The Point of the Paperback is a very interesting article by Nichole Bernier on paperback publication and what it can do for a book (and my thanks to Madeline Miller for the link), but one passage caught my eye particularly and so I thought I'd canvass opinion on it; this appears towards the end of section 3:
' “Often by the time the paperback rolls around, both the author and publicist will have realized where the missed opportunities were for the hardcover, and have a chance to correct that,” says Simon & Schuster’s Sarah Knight. “Once your book has been focus-grouped on the biggest stage — hardcover publication — you get a sense of the qualities that resonate most with people, and maybe those were not the qualities you originally emphasized in hardcover. So you alter the flap copy, you change the cover art to reflect the best response from the ideal readership, and in many cases, the author can prepare original material to speak to that audience.”
Enter programs like P.S. (Harper Collins) and Extra Libris (Crown Trade and Hogarth), with new material in the back such as author interviews, essays, and suggested reading lists.
“We started Extra Libris last spring to create more value in the paperback, to give the author another opportunity to speak to readers. We had been doing research with booksellers and our reps and book club aficionados asking, What would you want in paperbacks? And it’s always extra content,” says Crown’s O’Shea. “Readers are accustomed to being close to the content and to the authors. It’s incumbent on us to have this product to continue the conversation.” '
How do you feel about extra content at the back of the book - an interview with the author, an essay on, say, what lies behind the book or how they came to write it, a list of books for further reading? I welcome it as I'm an eager consumer of supplementary material (I never overlook an author's note* or even their acknowledgements, as they can tell me much), but as we discovered in the comments on this post, many readers are content with the story alone and need nothing more. How about you?
*I've just finished Kate Atkinson's Life After Life (I loved it, and I'll write about it soon) and I noticed that in her acknowledgements she points readers towards her website to find out more about the writing of the book. She rightly attaches a spoiler alert to the link to the page where she goes into the background to the book, so don't read it if you've not yet read the novel itself, but it's an interesting piece and she gives a lengthy list of sources used in her research.