Pocket Books: A Publishing Innovator
A division of Simon & Schuster, Pocket Books is aptly named, for in 1939 they produced the first mass-market, pocket-sized paperback books in the United States. Imitating 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 that were cheaply made with glue, as opposed to stitched hardcovers. Their brightly designed covers sold millions in the pulp revolution before World War II. Pocket Books has published various genres, science-fiction, television adaptations, sports, astrology, horror… you name it, they’ve released it.
Entering the Romance Genre
With the advent of the sexy romance revolution of the 1970s, Pocket Books would release their own historical romance novels and bodice rippers. Purity’s Passion by Janette Seymour (aka John Michael Butterworth), published in 1977 would be the first of 3 in the extremely successful Purity Jarsy series.
1977 would also see the first two of Jeanne Williams’ bodice rippers, A Lady Bought with Rifles and A Woman Clothed In Sun. Con Sellers released Marilee in 1978, and Drusilla Campbell’s The Frost and the Flame came out in 1980 (both book covers designed by prolific Harry Bennett).
Richard Gallen, Book Producer of the Future?
In 1978, Richard Gallen, an entrepreneur and self-proclaimed publishing producer, who had previously worked for Dell, would release two historical romances and two contemporary romances a month for Pocket Books to distribute. A book producer was planned to be the “book creator of the future,” not unlike film producers. Gallen was in charge of small teams of editors, designers, and writers to create books that would “be distributed to the trade by the well-known houses of Publishers Row.”
Gallen also had books distributed by Dell, and Tor Books, and Pinnacle. In 1981, he helped produce 100 titles in total for all book publishers; by 1982, it was twice that number. However, with Pocket Books, only 90 romances were released under the Gallen moniker, from 1978 – 1982. Authors who had books “produced” by Gallen included Candace Camp, under the pseudonym Kristin James, Dorothy Garlock, and Jude Deveraux.
Gallen’s relationship with Pocket Books came to an end that year when Pocket Books started the Tapestry imprint in October 1982. These historical romances spanned the globe and took place during all time periods.
Many popular authors wrote for the line, including 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 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
The three “J”s, Jude Deveraux, Judith McNaught, and Julie Garwood would prove to be powerhouse historical authors for Pocket Books in the 1980s and 1990s before they branched off into contemporary fiction and other genres.
Pocket Books would continue successfully producing mass-market paperbacks into the next decades. V.C. Andrews released her Dollanganger series with them and her books continue to do well despite her death many years ago.
Pocket Books still remains a force to be reckoned with in an ever more decreasing paperback marketplace, with romance authors like Kresley Cole and Sabrina Jeffries.