In Publisher's Marketplace today, there was a blurb about Penguin UK meeting with British booksellers to broach the issue of a no-return policy on the publisher's backlist. It will be interesting to see if it succeeds in this policy. I remember that, back in the '90s, a U.S. pub house tried something similar—and backed off from the move, when none of the other houses followed suit...
Frankly, I for one feel that the time for this is long overdue—particularly now that the industry is moving toward POD, and booksellers are getting smarter about inventory control.
Not only will this strengthen publishers' bottom lines, it will encourage booksellers to will be more aggressive in promoting what is on their shelves and what they've ordered. Sloppy retailing helps no one: not the store, the author, or the pub house.
Tighter inventories might worry authors—particularly midlisters, or debut novelists—into thinking, "Yikes! Another reason why the bookstores won't take a chance on my book..." But authors, let's face facts: How much publisher-driven promotion does the average midlist book get, anyway? Other than a press release or two, or an exceprt on the publisher's website, what real promotion is done on your book's behalf?
Most of the authors I know don't wait for their publisher to toot their horn, anyway. They create their own websites, work their blogs several times a week, network with other authors for reciprical links, joint blogs and guest blogging opps; create their own book trailers, send out their own press releases, set up their own instore book signings, purchase indy bookseller and library mailing lists, email fans, and seek out ingenious cross-promotional opportunities to tout their books...
Oh yeah: and write books they believe in, so that all this effort pays off.
And I don't see that changing anytime soon.
Authors, please sound off on your thoughts, cheers, and jeers to this industry consideration...
All comments welcomed,
Here's the PM Lunch featurette:
Penguin UK to Discuss Non-Returnable Backlist with Accounts
Penguin UK is expected to meet soon with Booksellers Association officials and other booksellers to discuss their plans to makes backlist sales non-returnable. CEO Peter Field told PN earlier in the month: "We intend to speak to everybody we need to about this; it's an important conversation to have. We believe backlist should be firm sale but are attempting to identify a common purpose. I believe there will be different ways to tackle the problem, depending on different customers and regions, rather than a one-size-fits-all policy. We will talk about risk and reward and get the balance right. A common purpose can be found and, if we all manage our logistics better, we will all benefit and retailers will save money on returns."