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Are Publishers Too Quick to Remainder Titles?

By Edward Nawotka

Today’s lead story looks at the increasing importance of overseas book buyers to the remainder book market.

There’s no exact formula for the amount of time it takes for a title to be released, returned and remaindered, but most authors would agree that the window publishers allow a book to gain traction in the marketplace before it’s yanked from store shelves is pretty short. My unscientific estimation is that, on average, publishers give a book a three to four week publicity window and, after that, it’s up to the booksellers and customers to make the market. Of course, booksellers are themselves under increased pressure to move stock and, with shelf space at a premium, they have added incentive to pull returns — which in turn sends book all the more rapidly into the hands of remainder dealers. Yes, it can be a bit sad to see a book you’ve fallen in love with hit the bargain book shelves three, four or six months after publication.

Of course, remaindering is a complicated science, which also has as much to do with overprinting, lost ambitions and other excesses of the publishing trade. But, tell us, do you think publishers are too quick to remainder titles or not fast enough?

Let us know what you think in the comments.

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2 Comments

  1. Posted August 11, 2010 at 3:05 pm | Permalink

    Simply put, Yes! Yet if you talk to publishers about it, they will tell you that the ones that are entering the marketplace so quickly are not remainders but hurts. Yet when these books arrive in our store, the difference in the condition of the book between the hurts and our new copies in negligible, especially considering the price difference.

    2 anonymous examples : A new hardcover book, not our in paperback yet, that we were selling at full price ($23.00) 10-15 copies a month, we were able to buy hundreds at $4 each (to sell at $9 each). Another hardcover book not due in paper for 6 months, we were selling 15-20 copies a month at full price ($25.00), we were able to buy hundreds of at $5 each (to sell at $10).

    Each time this happens it devalues that publisher’s and that author’s next hardcover book. So all the advertising they dump into the next one in balanced against a regular customer saying “if I wait a few months that book will be on the remainder table for less than 1/2 the original price.”

    There’s got to be a better way.

  2. Paul Kozlowski
    Posted August 11, 2010 at 5:56 pm | Permalink

    I agree with Robert. Early remaindering is another self-destructive behavior from publishers who can’t get out from under unreal budget targets that require overprinting, overdistribution, and a quick exit strategy so they can get on to the next title. It shows how silly and arbitrary suggested retail prices are, it cuts receipts for independent booksellers who sell titles (at full price) long after the initial two-week promotions at the chains and mass merchants are over, and makes saps out of consumers who pay full price for a book. The good thing is this — remaindering will decrease because the dominant online retailers are more efficient than the old channels and ebook & POD sales are now real factors in the marketplace. But before it decreases, there is too much physical product sitting in warehouses and dying chain bookstores that needs to work its way through the bowels of an old and ailing distribution system for remaindering to disappear anytime soon. The better way might include:
    – lower prices
    – quick replenishment
    – small reprints
    – realistic sales targets
    – many more TP originals
    – long-term commitment to titles
    – remaindering in place at retailer’s discretion with a predetermined shared margin hit

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