Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Change the Publishing Model Instead Of Talking About Changing It

Hello Flower.

Publishing and book selling are changing and markets are shrinking. While all that is happening from everything I read the sales of paper books still accounts for 80%  or more of all books sold. Obviously some people want real books and we all want bookstores, right? So can some of these changes be beneficial to books and book selling?

Are you eager to know what I would do if I had the power to change how book selling works? I kind of think you might be.

For as long as anyone working in publishing and book selling can remember a bookstore has had to be either returnable or nonreturnable, correct? Given the abilities of computers these days why should stores have to choose? Why can't Publishers allow stores to order the titles they feel confident in as nonreturnable? If you're doing your spring buy with say Little Brown and you know that you can positively sell 40 copies each of the new Patterson, Meyer and Atkinson and 20 copies each of a few other authors before that frontlist bill comes due as nonreturnable your store could get on average 55% on those titles verses the average 46% that you would get on the rest of your returnable order. When a store does reorders and backlist orders they would get to pick and choose returnable or non by order. Given that publishers would now be selling more books as nonreturnable they could afford to lower minimum quantities for ordering. How hard could it be to find 20 units from any given Publisher to do a nonreturnable order on a twice weekly basis?

How does this effect the returns a bookstore is going to want to do? Well if over a 6 month period you have ordered 80 copies of Patterson and only the initial 30 were nonretunable you can only return up to 50 copies. This would mean that stores could not just generate a return, pack it up and wait for the credit. Big deal. A store would need to be more aware of it's ordering. It is easy enough to code purchase order numbers so that every number that starts with an N is nonreturnable. I know that with at least two of the most popular point of sale computer programs in book selling that you can sort publisher files by PO numbers, then look at those orders in an inventory file and generate a return to that publisher.

The benefit to publishers? More nonreturnable sales would immediately mean less returns and less remainders. The potential is then there for stores who like the extra discount and who know their customers to be more adventurous in their nonreturnable choices. Let's say the average independent bookstore's spring buy from Little Brown is 1000 units over 300 titles. Is it so far out of the realm of possibility that 400 of those units might be purchased as nonreturnable? Then for a few months for 100 of those 300 titles to be reordered as nonreturnable? I don't think so. Over the course of the first 3 months of a Patterson paperback your store might sell 100 copies. Wouldn't it be nice for you and the publisher if 70 those 100 copies were at 55%?

Nonreturnable options for bookstores also gives the stores the choice of discounting more often. Stores compete with online. Online is discounted and you never have to leave your house. An extra 8% could go far in terms of a stores ability to support an in-store buyer program for it's customers and/or item discounting. It also would mean more revenue for the bookstore and the publisher.

Happy to help

No comments:

Post a Comment