Wouldn't It Be Nice...

How many of you remember the old Ace Doubles? These were a series of slim paperbacks published back in the 60s (IIRC) with two demi-novels at about 40-60K each. They must have printed a hundred of them or more over the years.

When one looks at how the publishing industry is collapsing today, and when one considers all the quality material from unknown authors that goes begging because there just isn't room for it all, and how a full novel is a big comittment for any publisher, one can't help but think that something like the old Ace Doubles would be a natural.

I understand Ace looked at the idea a few years back, but dropped it - supposedly because the book retailers were confused on how to display a book with two front covers, which sounds kind of pathetic. But the idea is sound for any number of reasons:

Writing a 40 - 50K demi-novel is easier than a full 100K novel, which makes them a good training ground for new authors.

If a double - or better yet, a triple - edition were offered, it gives the buyer a better shot at getting value for their bucks. Fewer disgruntled customers. That would make each edition more sellable, especially once the reputation is established. Better sell through is good.

Some stories just don't fit novel length. A multi-demi-novel form would open up a lot of new material. Right now, about the only outlet for this length is chapbooks.

That same multi-demi-novel form could have different types of material in each issue: say humor, space opera, and dark SF. Or, if you prefer, they would all be similar. One would appeal to a wider audience, the other would target specific audiences. Again, more versatile targeting = better sell through.

A multi-demi-novel form would open up more opportunities for all the hybrid cross genres that are popping up these days.

A multi-demi-novel form would give more new authors a shot at publication, and at public exposure.

The actual cost and effort of publishing a triple would be the same as a conventional paperback in the 100-120K range - with less risk of putting out a stink bomb. Returned covers don't pay the bills.

Lots of potential there. With the major press self destructing, and a new generation of small presses slowly growing into the big leagues, this sounds like a natural for an ambitious small press operator. Variety, capacity, niche interest, better market potential, better sell through - what's not to love?

I sincerely hope Ace will bring back the Doubles. In addition, I urge the small presses out there to look at doing their own doubles and triples. How about it, gang? No one seems to be afraid of anthologies, and this is the same thing only bigger. With astute selection and marketing, this could be a ticket into the big leagues.

Something to consider.

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