Can Schiffer's Minimum Advertised Pricing Solve Publishers', Authors' and Retailers' Woes?
Out in the bucolic countryside of Southeastern Pennsylvania—where Chester and Lancaster counties meet, and the main distinguishing factor between the rolling pastures and cropland is whether they’re farmed by tractors or the Amish—Schiffer Publishing (schifferbooks.com) has been putting out books across a fantastic array of categories for 37 years. The company was started by Publisher Pete Schiffer’s parents—his father was an antiques dealer, his mother an art historian—as a way to provide more value and information for their customers. In the intervening decades, Schiffer has published some 4,500 titles on everything from art and architecture to ghosts and the paranormal.
A respect for value—of content, of books, of authorship—has been at the heart of the publishing house’s ideals. It's the driving force behind the company’s Schiffer LTD imprint, notable for a minimum advertised pricing (MAP) policy that stipulates the imprint's books will only be distributed to outlets who do not advertise the products below a publisher-set minimum price. In the store, the seller can sell the book for any price, but if Schiffer LTD finds that the title has been advertised below the MAP, it will no longer distribute to that seller. The policy may seem as idyllic as Schiffer's pastoral setting, but it's one that's got a history in other industries.
Book Business Extra caught up with Pete Schiffer, who was on his way to the airport en route to the Frankfurt Book Fair, to discuss the policy that the company thinks is the “wave of the future” for publishing.
Book Business Extra: So how has minimum advertised pricing been working for Schiffer LTD?
Pete Schiffer: We launched three titles (two and a half years ago)—[using the MAP policy]—that we created ourselves internally. We don’t want to try something new with an authored work; we don’t think that that is in everybody’s best interests to test something with the passion and the devotion of somebody who has invested the time in creating a book. We created three books, and we had success with it. So we’ve opened it up to our authors. Over the last two seasons we’ve published more than 45 additional books. They’re doing well. We created the imprint for the authors who were asking for another solution from the normal paradigm of how books are being sold in the current marketplace.