chriswebb on TwitterChris Webb on FacebookSubscribe to the RSS FeedLinkedIn

Buy a Book For Christmas

I only recently discovered the cleverly written publishing blog of the mysterious “Moonrat“, an anonymous editor at an unrevealed publishing house.

In a recent post, Moonrat (ok, so I feel silly typing that) discusses what went wrong with the publishing industry in October, 2008 -  lamenting the returns issues we publisher face, and offers a suggestion on how book lovers can make a difference.

I don’t think anyone’s being really straightforward about what exactly happened, and a lot of it is not very complicated.* The crux of the problem is that book publishing is a returnable industry. That means that say Big Chain Store (BCS) agrees to stock a book that my company publishes. They buy 100 copies at, say, $1 a piece (to be easy). They give me $100; I send them the books. Two months later, they didn’t sell any, so they send them back. I have to give them $100.

Keep in mind a couple of things about this system that don’t work in the publisher’s favor:
1) Shipping costs. Books are heavy.
2) Production fees incurred by the publisher (because, unfortunately, we can’t return the books to the printer).
3) Inflation. Haha.

Like many other industries, book sellers are getting hit hard by our current economy - but the Holiday season is upon us, so things should improve, right?

However, BCS and all its chain compatriots are counting on Christmas sales to save them. They need to stock up! They need to plump their stores with new enticing merchandise so they can convince customers to save them from foreclosure!

Where to get the cash for all the holiday books they needed to stock in October and November? Three. Guesses.

In October, bookstores returned so many books that most publishing companies had more coming into them than going out of them. For some companies, the incoming number was more than several months’ outgoing.

So, what to do? Moonrat has some great advice.

For anyone who cares about the book publishing industry and wants to do their part, there’s one simple action step:

Buy a book this weekend.

Just buy one.

Perfect idea.

Read more of Moonrat’s publishing blog at

(Photo credit: _mpd_)

  • Paul Mayson

    I think you guys are doing what will eventually bring publishing back around - talking with people that buy the books. For years publishing looked at b&n, borders, and amazon as the customers. Then throw in some co-op money to get featured. They had no relationship with the guys that bought the books.

    Here’s an experiment: Can you give an idea of the unit sales difference between something like Blogging for Dummies vs the book? There you have one of THE biggest brands in publishing against, basically, a guy with a website (but with a direct relationship with his readers). If you can’t give numbers, can you give % difference? Something like that?

    If you want to get a book this weekend, I’ll suggest Seth Godin’s ‘Tribes’. It’s awesome!

  • Mark

    Hey — my first visit since the new theme. I am very impressed. You have more going on so it is nice to see more going on the blog.

    As far as what moonrat says, is there not an agreed upon time frame for returns. I thought you were not allowed to return a book unless it was in the store for six months ?

    That said, will definitely be hitting the bookstore this w/e.


  • Walt Shiel

    Although Moonrat has a good point, this just smacks of more whining from a big publisher who expects the marketplace to adapt to their business model rather than vice versa.

    Instead of pleading for readers to buy a book to save big publishing, maybe big publishing should be trying to find out what those readers really want, how they want it delivered, and at what price.

    With that kind of data you can build a business model that works.

    I predict that sales of printed books from major trade publishers to continue the slide recorded so far this year. Meanwhile, the self- and micro-publishers (like our own Slipdown Mountain Publications LLC will survive and even grow as we strive to adapt to what our customers actually want and how they want it.

    And most of that growth and profit will remain under the radar of the publishing industry because it is not included in any of the recognized industry statistics.

    Please save me from people who whine, “Oh, please buy a book from us, any book at all, to save us from losing money or going out of business.”

    That’s a losing attitude. Just ask the many indie bookstores going under every year.

  • imansubarkah

    thank's for sharing info,..!
    Kerja Keras Adalah Energi Kita

  • Lockerz Davetiye

    respect all book writers ^^