Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Even Indy Publishers Get The Blues

Some of you may recognize that I cribbed my post title from a Tom Robbins novel I read (and loved) way back when I was in college. For those of you who don’t know the book, click on Tom’s name. Now for my confession. This isn’t a post about my Indy publisher’s blues (That’s him in the photo up top, BTW). This is a post about my own blues, caused by something my publisher went through. The cause of our blues. Returns.

My publisher, White Whisker Books, is the brainchild of my friend and colleague, Christopher Meeks. He named the company after his cat, which has one white whisker. Chris originally created White Whisker to publish his own work, that hadn’t yet found a main stream publisher. Chris published two books of short stories, and a novel. All received high praise from reviewers. Chris’ books were selling well. He was both a critical and financial success. Chris decided to expand his little publishing house. He has four titles coming out this year, including mine. He was on a roll.

Then one day in April, Chris came home to find several large boxes in front of his garage. The boxes were filled with books--his books. Inside the boxes, Chris found 500 returns, some were of books he’d sold three years ago.

A little primer on publishing: publishers send books to a distributor who then sends them to book stores. Publishers print the books based on perceived orders. Book stores receive books on consignment, meaning they do not pay for them. They pay for what they sell, and the rest are returned.

Okay, so far that sounds fair. But let me ask you something. If you bought a blouse, and kept that blouse for three years, could you then return it? The store thinks you like the blouse. The distributor thinks you like the blouse. The manufacturer thinks you like the blouse, so much so that they spend the profits making a whole bunch more. Then one day, two and a half years after your purchase, you’re watching The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, and see that one of the housewives you hate has a blouse similar to one you purchased three years ago. So you decide you don’t like the blouse and take it back. Really?

Returns! Oh, nooooooo!

Doesn’t it seem unreasonable to expect someone to accept returns after three years? Yet in the book business returns after three years are okay—no problem. Chris thinks my new novel, Boyfriend From Hell, could do very well, especially considering how well Never Slow Dance With A Zombie sold. Good news ,right? Well, maybe not. He sent me an email after receiving the returns saying that if he got five thousand returns of my book we could very well go bankrupt. So, after much exploring, Chris decided to make my book non-returnable. For Chris' post on returns go here: Returns.

And that is why I have the blues. I love being published by Chris. He is a great guy, and a good business man. But when book stores see a book is non-returnable they are less likely to order it. Even though my last book sold well, bookstores will be reluctant to stock Boyfriend From Hell, because if they don’t sell it, they cannot return it. With all the changes in publishing, I am sure the returns problem will work itself out some time in the near future. But for now, if you are thinking of buying Boyfriend From Hell, either order it online: B&N, Amazon, or as an ebook available on kindle, Nook and ipad. And if you like going to your local bookstore, no problem, just tell them to order it. If you would do that for me, you can keep me from having the blues. I’d love to hear your comments on this. Thanks.

Oops! I almost forgot. I will be having a Hollyweird Tuesday Trivia Challenge next Tuesday. I ran out of time this week. But for those of you who like all things Hollywood, I want to introduce you to my friend Rebecca's blog, Hollywood Daze. She has celebrity news, vintage Hollywood as well as trivia. Please drop by. Just click on the link. Now I'm out.



  1. So many bookstores immediately ask, "Is the book returnable?" They don't want to shelve a book that isn't go to sell and then be stuck with the stock. I guess I understand that, but it does hurt the publisher and in turn the author. I can understand why this gives you the blues.

  2. Thanks for the mention at your blog.

  3. Returns are just one of the clunky parts of the machinery that e publishing does away with. However--bookstores would have to be a whole lot more conservative about buying without the promise of returns, and according to some booksellers I know, they wouldn't survive at all without 'em. I don't know how all this will play out as the models (each with obvious and less obvious pros and cons to them) collide. I appreciate reading your thoughts.

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  5. I have the blues for both of you. I guess the next thing is to promote the heck out of your book! Create the buzz word in some key places. Btw, I had to swing by here after you left me questioning a comment on my blog. I'm still wondering, "what did he mean by that?' Any ole how, I'm gonna try to get to the Hollywood event you mentioned. And hey brotha, you gotta shake them blues offa you if you're going to get those books of your sold :-)


  6. Yikes I had no idea that was possible. Sorry for the blues. Hopefully it will work itself out in the end.

  7. You know what really urks me about the notion of returning books after three years? Bookstores won't let you, the consumer, return after a 30 DAYS! I was a few days over on a book that wasn't as useful as it suggested to me, flashing its glossy cover in the private aisle at the bookstore--nasty little wench. I accepted that I'd dallied too long but now I'm really annoyed!
    BTW, new follower.