If I May Beg to Differ: A Response on the Returns Issue

June 1999
by J. Alvin Speers

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The article, “Returns – The Publisher’s Responsibility,” in the April 1999 PMA Newsletter made us sit up and take notice. That treatise conflicted with a philosophy that has been successful for our publishing activities as well as for others, so it was read carefully. When we got to the “snapshot of the profitability of each channel,” it was amazing.Dealing with major and lesser distributors, discounts from 40-60% are frankly required. Occasional direct transactions with bookstores have been with a 25% discount being found acceptable. These discount disbursements-coupled with the consignment provision for books, and/or delayed payment-place an unacceptable burden on our small press, so we refuse to play such games. Nevertheless, the experienced conditions imposed differ greatly from the “look at who makes what percentage of the money in book publishing” set out in Michael Taylor’s article.If a 40-60% discount is gained by distributors, the 2-3% for Wholesalers/Distributors quoted will not bear realistic examination. And I also question the 5-7% shown for Retail Bookstores. Where would such misleading statistics come from, we have to wonder?Having been involved in Toys & Games, Bread/Bakery Goods, as well as Small Press Publishing (with a 63-title catalog built up since 1977) in my varied successful career, I know from experience that “here are just a few of the many other industries that permit returns” is a generalization that should be researched better. Such investi…IBPA Members – Click here to view the full article (login required).

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