XYZ Press would like to inform you that your book, “Umbrella In the Horseradish,” has not performed as well as our sales projections originally estimated. As a result, all remaining copies will be remaindered.” ______________________________________________________________________
Suppose your publisher has just informed you that your book is being remaindered. What does this mean and should you be freaking out about this? Read on to find out.
WHAT ARE REMAINDERS?
A remaindered book is a book that, for one reason or another, has been slated for liquidation by a publisher. There are several reasons other than low sales volume that a book may be remaindered. These include hurts, overstocks, promotional sales, and white sales. Books that were injured in transit and returned to the publisher are nearly always remaindered. These are referred to as hurts. Sometimes a publisher will print too many copies of a book and decide to liquidate them in order to save inventory space and recover some portion of lost profits. A publisher may also intentionally mark down the price of a book to increase exposure to more readers. Many books are sold based on word-of-mouth recommendations from one reader to another. Occasionally, in the late stages of publication, a publisher may execute a flash sale of the book to help move inventory. These are called white sales.
Remaindered books are often marked by a small line of ink on the bottom of the pages of a closed book. This is typically done with a black felt marker and is easy to spot. Not all publishers adhere to this rule though. Some publishers have unique markers for a remainder copy. One such publisher is Simon & Schuster. They cleverly use their own logo as a remainder mark, making it more visually appealing for reseller customers who buy copies of the book.
The practice of remaindering is a final effort to recover manufacturing costs before destruction and is not equivalent to stripping a book. Think of remaindering more like recycling a book and giving it a second chance at life rather than being torched. Remainders are most commonly sold in massive quantities to the highest bidder. Remainders are marked down to preposterously low prices to sell copies quickly.
WHEN IS IT APPROPRIATE TO REMAINDER A BOOK?
So what are indicators that it’s time to throw in the towel and mark down a book? When a book goes Out of Print it’s pretty much a guarantee that any copies left in the warehouse will be remaindered. This means that a book just didn’t perform well enough to continue manufacturing it and will only be available from the publisher by special order. A publisher may also decide to switch to Print on Demand for a particular book to clear out inventory space and save on production costs for a book that has a low sale volume. As we discussed earlier, a publisher will occasionally have a flash sale on a particular book either to boost sales or to increase author exposure. This is a great tactic used to sell more books over a longer period as books often are bought on recommendation alone.
AVOID LOSING PROFITS ON REMAINDERS
A resourceful publisher has many ways to sidestep sunken costs that stem from the remaindering of a book. Firstly, a publisher should begin the publication of a book with Print on Demand manufacturing. By starting without a large stockpile of books, a publisher can gauge market interest without a heavy upfront investment beyond galley and promotional copies. Before remaindering a book, your publisher should be doing some serious groundwork to make sure that an author has every chance to earn a decent royalty from every sale. To do this, a publisher should individually reach out to smaller booksellers with reasonably conventional discounts. Your publisher should also be actively engaged in negotiations with non-bookseller organizations that might be interested in your type of book. (Hospitals, medical facilities, museums, libraries, gift shops, etc.) Additionally, a publisher might deploy highly publicized flash sales to reduce inventory rather than slashing prices with little effort. A good publisher is like a good lawyer. They’ll fight for you! One other thing you may not have considered is the authors themselves. Every publisher should have, in their contract, a clause that allows an author the purchase copies of their book at the manufacturing cost plus shipping and handling. This allows for an author to help effectively market their own book and also counts towards sales figures.
IS REMAINDERING THE END?
For an author, the idea of your book being remaindered can be a scary thought. If your book has already been remaindered then there may not be much you can do. Even with a solid effort, there’s no guarantee that you call pull your book back from the edge. This is one of the very harsh realities of authorship and publishing as a whole. So what can you, the author, do to help make sure that your book doesn’t go Out of Print / get remaindered?
First, we need to make some distinctions. It’s worth noting that while being “Out of Print” always means remaindering, the opposite isn’t necessarily true. It’s quite possible for a book to be remaindered without going Out of Print. As we mentioned earlier, a publisher may execute a partial remaindering either to promote a book or to clear out excess inventory. If you catch wind that your book is being remaindered, find out whether this is a partial or a whole remaindering before you hyperventilate. A good publisher will let you know in advance about any plans to remainder your book. When they do reach out, ask them why your book is being remaindered. If your publisher tells you that this is a partial remainder, try not to freak out. This is something that happens from time to time and generally speaking, we know what we’re doing. In fact, a short remaindering run can be a great way to create exposure for an author by making a book available at a lower price to new audiences.
On the other hand, if your publisher tells you that their entire stock of your book is being remaindered, then you may have a reason to worry. At the very least, a remaindering in whole means that your book isn’t selling enough copies for your publisher to stock it. At worst, it means your book will be going out of print. If the latter of these scenarios is the case, your luck has likely run out but if you believe in miracles, you can try some of these tactics to get your sales back on track.
Social Media Campaigns - Word-of-mouth is one of the best strategies there is when it comes to selling a book. Big-name platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Reddit, and TikTok are fantastic soap boxes for authors looking to boost their sales. In addition to saturating the market space, paid ads can be implemented at a reasonably low cost to spread the word about your book to the people most likely to want a copy.
Paid Advertising - Using online advertisement networks like Google, Bing, Droll, and Taboola can help to boost your reach outside of socially based communities. These services can aid in finding readers when they aren’t alive on social media or as they go about their browsing activities.
Influencers - In line with social media campaigns, influencers who are prominent voices for your book’s niche can be a game changer for low-sales projects. These individuals can be found on every network listed above as well as YouTubers, independent bloggers, and semi-famous people. Reach out to them and send a copy of your book for review!
IF ALL ELSE FAILS, WHERE DO MY BOOKS GO?
That’s a good question! Who will buy the books once they’ve been officially remaindered? The answer is simple. Anybody and everybody might buy a remaindered book. While there are a number of companies that exclusively buy remaindered books, you may only be familiar with a few of them. Some of these companies are American Book Company, Baker Book House, and BookPal. On the other hand, something you probably didn’t know is that lots of chain and independent booksellers pad their bottom line with remainders. Yes, that includes bookstores like Barnes & Noble, 2nd and Charles, Books-A-Million, and Follets. Buying remainders allows these entities to keep their shelves stocked for rock bottom prices. These bookstores have margins of up to 300% depending on the book. This is especially true since large, chain bookstores have the budget to buy thousands and thousands of the same book at once. Some of these books are bought for cents on the dollar and folks pay good money for them! This allows bookstores to keep the lights on from month to month while still carrying widely publicized titles.
Another common use for remainders is, surprisingly, crafts-people. If you’ve ever seen something like this:
A carved book in the likeness of a human face.
It was probably a remainder at some point or another and sold in bulk to either a craft store supplier or directly to the artist. Pretty neat stuff although seeing it gives me the same feeling as hearing nails on a chalkboard. Admittedly, this is a special kind of purgatory for both author and book but at least they were put to unique creative use!
HERE AT HIP
At HIP, we do everything we can to make sure that a book never truly gets remaindered. This is an undertaking that begins from the moment we lay eyes on a manuscript. When a book is designed, it should be crafted in a way that is both marketable and enjoyable. Ideally, a publisher wouldn’t engage in a contract that wouldn’t profit. I have found that most times when a book doesn’t sell, it isn’t because the book is bad. It’s Because nobody bothered to sell it. This is a huge problem with small and mid-sized publishing houses today. They either can’t afford to market a book properly or they don’t even bother and leave all the hard work for an author. Not here at Huntsville Independent. Samuel Jackson said it best in “Kingsman: The Secret Service.”
“This ain’t that kind of movie.”
Huntsville Independent fights for our authors, giving them every possible opportunity to have their books sold far and wide. We actively seek out new and innovative ways to market your book to the people who want it most. In addition to our specialized modular design process, we also utilize several cost-saving strategies when developing your book. Some of these include contractually hiring people we need to get what we want instead of having full-time staff on hand, utilizing Print On Demand technologies to reduce the likelihood of overstock-related SNAFUs, and targeted marketing to groups of people likely to purchase your book. Correctly targeting consumers is the most efficient way to advertise. When everyone else just wants to get it done, you can count on HIP to get it right.
All this being said, it’s nearly impossible for a publisher to evade severe markdowns for a small number of copies for any title. Whether from damage, returns, flash sales, or other reasons, sunken cost is always a risk that both publishers and authors must be willing to accept. HIP prides itself on a culture of generosity and donates a portion of all remaindered titles and will partner with global philanthropic organizations to aid in bringing charismatic stories to disadvantaged communities. We will always remain committed to making the world a better place, one story at a time. Thank you for taking the time to read this article. If you feel that you’ve learned something today, please share it with your friends so they can prosper as well. Have a positive and productive week!
Huntsville Independent Press
This article was brought to you by Huntsville Independent Press, a premiere traditional publishing house servicing southeastern writers in any way we can. If you enjoyed this piece or found it helpful, please consider donating to our house
@ $HIPHuntsville on Cashapp or by using the GoFundMe link found on the Support Us page. All donations go straight to author advances first and business expenses only. In that order. Together we can build a fair-to-authors company with ethical practice and a supportive passion for the art of the written word. Thank you so very much for your time!