Reducing Returns

December 2002
by Brian Jud

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Industry statistics reveal that book returns can be 30% or more of sales. If you reduce or eliminate returns, then you could increase your net sales and revenue by as much as that same amount and your profits by even more.
But, you say, you have no control over returns since Ingram and the bookstores return books at will. On the contrary, there are many things that we as publishers can do to eliminate returns without creating the problems that would come with an official across-the-board “no returns” policy.


Make Sure Your Books Stay Sold

Start by focusing on the fact that bookstores do not sell books–they display them. Any marketing they do involves promoting major titles or special events to entice people into their stores. They rely on authors and publishers to create awareness of their specific titles. Similarly, commissioned sales representatives for distributors spend their time selling the books that get them the best income (i.e., those that will not be returned because they are promoted by publishers and authors).
But marketing books is not simply a function of promotion. It also entails producing a saleable, properly priced product that is distributed to the right people at the right time. In other words, promotion is a multi-faceted marketing technique that is more complex than a campaign of book-signings, media appearances, and press releases. You need the proper and timely balance
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