Nov 22, 2011

Loving Pulp Fiction

Dave Van Arnam's Lord of Blood and a Doc Savage adventure
I received the two books pictured in this post as part of Read (Think)'s inventory, and my delight in them got me thinking about the history of pulp.

Wikipedia describes pulp fiction as a combination of cheap paper, cheap printing and cheap authors to produce affordable entertainment. I can't argue with the first two; smaller paperbacks are called "mass market" for a reason. But the phrase "cheap authors" begs the question: which fiction authors aren't cheap?

Besides a few writers at the very top, like Meyer, King and Patterson, most authors can't make a full-time living. The bio in the back may picture your favorite author curled up cozily with a cat/dog/husband/wife/passel of children/computer, but that's rarely the case. An article on Fiction Factor rough guesses that a writer might make $50,000 from a hardcover or $7,000 from a paperback. Given that most fiction authors never see the inside of a hardback, it would take four books a year to raise a family of four above the national poverty line. (Ilona Andrews, author of Fate's Edge and the Kate Daniels series, writes an instructive blog about the subject.)

Read (Think) will sell a variety of books, hard and soft, fiction and non, vintage and like new, but in today's post I want to celebrate pulp fiction and its progeny, the mass market paperback.

May they entertain us--cheaply--for a long time to come.


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