Returns and the Book Industry

August 1998
by Nick Weir-Williams

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Few topics create such passion in the book industry as that of returns, and I’d like to address some of the issues surrounding returns in this commentary.

How Some Avoid Returns

It’s clear from what many PMA members have said that returns are a major problem for them, both in theory and practice. It’s also clear that many members, perhaps more than half, have developed products and marketing techniques that mean a good portion of their sales are effectively returns-free. Selling directly to customers, in bulk to organizations, or through nontraditional retail stores-ways that more than half of all books are sold-can keep you completely out of returns territory. Very few books come back from libraries, even those that operate on an approval system. Very few books come back from Web booksellers. Not that many books come back from individual customers. Many traditional book publishers, if they were starting their businesses today, from scratch, might well opt to publish and market in a way that keeps their returns exposure to a minimum, and to those of you just starting, this advice is well worth taking.

Selling via Bookstores

For many members, and most independent publishers, the traditional retail store remains a primary source of selling books. It is necessary constantly to remind yourself that when you have sold a book to a store, it’s not fully sold. It needs to be on someone’s private bookshelf before that’s true. And when you sell…IBPA Members – Click here to view the full article (login required).

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