Sunday, April 30, 2023

You'd think the biggest publisher in the world would have its act together.

Ever since I got an account with Penguin Random House, I've been trying to figure out a formula for reordering. I thought that eventually I'd figure out a time of the week to order, which would turn into a predictable time of arrival.

But no matter how many variations I've attempted, none have worked. 

I made an order from PRH two weeks ago and there is still no scheduled arrival date. Waiting more than two weeks in this modern world is ridiculous. Absolutely no other wholesaler I deal with takes more than a week. It's inexplicable.

Sometimes I get deliveries from orders that I made a week after earlier delinquent orders. Same damn warehouses. How does that happen? 

The other problem is being able to schedule stocking the books. Every big order takes most of a day to put on the shelves. It would be great to have a DAY when that happens. But with PRH, books arrive willy-nilly. A single order could be split into three or four shipments arriving on different days.

Thing is, PRH gives me a 10% better discount. That's hard to pass up. It has kept them in the game.

On the other hand, Ingram delivers in two days. Completely reliable and predictable.

Over the years I've often chosen the more reliable, if slightly more expensive option. In fact, I could make a pretty good case that choosing to do so has helped us survive. All the way back to sports cards where I made an early decision to order  lower discounts from a middle man, in exchange for being able to predict when and how much would arrive.

It's not always the option. I used to get fast shipments from Diamond so that I could brag, "I'll have that for you in 3 days." But eventually, the extra shipping costs became prohibitive.

Back to PRH. 

Last Christmas I decided that I simply couldn't wait two weeks for books to show up when the Christmas season is only about three or four weeks long in the first place. 

It didn't seem to hurt.

I'm going to make the same choice for summer. Starting in June, I'll be ordering twice a week from Ingram. I won't have to buy more than one or two copies of most books since I'll have them back in stock so quickly. I will forego the extra 10% in exchange for availability and predictability. 

I'll order books from PRH that Ingram is out of stock of and/or comes from the secondary warehouse, which takes an extra week.

On particularly hot titles, I'll order a copy from Ingram and perhaps a backup copy from PRH. But any way you look at it, this is going to be thousands of dollars per month--perhaps tens of thousands of dollars--of book orders going to Ingram instead of PRH. I'm sure that isn't enough to change PRH's mind about how they do business.

But I can't be the only one.

Wednesday, April 26, 2023

I've been neglecting this blog. But today I have news!

Thing is, I write here everyday but only for myself. I don't post these. I think I've reached a point of wondering whether my opinion matters in anything. I mean, am I really saying anything that hasn't already been said?

The stuff I write to about myself are tentative, self-doubting, not exactly flattering. Or slightly politically incorrect. Or a little mean toward others. When I first started, I was worried about what other people would think of me, but the farther along I went, the more I worried about what I thought about other people.

Either that, or I'm talking about business in ways that compare my store to others that I don't really want others to read. 

Or I'm talking about mundane things like dreams I've had, what I did that day, and so on.

In the beginning, I told myself a blog was worthless if it wasn't truthful and candid. But the more truthful and candid I try to be, the more I risk insulting others and/or having people judge me. 

But if I water it down, then it comes across as so mild as to not be worth saying. 

Anyway, at least today I have a little news! Pegasus Books' manager, Sabrina, has a comic she wrote coming out today. It's call "Tales of Nottingham," and is a genesis story of Maid Marion.

We have a special variant Pegasus Books cover coming in over the next ten days or so, which we'll have for sale. Meanwhile, we have the regular cover and the writer there Tuesday thru Saturday to sign it!

Saturday, April 1, 2023

If you see a book you want, buy it!

It's amusing to me, if frustrating, that people seem to believe that bookstores have every book they could ever want in stock.

Not only do we have a tiny, tiny fraction of even currently published books, the odds of a bookstore carrying a specific book besides current bestsellers isn't all that great. 

I don't think people fully realize that passing up books in stock at my store with assumption that they can get them later and/or at a cheaper price means they may be missing their best bet. Passing up a book you want to read because you already have too many books is fine as long as you realize that when you finally get around to it, that book may be gone. 

I realize that the reader is right now thinking, "Sure, buddy." (I realize that a certain number of you will say that's why you don't buy from bookstores or that you read ebooks, so good on you. I'm talking about when you find a book you want to read and put on your bookshelf right in front of you.)

I can't tell you the number of times that a customer has passed on a book that "they've been looking everywhere for" because it's not a used book or because it's a hardcover (or softcover, as it may be.) I used to straight out tell them, "You're not likely to find that anywhere else..." but have stopped saying that because for some reason the customers see it as a challenge, or worse, as if I'm trying to mislead them.

So here's the truth.

Books are everywhere, but individual titles aren't. Other than current bestsellers or the greatest classics of all time (though most classics can't be found in most bookstores, except as I say, "the greatest,") most books have a certain length of time in the pipeline and then become backlist books, which may or may not stay in the system...usually, not.

The fact of the matter is that lots of books are out-of-print. Those midlist books that are still in print are not carried by most bookstores. If a book isn't being talked about, it fades, and that is 99.999% of the books that have ever came out.

So when I have the odd midlist title in stock and the customer proclaims he wants it's not used or it's not in the right format and they pass, they don't realize that they are missing an opportunity.

Hell, even if another store does has it in stock, just the time, energy, and gas you expend to find it more than makes up the difference in price, but that's an argument for another time.

What I'm talking about is the odds that that midlist book is to be found anywhere else, including used bookstores, and believe it or not, even Amazon. 

The most likely way to find an out of print book is through Amazon, to be sure, but even there books aren't always readily available, and even if Amazon is free postage, the actual seller may not be. I've been surprised by how many titles aren't even available on Amazon, or at such outrageous prices that you have to really, really want that book

The second most likely place that will have a title is the publisher, but buying a single book from a single publisher simply isn't feasible.

The third most likely place a title will be found is at Ingram, the last remaining national distributor, but Ingram lets titles slide after their time in the sun. 

I'm going to say that the average time in the system in bookstores for even bestsellers is a couple years, with huge sellers, maybe three or four. For the average book, it may be six months or a year. With wholesalers, it may be a little longer than that if there is residual interest, but most books drop out. (Available for reorder, but my experience is those reorders almost never show up.) 

So even a good selling book that is more than four or five years old will be gone from most bookstores and even the wholesaler. I see this all the time with Book Clubs who have picked a title that a member loved a few years back. I always check, but more often than not, any book in this time range isn't available anymore. (Should be a rule of Book Clubs that they check availability, right?)

With mass market books, the turnover is even greater. There is a reason that most bookstores these days concentrate on trade paperbacks. Both hardbacks and supermarket paperbacks have a limited shelf-life except for the biggest authors.

Linda and I owned a used bookstore for 15 years and there were a ton of good titles and authors that simple NEVER came in, or would come in once a year and sell instantly. Sure, we had lots of books, but the customer looking for a specific book more often than not couldn't find it, especially if it was an older midlist book. That's why it was so frustrating when they did find one and still passed on it for some reason. The fact was, the bookstore across the street was equally unlikely to have that title.

Good luck with that. 

My store specializes in still-in-demand midlist books, which is a niche most bookstores ignore in favor of the current bestsellers. If I find a cult author, I try to carry every book by that author. I try to keep books that have any kind of following in stock. But most bookstores are focused on current sellers, and they send back those that have slowed down. 

So yeah, chances of a bookstore having a current bestseller are good, but other than that, the chances for midlist books being in stock are almost random.

You pass on it, and it's probably unlikely you see it again. Of course, if you passed on it after saying "I've been looking everywhere for this," I have to assume that you didn't really care about that title after all.