Pocket Books

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Pocket Books: A Publishing Innovator

A division of Simon & Schuster, Pocket Books has a name that fits the company perfectly. In 1939 they produced the first mass-market, pocket-sized paperback books in the United States. Branching off the success that Penguin Books had in England, they were true innovators in the publishing industry.

Pocket Books reprinted literary works, mysteries, and popular non-fiction in hand-sized paperback editions. These were cheaply made and bound with glue, as opposed to stitched hardcovers. Following their inception, they found much success. Before World War II the vividly designed covers sold millions during the first pulp fiction revolution.

Before long, Pocket Books would published various genres, science-fiction, television adaptations, sports, astrology, and horror. You name it, they’ve released it.

postman always rings twice
The Postman Always Rings Twice, James M. Cain, Pocket Books #443, 1953

Entering the Romance Genre

The advent of the sexy romance revolution came in the 1970s. Because of this, Pocket Books would release their own historical romance novels and bodice rippers. Purity’s Passion by Janette Seymour (aka John Michael Butterworth) was published in 1977. It sold millions of copies. Following would be 2 sequels in the extremely successful Purity Jarsy series.

purity's passion
Purity’s Passion, Janette Seymour, Pocket Books, 1977, Harry Bennett cover art

1977 would also see the first two of Jeanne Williams’ bodice rippers, A Lady Bought with Rifles and Woman Clothed In Sun.

Journeyman author Con Sellers released Marilee in 1978. Drusilla Campbell’s The Frost and the Flame came out in 1980. The prolific Harry Bennett designed both covers.

Pocket Books would poach Janet Dailey from Harlequin books. She published her first full-length novel, Touch the Wind, with them. Incidentally, this book was likely one of the first mainstream romances to have a stepback cover.

Pocket Books previously had used a die-cut stepback to great acclaim with V.C. Andrews’ Flowers In the Attic. The stepback became hugely popular for romance.

Richard Gallen, Book Producer of the Future?

Richard Gallen, an entrepreneur and self-proclaimed publishing producer, had worked for Dell. In 1979, he would publish two historical romances and two contemporary romances a month. Pocket Books would then distribute them.

A book producer was to be the “book creator of the future,” not unlike film producers. Gallen was in charge of small teams of editors, designers, and writers. He used them to create books that would “be distributed to the trade by the well-known houses of Publishers Row.” 

Gallen would also create books for Dell, Tor Books, and Pinnacle. In 1981, he helped produce 100 titles in total for all book publishers. By 1982, it was twice that number. Pocket Books had signed a contract with Gallen to disseminate them. However, they only released only 90 romances under the Gallen moniker, from 1978 to 1982.

Authors who had books “produced” by Gallen included Candace Camp, under the pseudonym Kristin James, Dorothy Garlock, and Jude Deveraux.

Tapestry Romance

Then Gallen’s relationship with Pocket Books came to an end when Pocket Books started the Tapestry imprint in October 1982. These historical romances spanned the globe and were set during all time periods.

Many popular authors wrote for the line. They included Jude Deveraux, Julie Garwood, Ruth Ryan Langan, Linda Lael Miller, Patricia Pellicane, Maura Seger (aka Josie Litton), and Ena Halliday (aka Sylvia Halliday & Louisa Rawlings) whose book Marielle was Tapestry #1.

Harry Bennett, Robert Maguire, George H. Jones, and Elaine Gignilliat were frequent cover illustrators for the line.

Approximately 94 Tapestry books were released, with the final novel released in August 1986.

Romance Genre Legacy

In due time, the three “J”s, Jude Deveraux, Judith McNaught, and Julie Garwood would prove to be powerhouse historical authors for the company. Later on, they branched off into contemporary fiction and other genres.

velvet angel

Pocket Books successfully produced mass-market paperbacks into the next decades. V.C. Andrews’ Dollanganger series was huge. To this day, despite her death many years ago, her books continue to sell.

By the end of the 20th century romance authors like Kresley Cole and Sabrina Jeffries would be signed on.

Pocket Books still remains a force to be reckoned with in an ever more decreasing paperback marketplace.

Herbert Alexander, Pocket Books Editor and Publisher, 78
Paperback Talk: Book Producers

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