Saturday, March 12, 2016

License for To Kill A Mockingbird Expires

Last year's publication of Harper Lee's Go Set A Watchman meant big business not just for HarperCollins but also for Grand Central, which has licensed the mass market paperback rights for To Kill A Mockingbird for many years. According to Nielsen Bookscan, that mass market edition of TKAM sold almost 567,000 units in 2015 (and since 2001, the service has tracked sales of approximately 4.924 million units of that edition). That license is about to expire and will not be renewed, according to an email from Hachette Book Group to retailers seen and reported on by the New Republic.

A Grand Central spokesperson confirmed the expiration, and HBG has a limited time to sell their remaining stock, until April 25. The email suggests that over time Grand Central has sold more than 20 million copies of the book, saying that "more than two-thirds of the 30 million copies sold worldwide since publication have been Hachette's low-priced edition." (The current regular mass market book lists for $8.99, though GCT added a mass upperback edition priced at $9.99 just a few months ago, in mid-December.)

A Harper spokesperson told TNR they will continue to sell their existing editions of the book -- in trade paperback ($14.99) and ebook ($10.99) -- without indicating any plans to issue a new mass-market version of their own. "Like many American classics, To Kill A Mockingbird's primary paperback format will be the trade paperback edition."

The correspondence seen by TNR indicates that the decision to not have the book available in a mass market edition is "per the wishes of the author's estate," though the write-up does not consider the idea that the estate no longer wants to see mass-market proceeds split between their principal publisher (Harper) and a licensee (Grand Central).
TNR story

Publishers Lunch

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