returns and remainders
The WSJ has a big article on the practice of returns. I'm told it's subscriber only, but I was able to reach it through that link (and there's always bug me not). Seems like required, if depressing, weekend reading for writers:
There are two Time Warner Book Group warehouses on the outskirts of Indianapolis. Although separated by only an eighth of a mile, between them stretches a gulf of disappointment.Meanwhile, I just decided today what my next book will be in a strong maybe way (a fantasy, even), which means I should really work on finishing the first two this weekend. (Although, for those not following along, I will note that one is much closer than the other.) And yes, it's also YA.
One building, dubbed the 'happy warehouse' by one publishing executive, is filled with about 60 million hardcover books and paperbacks waiting to be distributed to stores across the U.S. The other is the 'sad' warehouse. Piled high are some of the 20 million books returned every year by retailers. Many will be resold at cut-rate prices. Two million to four million will have their spines sliced off before being piled into a recycling machine the size of a Dumpster, chewed up and spat out as bales of paper.
Returns are the dark side of the book world, marking not only failed expectations, but the crippling inefficiencies of an antiquated business. It's a problem that's only getting worse. The industry's current economic model pushes publishers to generate a small number of blockbuster hits. But picking winners is a quixotic enterprise, and as publishers ship an ever-increasing number of books to stores, hoping to hit the jackpot every time, stores are sending an ever-increasing number back.