No More Big Squeeze
WHEN IN DOUBT, BID IT OUT
There are also the old fashioned ways of working smarter, such as sourcing work wherever the best price is found. Right now, Grove/Atlantic places hardcover jobs with one printer, and gets book jackets from another, because the price was lower than single sourcing. And advance reading copies were sent to Lake Book in Chicago, because they could deliver a one-week turnaround.
Other mid-sized publishers note the same challenges. Last year saw no break-out book for North Carolina-based Baen Publishing. The house had a good 2002, thanks to a best-selling release by science fiction author Dave Webber. "That skewed our numbers," says publisher Jim Baen.
But 2003 was the same, without a blockbuster. Helping sales, however, was the company's Web site, 'The Bar', at Baen.com. "It translates into hidden customer support for our titles." Baen says.
Sales to retail chains are off by 25% at Byron Preiss Visual Publications, in New York. "The recession has resulted in significant decreases in national account sales," says company founder Byron Preiss. Here again, experimentation and innovation, handled prudently, helped to stem the flow of red ink.
In Preiss' case, that meant increased investment in e-books for Palm Digital Media's Palm Reader platform. "We've been successful with books and DVD packages, and book-and-CD packages for children, such as Jerry Seinfeld's Halloween," Preiss says. "We have also added subscription cards to our MAD paperbacks at [client] DC Comics' request. They supply the cards, and we bind them to the books."
From a book publisher's point of view, the need to push for efficiencies is no less compelling. Pearson Co. is setting up its preferred list of suppliers, negotiating price scales, and creating a climate of controlled competition for all its business units, says VP Mitchell.