Reinvent Your Unsold Inventory
You would think it was one of the best kept secrets in the publishing business. … It's not that publishers don't repackage and remarket returns and unsold inventory. It's that they don't want the consumer to know.
"This is a secret because no one wants to talk about it. It is recycling at its best," says David Dunn, chairman of Dunn & Co., in Clifton, Mass., a self-proclaimed "book hospital" that repairs books and repurposes hardcover returns.
If the public perceives such books as "recycled," the publishers would have a perception problem, and the consumer may reconsider the purchase. Traditionally, publishers deplete unsold inventory through discount bins, online sales, catalogs and direct mail campaigns.
A large part of Dunn & Co.'s business is converting hardcover books to softcover by replacing the board cover with a softcover.
Many publishers choose this path as opposed to a discount bin because as a remainder, the publisher can only get a price based on what the market will bear. Repackaging the work as a softcover increases the value of unsold inventory, Dunn says.
The Penguin Putnam imprint of Penguin Group (USA), in New York, is one example of a publisher that has re-bound hardcovers as paperbacks.
"We usually do that with overstocked books to move the inventory, and as a way of recouping some income," says Diane Lomonaco, a senior production manager with Penguin Group (USA).
Sunset Books, a subsidiary of Time Warner, is a Menlo, Calif.-based "backlist" publisher that sells both hardcover and softcover titles, but only rebinds them if the covers are damaged.
Lory Day, Sunset's production director, says the company sells overstock to online retailers, direct mail companies and companies that sell through catalogs.
With today's digital publishing capabilities, Dunn says it is more cost-effective to re-cover and add pages to a select number of books targeted to a specific market. Publishers will also package unsold titles of a particular genre into a three- or four-book set and sell them as such, Dunn says.