market are very broad terms but there are a few explanations which may help. Trade books are usually defined by print runs, price points and sometimes design/pallette. The runs are much smaller than mass market which are huge. Mass market books might go to all the K-Marts in the US for example. Within mass market there is a wide (and getting wider) range, from low to high. Lo-end mass is what you see for .79 cents at the checkout. Hi-end mass can be really nice books and may blurr the definition edges. Trade cost more to produce and buy. Trade market is small, mass is big." that is as clear as mud....but hope it helps alittle.


Date: Wed, 26 Aug 1998 12:21:24 -0700
From: Kathy Parks
Subject: illustration: Mass vs. Trade

I illustrate for children both in trade and mass markets and wanted to venture an opinion that might be helpful when pondering what to submit.

For any who may have attended the SCBWI conference, is it just me, or did you feel that mass market is considered less honorable? While there does seem to be a stlye difference between the two (my mass market style is is slicker, cuter, brighter, with more black line and the trade style sketchier, more painterly, with subtler expressions, color and flow), I think the main difference is more in the area of intent. Trade books seem to be more for children's thought right where they are (i.e. Katie Davis' "Who Hops?") I don't think there's a preschooler alive who wouldn't love that book. Mass market seems to have more of an agenda - it aims for those who BUY for children, what they THINK children want, and what they WANT children to want (i.e. advertising & educational). Trade seems more thoughtful, mass seems more emotional, with a need to evoke immediate response (thru' bright colors, flashy design, maybe recognizable characters) Mass seeks to hold attention through graphics and format, trade thru content & substance. Both interestingly enough seem to honor 'clever!"

Sometimes I think trade is saying "Look at YOU!" while mass yells for attention "Look at ME!" I love working in both areas and don't see mass as lacking integrity. They're just different.

Maybe if the differences were understood, submissions might not be so mysterious. It would sure be a helpful topic at a future SCBWI conference!

Kathy Parks

Hi Kathy...

I agree.... believe me I know... I've seen those looks of disdain when persons of 'taste' encounter a Muppet in my portfolio. But I'm only doing this for a living. Obviously lots of mass market books are really more of a 'toy' than book. And the trend in publishing seems to be to be going even more towards the 'toy' aspect all the time.

Mass market publishers simply churn books out en masse... throw them against the wall... and if any stick, well that's fine.... whatever sells.


Date: Thu, 27 Aug 1998 11:47:36 EDT
Subject: Re: illustration: Mass Market / Trade

Like many of you, I have searched for clear definitions between the two. Just some thoughts on this....

I have heard it stated that one difference between trade and mass market is the development ~ or lack of it ~ of the characters in the book. Hmmmmm.....

Often I find myself wondering who the books are geared for anyway...the child or the parent? the teacher or the students? Many times I will buy a book just for the art in it. It appeals to ME. My three children (school-age) indeed have their own favorite illustrators of children's books. One day, after showing a new trade book to my then 7 yr. old daughter, she commented, "He sure doesn't know how to draw very well, does he?"


Date: Fri, 28 Aug 1998 08:40:22 EDT
Subject: Re: illustration: Mass Market / Trade

"Obviously lots of mass market books are really more of a 'toy' than book. And the trend in publishing seems to be to be going even more towards the 'toy' aspect all the time."

John: Your comments have made me think a little harder about why the positioning of my first pic book (trade) "Altoona Baboona" feels right... (She may be viewed at my ever-evolving website:

I have two plush toys coming out at the same time as the book. Yes, I know this is a coup. I have a wonderful agent who sold Altoona to Crocodile Creek right after the book was sold to Harcourt. Evidently this is somewhat unprecedented, as the plush toys tend to follow the book by a year or so, after "appeal" has been established. So, I feel VERY fortunate to have this merchandise coming out--causing a cross-merchandising effect. Altoona will NOT be packaged as a book and toy (I don't like those at all). I am assuming if someone sees the toy and looks at the hangtag, they will find out that there is a book as well. And, hopefully, the booksellers will offer the plush toy(s) near the book (since the book will have no reference to the toy, obviously).

"Mass market publishers simply churn books out en masse... throw them against the wall... and if any stick, well that's fine.... whatever sells. On the other hand, trade books are a labor of love... (helps if you're independently wealthy)... who can make a living doing one or two books a year, unless they actually earn sizeable royalties? [snip] Also, trade books are so expensive, I don't think many parents will readily spend $18 for a elegant slim volume with a story that has been 'honed' down to only 57 words. That's where the library comes in."

I think Altoona is a bit of a hybrid. Her price point will be low enough to be sold en mass --if you will--but her origins are in TRADE--and her "quality" - --again, IF YOU WILL--will remain in TRADE (I hope). Yes, I'm the one who said "isn't it funny how we attach a value to these things"...but, we do..

"And then happily, there's the children ... charming little creatures, unpossessed of 'good taste' and only honestly wanting what interests them... and would probably choose the Ninja Turtles or Beany Babies over Maurice Sendak every time."

Great point. As much as we ADULTS/ARTISTS/WRITERS would like to sniff at this...sometimes it is SOOOO true! A definite case of TV/Movie media driving the BOOK market. Our kids are exposed to so much visual material before we can corral their little heinies into the library or children's dept of a book store! Keep corralling!!!!

Thanks for the great posts gang.

Janie Bynum

I did a tour through King Soopers today to see what publishers were there and the major shelf holders were Disney and Golden Books. Minor players were Landoll, Modern, Standard and Joshua Morris. Dial, Random House, Little Simon, Price Stern Sloan and Grosset & Dunlap had a couple books there too.


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