Just saw this at Making Light: a large Australian bookseller chain (Angus & Robertson) sent out a letter to various smaller book publishers demanding payments (reportedly ranging from AU$2,500 to AU$20,000) if they wish A&R to continue selling their books. Apparently they are operating on the notion that every item they sell must be profitable, a notion that every large corporation with no understanding of its customers makes at some point.
Making Light has the letter in its entirety, with scathingly sharp comments from Teresa Nielsen Hayden, consulting editor for Tor Books.
quote:I am writing to inform you of some changes in the way we manage our business. We have recently completed a piece of work to rank our suppliers in terms of the net profit they generate for our business.
Malarkey. If you’re a bookstore chain, doing business with a publisher doesn’t mean that you automatically carry a standard number of all the titles they publish. You order the books you want, in the quantities you judge appropriate. Whatever doesn’t sell gets returned to the publishers at their own expense. If A&R hasn’t been making a suitable profit off these publishers, it’s not the publishers’ fault. Booksellers make money by recognizing the books their customers will want to buy, ordering them in appropriate quantities, and selling them well.
But they're nothing compared to the response letter sent by Michael Rakusin of Tower Books. I urge you to read both, as Rakusin's response is the best thing I've read all week.
quote: In summary, we reject out of hand this notion that somehow, even giving you 45% discount on a Sale or Return basis, with free freight to each of your individual stores, where we make less than half of that on the same book, puts us in the “category of unacceptable profitability”. We have seen Angus & Robertson try this tactic before - about 12 years ago Angus & Robertson decided that unless we gave them a 50% discount, they would not buy from us any longer. We refused. Angus & Robertson desisted from buying from us for seven months. We survived, Angus & Robertson came back cap in hand.