Brooke Warner, publisher of She Writes Press, says returns are an important piece of the book publishing industry that too few authors and readers understand.
Retailers she reckons, have little incentive to order what they realistically think they can sell. She quotes an example of a book she worked on that the superstore Target ordered 30,000 copies of at a 60 percent discount – 25,000 copies of the book were returned. This kind of scenario, Warner says, can sink a small publisher and is devastating for an author.
Mentioning Barnes & Noble, Warner says most authors want their books to be in Barnes & Noble, but their returns are often higher than 50 percent. Publishers, she says, are also frustrated by the lack of accountability from bookstores, wholesalers and distributors when it comes to damaged books that are returned.
The industry is slewed massively in favour of bookstores, wholesalers and distributors, allowing them to return what they can’t sell.
Her articles says: “When B&N goes out of business, I desperately hope that book publishers will rally together to say no more to returns. Being a returns-based business is bad from every angle, and the damage to the environment should not be understated.
“We're printing more than we need. While books sit in warehouses not moving, inventory must be available to fulfil actual orders that are moving. This forces publishers to overprint, even publishers that are using print-on-demand technology… We need to stop putting up with this. The cost is not just on a publisher/author level; it's global.”