No More Big Squeeze
Grove/Atlantic, a New York-based book publisher, also threaded its way through the eye of the recession's needle. "In general, it's harder to sell books, and even when it works, it doesn't work as well," says Morgan Entreken, president and publisher of Grove/Atlantic. "The accounts take fewer books, and it's harder to get sell-through."
Being small has advantages and disadvantages. "We're not saddled with large overhead that requires huge volumes," Entreken says. "Nor is the house shackled to expensive contracts with authors negotiated in better days but we're probably more vulnerable, because we are not part of a big media group."
This really hit home when Grove/Atlantic got hit with heavy returns. "There's [consumer] resistance to buying fiction by a promising new author at $24," Enteken says. To compensate, Grove/Atlantic is publishing new authors, foreign authors, and books aimed at the youth market as paperbacks, skipping hardcover as the traditional first step. "People are starting to understand that it's better to market 2,000 trade paperbacks than 3,000 hardcovers and 2,000 paperbacks," Entreken says.
Entreken also found out that he can better market hardcover books after the movie version is released. Cold Mountain is being re-released in hardcover to take advantage of its late-December movie release, and a follow-up print run is being pondered.
Then there are simply smarter, more efficient ways to bring books into print that can shave production costs and time. "I'm doing a lot of single-sourcing for my paperback titles," says Muriel Jorgensen, production director at Grove/Atlantic. Text and covers are going direct-to-plate at an R.R. Donnelley plant in Oregon. The plant is only two days from Jorgensen's warehouse in Reno, Nev., which improves turnaround time.
Another tactic: print two sets of proofs, and keep one at the printer for reference, Jorgensen says. Changes are phoned in, rather than consuming budget dollars to send proofs back and forth via overnight mail. Subsequent color proofs are PDF files sent via e-mail.