Supply Chain Salvation

S&S, Scholastic Among Houses Pondering the Product Pipeline

While a well-oiled supply chain has been an obsession among other industries over the last two decades, book publishers have only recently begun to put the product pipeline front and center on the radar screen as they try to banish “inventory obsolescence” — products washing up on the corporate doorstep that no longer have any value. Spurred on by the flourishing of high-sale, high-return retail channels, big technology upgrades (SAP, anyone?), better access to sales data, and the improving economics of shorter print runs, most major publishers have sought out fresh thinking about inventory management as they look to boost sell-through efficiency, drive down product costs, and ramp up inventory turn.

Granted, it’s not the sexiest thing in publishing. But increasing consciousness of supply chain issues throughout the industry — including Borders’ much-debated “category management” exercise, ubiquitous Bookscan data, and information streaming from Baker & Taylor and Ingram — has led executives to take a closer survey of any supply chain slack. From forecasting demand to manufacturing, shipping, and billing titles, all the way until that inventory drops into the hands of a purchaser, publishers are working more concertedly than ever to avoid the classic worst-case scenario: books going out-of-stock at one account (causing missed sales) while being overstocked at another (you’ve got returns). And while the bottom-line impact may be debatable, the quest for supply-chain salvation is no doubt on in earnest.

‘Just In Time,’ Not ‘Just In Case’

One of the most ambitious such quests has taken place at Simon & Schuster, which got rolling in August 2000 with the launch of its Supply Chain Management department, headed up by Cliff Walter, who had been Director of Inventory Control and Operations at Pocket. The supply chain unit consolidated all inventory management departments and demand planners, who resided in the sales organizations at the time. This effort was central to “our ongoing initiative to significantly improve sell-through efficiency across all segments of our domestic business.” The group got cracking on a replenishment model, forecasting sales by account for major titles. Within a year more consolidation was under way: S&S folded production, inventory management, and supply chain management together under Joe D’Onofrio, Simon & Schuster’s SVP Supply Chain, who in a prior role as VP, General Manager of Pocket helped bring about what the company called “a significant reduction in returns.” Finally, this summer S&S expanded D’Onofrio’s purview even further to include the distribution and order fulfillment functions, as well as an operations group that manages reporting, customer and vendor requirements, and purchasing. Now, every link in the supply chain — from demand forecasting and manufacturing all the way through to distribution and customer service — reports to D’Onofrio, who in turn reports to CFO Sam Judd.

In theory, the process works like this: At the beginning of each selling season, the sales team “grids out” what revenue they think the new list will generate, while the demand planners are working with sales and publishing management to establish initial distribution targets for major accounts. Key to this process is the use of previous title sales history and point-of-sale data from Bookscan and other feeds from wholesalers and retailers. Then the production department is prepped to tackle the timing and delivery of books, which are in many cases shipped direct from the bindery. In practice — for Hillary Clinton’s Living History, which went out the door with a million copies — “this whole process worked like a fine-tuned orchestra,” D’Onofrio says. His demand forecasters were getting daily point-of-sale information from major accounts. They met with publishers and the sales team twice a day, monitoring retail channels. Once they tracked a sales velocity, they then turned to the production department to schedule quick reprints, and vendors were cued to deliver the product on time.

This crucial last link in the chain has been bolstered with “cross-enterprise collaboration,” meaning that S&S has begun to forge strategic partnerships with suppliers, signing last year a “long-term, single-source arrangement” with printer Quebecor World. As a result, turnaround time has shrunk in some cases to five or seven days, giving S&S an extra week or two to monitor sales before hitting the reprint button. The result? “Hillary sell-through has been phenomenal,” D’Onofrio says. “On a book with distribution of 1.6 million copies in the marketplace in six seeks, we’ve already sold through 1.2 million.” Meanwhile, John Adams went through more than 30 reprints, with over 1.6 million copies in print and a return rate of “barely 6%.”

Just one question: How do demand planners and inventory managers avoid internecine warfare with the sales organization? Officially, the demand forecasting department acts “in an advisory capacity” to the publishers and the sales force, and as D’Onofrio emphasizes: “The publishers are in control. We provide recommendations, but they’re the ones making the call.” The relationship with the sales teams has also evolved over time, as a certain amount of re-education has been necessary for reps who have been conditioned that the bigger the order quantity the better. “In the old days, it was all about getting the biggest order you can get,” D’Onofrio says. “The new model is, ‘Go get me the best order you can get.’” Now, when a customer orders up 25,000 copies, S&S may demur. “We’ve said, ‘We’ll give you 20,000 and we’ll stage 5,000 for you. If the book starts to take off, we’ll respond.’ That’s a whole different mindset.” D’Onofrio cautions that his team has worked hard to avoid alienating customers — as happened some years ago when other publishers took a hard line on restricting order quantities. As D’Onofrio explains, “There are customers who have taken exception to us second-guessing them, but they’ve learned to trust our judgment as long as we’re able to respond to their reorders.” As D’Onofrio acknowledges, “It’s very complicated and intricate and requires the utmost coordination across the whole value chain to get the result that you want.” Still, getting all of the players in the supply chain in the same room together is, at very least, a novel step in the right direction. “They’re part of the process. That never happened before,” he says. “At the end of the day, it’s all about getting the right product to the right place in the right quantities at the right time.”

Quarterbacking ‘Captain Underpants’

With a task as mammoth as the distribution of Harry Potter — or a “huge selling” education program like Read 180, which includes paperbacks and audiobooks as well as CD-ROMs and teacher materials, all packed in an inventory manager’s nightmare of 13 crates — you’d think Scholastic would also be burnishing its supply chain links. Indeed, the publisher has “invested very heavily” in the people, processes, and technology to give its big titles a better bounce, according to VP Supply Chain Pete Datos. At Scholastic, an inventory forecasting and planning revamp had just gotten under way when Beth Ford, SVP Global Operations and Information Technology, came on board in August 2000 and grabbed the reins. Specifically, the company targeted cost savings on products such as Captain Underpants (the new title just now shipping has a print order of 1.6 million) that are sold across a number of channels, including book clubs, fairs, and the trade market. “The whole idea was to drive cross-channel visibility of our inventory requirements,” Ford explains. As the centerpiece of its technology platform, Scholastic selected a Manugistics suite of supply chain software products, and in early 2001 Ford created the new position of VP Supply Chain, and brought in Datos from Unilever to shepherd the day-to-day activities, reporting to Ford. Finally, last fall the company began centralizing some of its planning operations, particularly on the supply side.

Here’s the drill at Scholastic: Datos oversees all capacity and scheduling functions, on the one hand, and inventory management, on the other, in addition to a planning and analysis group — with a few Joe Montana moves thrown in. “Pete’s role is to give a crucial weekly, monthly, and quarterly view of what’s happening across logistics, across manufacturing, and in the channels,” says Ford. “He sits right in the middle of all this activity and plays the quarterback role with all these different functions.” (Ford’s role is more analogous to D’Onofrio’s at Simon & Schuster. Among those reporting to Ford are Datos’ planning group; the logistics group; purchasing and manufacturing; and the warehousing group. Ford in turn reports to Scholastic CEO Richard Robinson.) At Scholastic, demand planning is carried out within each division, because demand drivers are different for each channel. Datos’ task is to consolidate these forecasts, time-phase them, and develop an appropriate inventory plan based on vendor and warehouse capacity. “Instead of asking the division what to print, we’re now asking them what they’re going to sell,” Datos explains. “We’re consolidating that across the channels and then deciding what to print.”

And that’s where the database comes in. Weekly updates of inventory positions in the company’s Jefferson City, MO warehouse are fed into the system, as well as sales information, and weekly master plans are generated — though Harry Potter required a detailed daily delivery schedule. (In the unfortunate event of a stock shortage, the planning group defers to each of the divisions to decide who gets what inventory.) At the same time, Scholastic has developed its system to offer vendors better visibility into its print capacity needs, and is working on an EDI link with R.R. Donnelley, the long-term vision being to integrate its system more usefully with both vendors and customers.

One might rightly wonder if consumer products strategies can work for books as well as they do for, say, cartons of Lipton tea. “It’s amazing how many of the analytical methods really do work across industries,” Datos reports. When Scholastic first deployed a technique used in other industries known as statistical safety stock — a way to forecast a bottom-line inventory number to cover fluctuations in demand — there was some doubt whether it would work for books. But — small wonder — Scholastic found this formula does a bang-up job for the publishing industry, allowing the company to take into account its “historical forecast error” and arrive at a minimum inventory level for each item. “It makes a lot of sense to have a safety stock level on our items that are regular evergreen titles,” Datos says. “There’s a real way to make sure that you don’t run out of stock.”

It’s clear that supply chain innovations have paid off for larger businesses. But should other houses order up a Manugistics implementation? Some say their nimbleness makes all the supply-chain difference. “Our size is an advantage,” says Jack Perry, VP Sales, Marketing, and Publicity at Sourcebooks. “We can’t outspend Scholastic. But we can communicate better. We’re also able to move faster. We don’t have to wait for 12 people to make a decision.” Still, Perry says tighter inventory control has reduced returns by 24% so far this year, driven by shorter, more frequent reprints: “We may do a reprint every couple of weeks. It does cost us more per unit, but instead of doing 20,000 we may find we only needed 15,000. We can skip that last reprint and it saves us from being overstocked.” Downloadable sales information has also helped level the data playing field. “In the past, large publishers had access to a lot of information that other publishers couldn’t get,” he says. “Bookscan has given smaller publishers more information, so we can now make these decisions.” In the academic publishing world, Oxford University Press USA has been able to drive a notable decrease in inventory costs via a print-on-demand partnership with Lightning Source, according to SVP Operations Brinton Strode. About 4,600 titles are now available on a POD basis, making sales of $2.5 million last year, and since Lightning has facilities in both the US and UK, Oxford can access the full breadth of its list from either side of the pond and drop-ship those titles for delivery as necessary.

How do souped-up supply chains look from the other end of the pipeline? “The major publishers have come a long way in working with accounts,” says Jean Srnecz, SVP Merchandising at Baker & Taylor. “They’re trying to take time out of the supply chain by more and better EDI relationships, and they’re making better use of the available information in the marketplace.” B&T’s own studies show that return rates are closely related to title lead times: the longer it takes between order placement and availability for sale, the higher the returns. Srnecz stresses that the company’s Title Source database offers publishers access to demand, on-hand, and order positions, in addition to custom reports. There’s always a downside, of course, when the supply chain turns into a trickle. “Returns are a cost of sales and marketing,” Srnecz says. “You need to model what the price of the book can absorb, and then work your supply chain metrics accordingly, watching the rate of sale day-to-day or hour-to-hour. Title Source is updated daily, and has a click through feature that allows near real-time access to inventory information.”

Other wholesalers credit publishers with aiding their own supply chain strides. “We definitely have seen a trend over the last few years, with primarily the larger publishers,” says Kelley Maier, SVP Product Management and Marketing for Ingram Book Group. “We’re not only seeing a positive impact on sell-through, but big benefits in inventory turn and in-stock rates both for Ingram to our customers, and also from our publishers.” Ingram’s fill rate on its nearly 750,000 titles is close to 90% — “the highest fill rate we’ve ever seen,” says Maier. She adds that Ingram’s ipage portal is being developed as an electronic feed that will push data directly into publishers’ systems, a function expected to go live with a select group of publishers in January.

We thank Mike Shatzkin of The Idea Logical Company for his contribution to this article.

Volunteers for Literacy

International Literacy Day is September 8, 2003, and herewith is PT’s occasional directory of volunteer opportunities in the world of reading and writing. For a relatively comprehensive directory of literacy organizations, searchable by zip code, check out www.literacydirectory.org.

New York Public Library Center for Reading and Writing: Volunteers tutor a small group of Basic Literacy/ESOL students from the literacy program’s waiting list for at least nine months. Time commitment is two hours, two times a week. Call Maura Muller, Volunteer Coordinator, (212) 930-0502. Donations may be made via the library’s website at www.nypl.org.

ProLiteracy Worldwide: Training takes 15-20 hours and tutors meet with students for one and a half to two hours per week. See www.proliteracy.org or call (315) 422-9121. The local NYC branch is Literacy Partners, where tutors work twice weekly with 10-16 students and a co-tutor in a learning center. See www.literacypartners.org or contact Susan McLean at [email protected], or call (212) 725-9200 ext. 120.

Learning Leaders: Recruits, trains, and supports volunteers for one-on-one and small group instructional support to New York City public school students. Check out www.learningleaders.org, email [email protected], or call (212) 213-3370.

International Center: A non-profit, privately funded language center for foreign-born newcomers to NYC. Volunteers teach English and American culture and, in the process, learn about other cultures. See www.intlcenter.org or contact volunteer director Mary Beth Holman at [email protected].

Literacy Assistance Center: A not-for-profit organization that provides essential referral, training, information, and technical assistance services to hundreds of adult and youth literacy programs in New York. Contact Dianne Powell at (212) 803-3335 or [email protected]. The website at www.lacnyc.org includes links to many major literacy organizations.

Reach Out and Read (ROR): A national pediatric early literacy program introducing children as young as six months of age to the world of books through the efforts of pediatricians, educators, and volunteer readers. Call Trish Magee at (212) 242-5339 or email [email protected].

California Literacy: The nation’s oldest and largest statewide adult volunteer literacy organization. Call (800) 894-READ or contact Matthew Scelza, (626) 395-9989 ext. 20 or email [email protected].

Literacy Connections: Volunteer opportunities are posted at www.literacyconnections.com, a portal for reading, teaching and tutoring techniques, ESL literacy, and adult literacy.

International Literacy Day: On September 8, the International Reading Association co-sponsors its annual literacy celebration in Washington, DC. The topic is “Literacy and Gender,” focusing on equal access for girls and boys to knowledge that prepares youth for leadership. The program takes place at the Bangladesh Embassy, 3510 International Drive NW, from 4:00 to 6:30 pm. Contact Jose Palacios at (202) 624-8459 or e-mail [email protected]. For more on the International Reading Association, a professional group active in 99 countries that promotes high levels of literacy, visit www.reading.org.

International Fiction Bestsellers

The Deal Down Under
‘Books Alive’ in Australia, Fresh French in Holland, And a Greco-Dickensian Fable

Some call it preaching to the choir, but preliminary results are in on Australia’s inaugural two-week, federally-funded, book-buying bonanza called Books Alive, which is aimed at luring “occasional, lapsed, and young readers” back into the literary fold with a buy-one-get-one-for-real-cheap offer. (It also entices those 87% of Aussies who read for pleasure at least once a week to get in on the goods — as you’ll see from this month’s Australian bestseller list.) Here’s the deal: Customers who bought a book from participating retailers during the two-week period beginning August 2 received one of six “Books Alive” branded books (which are proven strong sellers picked by a panel of retailers, government types, publishers, and Project Director Brett Osmond) at a cost of only A$5 — about $3.25. Informed by similar programs including Holland’s Book Week (see PT, 8/02), as well as market research by AC Nielsen and a gaggle of other industry experts, the panel selected the following titles for wall-to-wall promotion: Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks; An Anzac’s Story by Roy Kyle, introduced and edited by Bryce Courtenay; Anna Fienberg’s Tashi and Tashi & the Giant (juv. — published in one volume); Toad Heaven (juv.) by Morris Gleitzman; Sally Morgan’s My Place; and Ice Station by Matthew Reilly.

Books were sold to retailers (over 90% of which eagerly participated), in addition to schools and book clubs, and orders were tallied up to decide the print runs. According to Robert Sessions, Publishing Director of Penguin Books Australia, the print run for Kyle’s book, a recollection of a WWI soldier and the only new title in the group, was 80,000 copies. “Penguin ‘sacrificed’ this new book which was to be an original hardback for 2003,” Sessions tells PT. “The Government subsidised both Penguin and the authors for lost profit, and the book became part of the campaign and did well. We will then go on to publish our book as a hardcover (but fewer numbers) next year.” The program carries a budget of A$8 million to spend over four years (as part of a A$240m Book Industry Assistance Plan via the Australia Council), spent both in advertising the campaign and in subsidising the printing of the special edition; publishers and authors receive a “very small margin/royalty” on the titles, which are in effect “donated” to the campaign by publishers and authors. With part of its budget, the panel orchestrated a publicity blitz targeting an estimated 86% of all adult Australians with a Books Alive message eight or more times over the two-week campaign. Add to that six concurrent author tours through ten cities and regional centers, plus national review attention (even though five of the six books were not new releases), and it is no surprise that the initiative has drawn widespread notice. “At the largest event, 2,000 senior school children packed Melbourne Town Hall to hear each writer speak about their craft,” marvels Books Alive Publicist Andy Palmer. Publishers are also seeing a nice lift from the festivities. “We are very pleased with the support of the campaign from the buying public,” Osmond reports. “Initial figures indicate that we increased unit book sales by around 14% (excluding Books Alive titles) over the same period in 2002.” With such gung-ho government support for literature, is it any wonder Australia is one of the most literate countries in the world?

Also the talk of the land down under are two of Shane Maloney’s mystery novels, Stiff and The Brush-Off, which are slated to be made into 90-minute television movies by the Seven Network in 2004. The novels feature thirty-something single father and hapless sleuth Murray Whelan, who inadvertently solves mysteries by making a colossal mess of every investigation. The “infamous and irresistible” Whelan will be played by David Wenham (Lord of the Rings, Moulin Rouge); Stiff will be directed by John Clarke, and The Brush-Off by Sam Neill. “Shane Maloney writes like an angel, always in control of his plot and pace,” as Ian Rankin puts it. “Not that many readers will notice this: they’ll be too busy laughing.” The series has been published in the US (Arcade), UK (Canongate), France (Masque), Germany (Diogenes), Japan (Bungei Shunju), and Finland (Otava). US rights to Maloney’s novel Something Fishy, however, are still available from Michael Heyward of Text in Australia.

As it happens, Australia isn’t the only nation stirring up a book promo this month, as Nicci French grabs the top two spots in Holland with two titles published there exclusively. The People Who Went Away was written by Sean & Nicci French at the request of publisher Chris Herschdorfer of Ambo/Anthos. “We’ve published it as a short story at a low price point (about $2.50) as a promotional book to help carry one of our own marketing campaigns,” Herschdorfer tells PT. Sales have topped 140,000, and rights are available from ILA in London. The other title, Secret Smile, will be published in paperback in the UK by Michael Joseph in March 2004. (Also in Holland, we’re duty bound to alert you that those Prisma dictionaries are back on the radar screen as Dutch students scurry back to class. They comprise 7 of the top 15 titles, but we’ve condensed the list to include more trade titles.)

PT’s former bestseller list researcher Foteini Tsigarida checks in from Greece, where Soti Triantafillou’s latest “Dickensian” novel Century is raising eyebrows this month. Written in the tradition of novels “packed with characters from every point of the social spectrum,” Century describes the wealth and squalor of Victorian London, focusing on a poor girl from Bermondsey who falls in love with a homosexual nobleman, but marries a baronet who ditches genteel life to be a working-class leader. Triantafillou has been praised as “a multi-faceted writer” moving with panache “from the city where she was born to metropolitan cities throughout the world, from rock and roll to the ‘heavy artillery’ of world literature.” The book has sold 35,000 copies, and all foreign rights are currently available. The author’s previous novels have been published in Germany (Zsolnay), Israel (Carta), and a Catalan edition (1984). Contact Anna Pataki at Patakis.

As a final note, this month we’re pleased to debut our Czech Republic bestseller list. Stay tuned for a full report — including a briefing on Czech market trends, a parallel look at the Slovak Republic, and word of a “new meteor in the Czech literary skies” — coming up next month.

Searching for Clicks

Book publishers looking to brush up on their Internet marketing tactics could have done worse than sit through sixteen hours of pep talks and panels at the Jupiter/ClickZ Online Advertising Forum on July 30-31 in New York City. Sure, there were blindingly obvious insights — 72% of Internet users say pop-up ads make their skin crawl, compared to 42% who feel the same way about TV ads — and the whole Internet banner ad business is still going down the tubes, though it will sink less this year (6%, from $3.3 to $3.1 billion) than the 13% decline of the past two years. One mini-trend worth noting: “rich media” is hot. Click-through rates for these ads (which move, burble, or make other attention-grabbing gambits) are double those for static banner ads, though dial-up users can’t get them. That should change this year when broadband Internet access hits the critical 15% mark — upping the ante on what gets clicked.

But the biggest buzzword at the forum was “paid search” advertising, which is due to be up 50% this year, and Overture CEO Ted Meisel explained why. “110 million Internet users are now doing four-plus billion searches a month,” he said. “The average user is conducting 35 searches a month, ten of which are for something to purchase.” If a publisher wants to advertise titles among search results — say, a London travel guide that shows up when people search on the keyword “London” — here’s how it works. Advertisers bid at auction for ad placements around the search results for specific keywords. Getting in on the action is cheap: a keyword can be tested for $100, while the average cost for a keyword on Overture is 40 cents, or $400 for 1,000 clicks. Most significantly, Meisel said the average return on advertising spend for Overture was $5.09. “Search will continue to grow dramatically for several reasons,” he predicted. “Marketers will get savvier. New technology will enable them to manage the complexity of marketing at the SKU level, something for which no tools have existed because it’s never been possible before.”

Yet search isn’t everything, countered Martin Nisenholtz, President and CEO of New York Times Digital. “Only 13% of an average user’s time is spent searching,” he chided. “If that’s all you’re focusing on, you’re not doing advertising.” Hence the other buzzword at the Crowne Plaza ballroom — “contextual advertising.” This strategy has been touted as a way for publishers “to make more revenue from advertising while maintaining editorial quality,” and offers the ability to match a publisher’s online content with search keywords. If you have a web page for your London travel guide, for instance, then relevant ads (say, an ad for a London hotel) are automatically placed on your site. Two new such programs are Google’s AdSense and Content Match from Overture, while Primedia’s Sprinks sells categories of pages, rather than individual pages, in its network of sites.

Then there’s plain old email. A discussion headlined “E-mail and Beyond: Interactive Direct Marketing Tactics” grappled with the impact of spam on Internet marketing, and Paul Soltoff, CEO of SendTec, warned: “Be careful how quickly you agree to a do-not-send email list. As it is, 15% of legitimate email is getting filtered out. Look at your inactives to see if they are really getting their mail.” All agreed that email remains the most efficient way to keep in touch with — and keep — your best customers. Take a page from Cosmetíque, for example, which signed up more than 200,000 web site visitors in 12 months for its cosmetics clubs.

We thank New York-based freelance business writer Rich Kelley for contributing this report.

Book View, September 2003

PEOPLE


As summer winds down, it’s been unusually quiet in publishers’ halls, but look to an interesting Fall, with new positions being created, even as more rounds of layoffs are rumored. Meanwhile:

Holt’s Maggie Richards has hired Richard Rhorer as Marketing Director. He was previously Director of Marketing for the Rayo imprint at HarperCollins. . . Jay Sherman has been named VP, Operations for AMS, reporting to Mike Focht, EVP, Operations. He was with Random House. . . Jim Cook has been named Manager Specialty Retail for Running Press (Perseus Publishing), replacing Rich Kelly, who has left the company. Cook was Director of Sales & Marketing for Taylor & Francis.

SparkNotes has appointed Laurie Barnett as Editorial Director, in charge of all editorial development for its high school and college print and web product lines, reporting to Dan Weiss. She was VP and Editor-in-Chief of the Peterson’s division of Thomson Learning. And Stephanie Karmol has been named Sales & Marketing Associate, reporting to Associate Publisher Robert Riger. She was previously in the Children’s Marketing Group at Penguin. Also departing Penguin is Kelly Notaras, who left Plume to join Hyperion as a Senior Editor.

Ann Binkley, former Director of Public Relations for Borders, is settled into her new role as Executive Director of New York Is Book Country. She may be reached at [email protected].

Gary Todoroff has moved to Lonely Planet USA, as Director of Sales. His new work email address is [email protected].

Kensington Books, which recently hired former NAL Executive Editor Audrey LeFehr as Editorial Director and Lynn Bond, formerly of RH Value, as Director of Sales and New Business, has laid off longtime Executive Editor Ann La Farge. She may be reached at [email protected].

Between publishing endeavors, Cathy Fox now has her real estate license and is associated with Hudson Affiliates, Inc. in Westchester. She can be reached at (914) 693-8878 or [email protected].

As previously reported, Tony Lucki, most recently President of Harcourt, has been named CEO of Houghton Mifflin. He had worked at HM from 1977 to 1987. Pat Tierney, Global CEO of Reed’s Harcourt Education Group (which includes the trade division), will not replace Lucki, but takes on his direct reports.

While PW’s Steve Zeitchik is on sabbatical, Karen Holt has been pitching in. But what’s happening at Book Publishing Report, which Holt left earlier in the year? It’s being run by David Jastrow, who holds the titles of Managing Editor and Senior Analyst. He can be reached by email at [email protected].

Harlequin has named Sharon Hails to the new post of Director of Sales, Direct Retail. She was most recently SVP for marketing and merchandising at Sher Distributing.

PROMOTIONS


Rodale has recently named Dana Bacher to the position of Marketing Director, reporting to Associate Publisher Cindy Ratzlaff. Dana has been Associate Rights Director at Rodale since 2000. Prior to joining Rodale she held positions at Running Press and Kepler’s Bookstore in Palo Alto.

DULY NOTED


Walker Publishing is moving back to its Fifth Avenue roots: On September 11 it takes over some of Abrams’ space, on the 7th floor of 104 Fifth Avenue. The phone number remains the same: (212) 727-8300.

The world of small presses has been chattering about an increase in submissions of late. One correspondent notes that “Each has a cover letter in identical format. The last three lines of each letter are the same or virtually so. The stories are not coming from students. The senders all give their backgrounds, including their degrees and teaching experience and previous publications.” He wonders, “Might something like this be the culprit?,” and proceeds to give the URL of Writer’s Relief, Inc. (www.wrelief.com), a New Jersey company that streamlines manuscript submissions. Their site claims that, “If you love to write but hate the business of writing, we can help. Stop spending your valuable time researching markets, requesting guidelines, preparing cover letters, tracking submissions, and doing the many tasks required to see your work published. Rejection letters don’t bother us. In fact, we view them as steps bringing you closer to publication.” The cost for these services isn’t stipulated on the site, but the company claims not to take an agent’s cut, just a fee. And, they say, editors themselves have now become Writer’s Relief clients.

The last word is in on Otto Penzler v. Michael Viner and vice versa, where Market Partners served as a publishing expert and Penzler was ably represented pro bono by Boies, Schiller & Flexner, and the outcome was a $2.8 million judgment in Penzler’s favor. According to Penzler, the jury of eight was unanimous in their verdict, believing both his testimony as well as the testimony of Harlan Ellison, who took the stand to corroborate the authors’ point of view. The truly happy ending is that Larry Kirshbaum has agreed to issue the rest of the sports mystery series — at least four more titles — under the Warner imprint.

Last seen on the high seas: one hundred members of The Young to Publishing Group signed up for an evening of sailing recently offered by the AAP — one of numerous activities offered to members of the group, which is funded by the AAP. Membership in the YPG is free and open to “entry-level and junior industry employees (typically with 0-5 years of publishing experience).” Currently there are 600 members from 40+ companies in nine states. The group meets for monthly brown bag lunches, and can sign on to the “Little Big Mouth List” to receive galleys based on stated reading interests. For more information, contact Anne Garinger at [email protected].

SEPTEMBER EVENTS


“The Future of Licensing,” presented by The Licensing Letter, is scheduled for Sept. 9, 2003 at the Tribeca Grand Hotel. The keynote will be Andy Mooney, Chairman, Disney Consumer Products. In addition, Yankelovich will present research on consumer trends. Topics include Selling to the Emerging Majorities, Channel Strategies, and The Global Future (with IMG as the model of a global licensing company). To register, call (212) 941-0099 and mention Publishing Trends. (Event is open exclusively to subscribers to The Licensing Letter and Publishing Trends.) Fee is $995 and includes lunch.

On Sept. 17 New York Is Book Country kicks off the many events that culminate in the 25th anniversary of its Fifth Avenue Fair on Sunday, Sept. 21. Included are a Business Book Day (Sept. 17); a gala evening for authors and their readers on Sept. 18; NY Is Film Book Country on the 19th; a day of speakers that include Steve Martin, Neil Gaiman, and Walter Isaacson on Sept. 20; and the NYT Literary Brunch, featuring among others Mitch Albom, E. Lynn Harris, James Patterson, and Peggy Noonan, on Sept. 21. Robert Lipsyte will MC the event. Go to NYisbookcountry.org for details. The Mercantile Library will host an exhibit of posters that have been created for Book Country over 25 years, from Sept. 4-19. Call (212) 755-6710 for more information.

The Frederick Douglass Creative Arts Center presents “Celebrating the Black Voice Weekend,” September 20-21 at the Aaron David Hall. Regina Morris from William Morris, Marie Brown, Cherise Grant from S&S, and HarperCollinsKelli Martin kick off the weekend with a panel on “How to Get Your Book Published.” A dialogue with Derek Wolcott and August Wilson is scheduled for Sunday afternoon. For more information see www.fdcac.org.

MAZEL TOV


Congratulations to Hearst Books Publisher Jacqueline Deval, proud mom of Madeline Emily, born August 4. (Brother Jordan is now 7.)

Thrilling Ebook Sales? Mirabile Dictu

Like most publishers’ ebook expectations in this deflated era of digital publishing, Seven Stories Press had fairly unspectacular ones. They dutifully digitized their files. They hung out their e-shingle. They even wrangled a way to sell ebooks directly from their site. And the results trickled in. “Tiny” is the word one executive used. Even Noam Chomsky’s 9-11, which spent seven weeks on the New York Times extended bestseller list and has 300,000 copies in print, racked up only “a few hundred” ebook sales. Then, with the aid of Paris-based content management partner GiantChair, they converted some ebooks to the Palm Reader format, selling them on the Palm Digital Media site. And a lightbulb popped on. “As soon as we started putting books that had not been in Palm format on their site, we started seeing two digits added to our checks,” says Cory McCloud, GiantChair’s CEO. It was a “rather thrilling surge of ebook sales,” confirms Lars Reilly, Systems Manager at Seven Stories. “Palm Digital Media does a tremendous amount of business and we’re starting to see our type of titles included in that.”

Ebooks may still represent a drop in the bucket for the publishing industry, but it’s hard not to gawk at Seven Stories’ minor triumph. Ebooks? Thrilling? Just ask Mike Segroves, Director of Business Development for the Palm Digital Media Group, who says Palm currently sells 1,000 books every day, a figure that’s growing steadily. “If we continue the rest of the month at the same pace we’re going,” he says, “we’ll have a 19% increase over last month, and a 30% increase over July of last year.” Segroves figures that about 60% of all ebooks sold are in the Palm Reader format, which has a library of 10,500 titles, with 100 new books added every week. And readers tend to be rabid. A random sampling of three customers from his sales log the other day, Segroves says, turned up one who had purchased 178 books; one who had purchased about 50; and one who was a first-time buyer. “We’re very pleased with the rate our business is growing,” he says, noting that the company recently launched German and French editions of its ebooks, licensing technology to Internet retailers in those countries (pdassi.de in Germany; GiantChair in France). Partners are now being sought for similar operations in Italy, Spain, and Scandinavia, and Palm is also active in the UK, since WH Smith offers Palm ebooks.

At very least, say admirers, Palm wins the cachet award. “I like to see Palm as the iTunes of the ebook industry,” McCloud says. “You’ve got all these other bozos out there making life difficult. Adobe and Microsoft are barking up these complicated DRM trees that are just making the user run away from the whole experience as fast as they can.” Microsoft, as one might imagine, is conceding turf to nobody. “All of our publishing partners are reporting substantial growth in eBook sales — most of them double-digit growth over the past year,” Group Product Manager of eReading Cliff Guren said in a statement. To prod readers over to its fold, last month Microsoft launched a 20-week summer promotion of free downloads, offering up 60 fiction, nonfiction, and reference ebooks. (The catch: only three titles per week are available, and you can’t access previously offered titles.)

Among other publishers, cautious optimism rules the day. “The ebook market is a very, very small market,” says Kate Tentler, Publisher of Simon & Schuster Online. “But its growth is exponential. From month to month it can be anywhere from 50% to 70% growth over the previous year. We’re pleased with the places we’re seeing certain traction in terms of ebooks” — those being sci-fi, romance, and the big bestsellers. S&S sells ebooks directly in the Adobe, Microsoft, and Palm formats from its SimonSaysShop site, though Tentler sees no major consumer preference among the three formats. Her feeling is that further format winnowing will ensue before consumers curl up with ebooks as they do their iPods. Though Gemstar will be missed, she says: “When there are so many formats available, it dilutes the process for the consumer.”

Over at HarperCollins, executives are bullish about the PerfectBound ebook imprint, which has published more than 400 titles, with a record 300 expected this year. “We’re very pleased with the progress of our PerfectBound imprint, specifically the fact that it is publishing and not just digitizing,” says David Steinberger, President of Corporate Strategy and International for HarperCollins. “It’s a focused list. We provide editorial support and publicity support for many of these titles. And we publish on a global English basis in many cases.” Steinberger points out that the ebook program is knitted into a number of other new Internet strategies that are geared to the core mission of serving authors. Those include the “extremely successful” AuthorTracker service, which updates readers by email when their favorite authors publish new titles or go on tour — “We have over 3,000 authors and we have sign-ups for every one of them,” Steinberger says — and the Invite the Author service, in which authors are made available each month to participate in reading group sessions via telephone (newly invited authors include Anthony Bourdain and Jonathan Safran Foer). About a dozen authors have participated so far, according to Ardy Khazaei, recently promoted to SVP Electronic Media. Harper has also been syndicating content to more than a dozen non-book sites such as those for Fox network affiliates, which post Harper’s author interviews, chapter excerpts, and other book features.

Moving the P-Book Needle

That’s just the sort of Internet strategy some feel can actually move the sales needle — whether for ebooks or plain old printed matter. “Everyone is selling the bookstores,” says Carol Fitzgerald, President of The Book Report Network. “You really need to sell the readers.” Fitzgerald has been working with HarperCollins on a teen project, where 20 advance reader copies are made available in an “advertorial” on her teenreads.com site, and distributed to teens who request them. (Those readers are then invited to submit 50-word reviews of the title, which are devoured by the HarperTempest editorial team.) The program works, says Fitzgerald, because the site reaches its precise target market. “We have 57,000 teen readers,” she says. “They’re not coming here for makeup tips. They’re coming here to read.” Meanwhile, next month Fitzgerald is set to launch FaithfulReader.com, a site for Christian readers, and is currently seeking sponsorship from Christian publishers. So does it all pay off? “Our sales were up in the first quarter with Amazon,” she says. “We were up double digits. Our traffic was up so significantly, we had over half a million unique visitors coming to our websites in April alone. Publishing is in such rough shape right now, if people were doing more with the Web, I think they’d be faring much better.”

Distribution ‘Route Map’

Last month PT surveyed the bulging book-bags of client distribution players in the US, and a report to be released this month from the British Publishers Association indicates that a bundle of business from across the pond may well be coming their way. The US Book Market: A Survey and Route Map for UK Publishers, commissioned by PA International Director Ian Taylor with the support of Trade Partners UK, declares distribution the best route to the American market in light of a number of challenges facing US-bound British publishers. Dual English language rights, for example, have become ever trickier to enforce in what the UK considers its “home” markets of Europe and Asia, as the global supply chain leaks US editions into those formerly “exclusive” territories. Meanwhile, co-edition sales quantities are hurting from just-in-time inventory practices, cutting the numbers UK publishers can sell to the US. The upshot? “As a result, many UK publishers are shifting their attention from rights and co-edition sales to distribution, either with US publishers or dedicated distributors,” the report finds. “The distribution option, properly managed, offers UK publishers a solid platform for sustained market development and growth.”

That would seem to be good news for growing companies such as Trafalgar Square, the US distributor for about 45 British publishers including Random House UK and new client BBC Books. According to Managing Director Paul Feldstein, sales were up 6.5% in 2002, with sales for the first six months of this year up an even stronger 14%, aided by the company’s first million-dollar month in January (Feldstein was unavailable to comment for last month’s distribution article). Unlike many distributors, Trafalgar Square buys all titles on a nonreturnable basis, replenishing them via weekly air-freight shipments from Heathrow. Tellingly, perhaps, Trafalgar has long distributed for the UK divisions of what are now global conglomerates, such as Random, HarperCollins, and Time Warner. So much for synergy, eh? “Trying to distribute through their sister companies is much more difficult than anyone would think,” Feldstein says. “There’s no one on this side of the Atlantic at the sister company who’s driving the business for the UK company. No one backs that portion of the list. Whereas for us, it rises right to the top.”

Indeed, penetrating the American market can be a surprisingly rocky road for even the largest of UK publishers. A distribution-based strategy in the US “represents a long term commitment and investment,” the PA’s report cautions, noting that database-driven buying models and the highly agglomerated marketplace can be deadly for publishers who think they can just ship titles over and forget about them. Attention must be lavished on meeting the exacting standards of chain booksellers, of course, and UK publishers should have extra cash on hand for marketing and publicity. “Scale talks in the US,” the report adds. “Any publisher looking to enter the market needs to align themselves with a partner who has sufficient size to offer leverage in the trade.”

Scale, needless to say, is the prime attraction of the US market. Five times the population means five times the sales, right? If only, sigh distributors. Expectations of the US market can be vastly overblown, spurring catastrophic returns if stock levels are not keenly managed. In addition, the “route map” counsels, an array of distribution options are available for specific markets, such as Baker & Taylor’s academic specialty unit Yankee Book Peddler, which purchases books through its UK subsidiary Lindsay & Howes. “You have to be flexible,” Feldstein points out. “There are some books where a rights sale will make more sense, and there are some books where a distribution arrangement will make more sense. Hopefully your distributor would be helpful and honest in that regard.” (The PA report is available to UK publishers only. For more information, email Mandy Knight at [email protected].)

On a related distribution note: To clarify a point in last month’s article, Holtzbrinck’s distributed clients are served by dedicated national account managers, not a separate field sales force. Holtzbrinck’s two national field sales forces sell all of its publishers, including distribution lines, to independent bookstores, regional chains, and other accounts.

Columbia’s Go-Go Grads

If it’s August, it’s — yes — time to catch up with this year’s crop of 100 stupendously accomplished Columbia Publishing Course graduates. As in years past, we’ve captured their collective chutzpah in the composite biographical sketch below (all achievements are taken from actual student biographies). Live dangerously and see them for yourself at Columbia’s Career Day, to be held August 4 at the Time Life Building in New York; call (212) 854-8047 or email [email protected].

To her parents’ surprise, Ms. Student did not become a bull-rider like her brother, but instead self-published her first book at age seven using a recycled diary, stickers, and Crayola markers. According to her town librarian, she set a record for borrowing books at age five, and at fifteen, she took that early love of reading to The Associated Press where she became the AP’s youngest-ever book reviewer. Having composed her college application in rhyming verse, she entered Yale with a limited worldview yet graduated with a thesis focusing on linguistic cross-dressing in three of Shakespeare’s comedies. Ms. Student also hopes to translate Shakespeare into Mandarin as part of her Fulbright scholarship to Taiwan. As a senior, she interned for a literary agency and was named Query Guru and Goddess of Photocopying. Writing about collective memory and the architectural landscapes of Paris and studying Francophone literature over cappuccinos at the Sorbonne fueled Ms. Student’s desire to embrace a career in the alchemy of language and culture. While working as a consultant and technical writer in the drinking water industry, she pursued a freelance writing career, studying creative writing under Ann Beattie; her prose includes “So Not Kosher,” exploring the physiognomy of her Ashkenazi nose. She has also illustrated a German children’s book, which was exhibited in the WorldExpo2000 in Hannover. After leaving her job as a video game publicist and interning at the Howard Stern Show, she wrote one line of an episode of Family Law, a CBS series cancelled last spring. Despite a vocal injury, she still sings jingles and once auditioned for Star Search, but now dedicates most of her free time to Ashtanga yoga, metal smithing, and syncretism. Our munificent student has also recently competed in a fundraising Iron Chef tournament. Still donning sneakers in a world of Manolos, she has mountaineered in the Grand Tetons and was raised to appreciate a good horse.

Book View: August 2003

People
Mary Albi has been named VP Sales & Marketing in the New York office of the Continuum International Publishing Group. She was most recently VP Sales & Marketing at Phaidon Press . . . Roy Levenson has been named VP Finance & Operations at Barnes & Noble Publishing, reporting to Alan Kahn. He was previously at Hearst, S&S, and Time Warner.

Stephen Morrison, Senior Editor at Penguin, is leaving for Bloomsbury USA, where he will be Rights Director/ Executive Editor of Paperbacks, beginning on October 1. He will handle domestic and foreign rights (working with Ruth Logan in the London office) and will run Bloomsbury’s growing paperback list. . . Ann Godoff, President and Publisher of The Penguin Press, announced that Tracy Locke has been appointed Associate Publisher, responsible for marketing and publicity, but with “involvement in all aspects of the publishing program.” Her appointment is effective September 2. Locke was Associate Director of Publicity at Holt.

Lesley A. Martin has been named Executive Editor at Aperture Books. She was most recently at Umbrage Editions and had previously been Managing Editor at Aperture. She will report to Aperture Foundation’s Executive Director, Ellen Harris.

Following on the termination of 75 people (more than 100 positions were eliminated when unfilled positions are taken into account), S&S has made a hire: Michael Burkin from Hyperion to be VP, Director of Field Sales and Distribution Client Services. He replaces Roger Williams, who may be reached at [email protected]. And former GQ Managing Editor Martin Beiser has joined the Free Press as a Senior Editor. Meanwhile, Marie McCullough, one of those terminated, had been Subsidiary Rights Manager. She may be reached at (212) 779-7657 or [email protected]. Also on the termination list was Al Talisse, VP, Operations (along with “several of my managers”). He may be reached at (917) 751-7347. And Marcela Landres, who handled the Libros en Espanol line, can be contacted through her website: marcelalandres.com.

Amanda Mecke is taking the early retirement package at Bantam Dell. Sharon Swados is taking over the department as VP, Director of Sub Rights. Mecke will be working with Clear Agenda, a company that does strategic communications and branding projects for nonprofits. She may be reached at [email protected]. Little Random’s Deborah Aiges has also taken the package, effective immediately.

It must be in the air: Wiley announces that Carole Hall, Editor-in-Chief of African American interest books, has “retired to pursue independent publishing ventures.”

Deborah Baker has left Little, Brown, and is taking a sojourn in India.

Former NAL Executive Editor Audrey LeFehr has been named Editorial Director of Kensington. And Lynn Bond, formerly of RH Value, has been named Director of Sales and New Business.

Still no word, according to David Naggar, on a replacement for Christine McNamara, who moved from Publisher of Random Audio to VP, Director of Sales for Random House Information Group, Adult Audio, Value and Large Print divisions.

Promotions
Liz Perl has been promoted to Associate Publisher of Perigee/HP Books and Associate Publisher of Riverhead Trade Paperbacks. She has worked at the company since January 1994. Since then, she has risen from Publicity Director to Vice President, Executive Publicity Director and in 2001 she was also named Marketing Director. In other announcements, Denise Silvestro and Gail Fortune were each promoted to the title of Executive Editor of Berkley.

As announced elsewhere, Susan Weinberg has been named to the newly created position of Publisher of the HarperCollins imprint and will also serve as Co-Publisher of trade paperbacks companywide along with Morrow Avon Publisher Michael Morrison. David Roth-Ey, recently of Bookspan, reports to the pair as Editorial Director of Perennial, Quill, and the new suspense line Dark Alley. Alison Callahan was promoted to Senior Editor. In other promotions, Carie Freimuth will be both Publishing Director of ReganBooks, reporting to Judith Regan, and Group Publishing Director of the Harper General Books Group. Carrie Kania moves up to Associate Publisher of the HarperTrade division. Freimuth has announced that Ana Maria Allessi has been promoted to Associate Publisher of HarperAudio and Harper Large Print, succeeding Kania. Jean Marie Kelly has been promoted to Group Marketing Director.

Duly Noted
The Bookseller reports that the UK Office of Fair Trading has warned Frankfurt exhibitors to “read the small print” before signing up to book fair directories, after more than 236 companies found themselves unwittingly committed to a three-year advertising contract. The company that hoodwinked them, Construct Data, refers in its letter to “your existing free line-entry,” in their Fair Guide, but charges €971 a year and — as the owners of Publishing Trends have found out — they are dogged in their efforts to collect. The UK Directories & Database Publishers Association has urged publishers not to pay up, even when faced with threats (which include verbal abuse, according to our well-placed sources). The official FF website (www.frankfurt-book-fair.com) contains a warning about directory fraud, as well as a legal letter that may be copied and sent to the company.

On the day of its publication party for Wall Street financier Eddie Gilbert, Texere, in which Swiss Re had a majority ownership, announced its sale to Thomson’s South-Western division. Myles Thompson, Texere’s founder, has joined South-Western as Publisher.

• Steven Sorrentino was the Director of Publicity for HarperCollins. His first book, Luncheonette, has been sold by agent Stuart Krichevsky to ReganBooks. It is the story of four years in Sorrentino’s life when he was forced by his father’s illness to return to run the family business. “So much for the high life in Manhattan,” says Krichevsky’s letter to editors. “Sorrentino would instead spend the next four years behind the counter at Clint’s Corner, serving up breakfast and lunch to the locals at the joint that had been his father’s watering hole (and the center of small town civic life in West Long Branch, New Jersey) for as long as Steven could
remember. . . . Clint Sorrentino may have been confined to a wheelchair, but he would never lose his optimism, his determination, or the opportunity for a good wisecrack. Seemingly oblivious to the constant medical setbacks that would have stopped a lesser man in his tracks, Clint Sorrentino would manage to further his career in local politics, becoming the town’s first Democratic mayor in 56 years, and was eventually elected to four terms as the beloved ‘Mayor on Wheels.’”

The August issue of Fast Company features an article (with pics) entitled “Books that Matter.” Some are pretty predictable: Larry Johnston, the Chairman and CEO of Albertson’s, likes Execution. Bob Nardelli, President and CEO of Home Depot, favors The Experience Economy. But then things get fun: Chuck Williams was on a buying trip for Williams-Sonoma in 1959 when he came across Les Recettes de Maple, about simple French cooking, and the rest is culinary publishing history. Maureen Egen read GWTW when she was 11, and it “put me on my career track.” James Billington, the LC’s Librarian, chose Dostoyevsky: “I can’t say that I’ve ever been surprised or shocked by any political developments in the real world, because I met most of them during my sophomore year of college in The Possessed.”

The San Francisco Chronicle writes that Louis Borders, co-founder with his brother of the eponymous retailer (and founder of the now-bankrupt Webvan), is at it again: he just launched KeepMedia.com, a site that aims to make money by charging a monthly subscription for access to the archives of 140 magazines and newspaper columns, going back 10 years.

Remaking the Regionals

Regional Bookseller Trade Shows Strive to Get Their Groove Back

The nine major regional bookseller trade shows are, in a perfect world, where manna falls from heaven. From Portland, Oregon to Jekyll Island, Georgia, that’s where finished fall titles are grabbable for the first time; where an independent bookseller can actually catch the eye of a sales manager; where orders are written, and those already written are upped. It’s where booksellers and reps have collegial tête-à-têtes, while authors sign copies for gaga bookstore clerks. It’s where buzz builds for fall and starts for spring. And saliently, for the nation’s hardscrabble booksellers, it’s not a costly convention in New York or Los Angeles. “It’s a way to do good solid business without having to incur the high cost of BookExpo America,” as one publisher sums up. “It’s sort of where the rubber meets the road.” (See Calendar for fall show dates and details.)

Yet those Pirellis have been hitting some cold, hard, asphalt lately. While some regional groups are keeping traction in a lousy economic climate, others have been socked with bookseller attrition, slumping ad sales for their holiday catalogs, and what they perceive as a jilting from large publishing houses. “We’re seeing some increases in small presses,” says Thom Chambliss, Executive Director of the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association, “but with the conglomeration of the industry, we’re getting less participation from the majors on a regular basis. They’re cutting back in every way they can.” And he’s not the only one feeling the pain. “In the past three years our number of exhibitors has gone down,” says Lisa Knudsen, Executive Director of Mountains & Plains Booksellers Association. “All the regional associations have suffered financially from the consolidations in publishing.”

Crux of the Catalog

When it comes to publisher support, the regional sine qua non is buying advertising in the winter catalogs — the major revenue source for most regional groups, and a key marketing piece that booksellers pitch to customers over the holiday season. MPBA prints 500,000 copies of its version, with as many as 10,000 given free to each member store, plus inserts in The Denver Post and The Bloomsbury Review. The problem, however, is not merely conning publishers into taking ads; the real trick is to get them to take the right ad. “Many times, marketing departments are not even thinking regionally at all,” Knudsen says, and they’ll put blockbuster titles in catalogs across the board — the same titles that are heavily discounted at the chains. “If the books that are advertised are not the ones our booksellers can sell, the whole thing is an exercise in futility.” So last spring the group got 25 booksellers to suggest better titles to publishers; the strategy worked, and some titles publishers had intended to advertise were pulled and replaced with bookseller suggestions. It may be a tough battle, however, as publishers such as Hyperion, which used to carefully pick books for each region, now buy space across all the catalogs for just a couple of key titles, according to former Sales Director Michael Burkin (who will now head up field sales and client distribution at Simon & Schuster).

Indeed, “everybody’s budgets are tight right now,” says Susan Walker, Executive Director of the Upper Midwest Booksellers Association. “We have publishers who have advertised with us year after year, and this year they are telling us they cannot do it.” The UMBA prints 310,000 catalogs, with distribution directly to store customers and inserts in regional copies of the New York Times. Meanwhile, UMBA’s “Midwest Favorites” program offers reduced ad rates to regional publishers or to midlist titles from large houses. UMBA has also been deploying more sophisticated tools — Bookscan data and Book Sense regional bestseller lists — that help persuade publishers to pitch in. “We had 19 books that were in the catalog that were all on the bestseller list during the time that the catalog was active,” Walker says. “It was awfully nice to go to the publishers and say, ‘See, it worked!’”

Beyond the catalog, groups such as the New Atlantic Independent Booksellers Association are working hard to keep show numbers from slipping. “This year is the first time in a few years that we’re seeing new exhibitors come onto our trade show floor,” notes Executive Director Eileen Dengler. “We’re getting newer, smaller presses, and this year we’re expecting we might even be sold out.” The show will highlight bookstore events that can be held to market titles without necessarily having the author on hand (Joe Drabyak of The Chester County Book & Music Company will roam the halls, daring any publisher to suggest a title they think can’t be promoted without an author), as well as profitable store sidelines. Dengler says membership has jumped by at least 100 to about 300 stores since she took over in early 2000, partly due to bolstered renewals, plus initiatives including the author tour program, which clusters bookstores in geographic zones that authors can feasibly hit in a two-day blitz.

As cash-strapped booksellers abandon BEA, adds Jim Dana, Executive Director at the Great Lakes Booksellers Association, “the regionals are getting to be more important for them in terms of their one trade show for the year.” Meanwhile, Dana has taken a radical approach to keeping his stores on the map. “Publishers kept asking me what was happening in the stores,” he explains. “It was very clear to me that in New York a lot of those people don’t see many stores outside of the East Coast.” So for three years now Dana has escorted a group of booksellers on a week-long trek to New York City, visiting publishers for brief presentations about their stores that frequently turn into mini-focus groups. “There have been some great success stories,” Dana says, “with booksellers from pretty out-of-the-way places now being sent authors and having ongoing relationships with publishers that didn’t exist before — and would probably never have existed had they not had that personal experience.”

Some larger publishers say their commitment to regional shows hasn’t wavered. “The regional shows have been something that all the publishers that I’ve worked at have always taken very seriously,” says Josh Marwell, SVP Sales at HarperCollins. “We have a full booth at all of them.” As do other large publishers, Harper sends telephone sales reps to the shows — in addition to marketing, publicity, and other sales staffers — where they gain face-to-face time with front-line bookstore buyers who would not normally attend the larger national convention: “It’s a benefit that has year-long positive effect,” Marwell says. “Over the last five years we’ve had the same level of participation,” adds Kathy Smith, VP Sales Administration and Operations. “We do have authors going to every single show. We do have advance readers and galleys to give away. We participate in all of the regional holiday catalogs.” Executives at other large houses privately admit to cutting back on the catalogs — $2,000 for an entry can mean no marketing — and argue that buying space does not influence orders. And at smaller houses, budgets are even more barren. “Our advertising budgets are just not big enough to participate in as many holiday catalogs as I would like,” says Hilary Reeves, Managing Director of Milkweed Editions. “But we have elbow grease, and we use it to maximum effect. To a certain degree these regional shows are big-time elbow grease.” Of course, for some publishers, manna does still fall from heaven. Stranger in the Woods, self-published from Michigan–based Carl R. Sams II Photography, got its start at GLBA and other regional shows and hit #1 on the New York Times Children’s Picture Book list last December (it was also #4 on the Book Sense National Bestseller List; the title’s millionth copy is currently on press). “That first year we actually bought cover positions on some of the bookseller association catalogs,” Sams tells PT, “and they’re the ones that put us on the national bestseller list.”

From a rep’s perspective, the regionals still pay off — at least in goodwill. “I haven’t really noticed the larger publishers pulling back from the regional shows, at least not ours,” observes Ted Heinecken of Heinecken Associates. He says the regionals have been putting more pressure on membership to actually buy titles in the catalog and display them in stores. “I keep thinking that there might be a way to combine this with Book Sense,” he says — possibly in the form of a national Book Sense catalog — and adds that he does track orders and calculates the profit or loss on attending the show. “At this point, I’m happy if we can show that we’re breaking even with these calculations. Then the profit would be more likely to show up in terms of goodwill.” Others note that the regionals could benefit from some conglomeration themselves, perhaps combining forces (NEBA with NAIBA, UMBA with Great Lakes) for greater heft and store diversity.

Don Sturtz of Fujii Associates concurs that freight and travel costs can be hard to recoup on show orders. “If the membership is not able to support us by writing orders, maybe we should rethink the exhibition portion of the shows,” he says. Sturtz — who works with UMBA, Great Lakes, and Mid-South, and will support all three shows this year — would also like to see educational programming on nuts-and-bolts issues that include local reps, rather than higher-level publisher-to-bookseller chats about financial management or selling Spanish-language titles (take note, Random House, which finances many of these sessions). “The stores need to communicate better to the reps what we’re doing right and wrong,” Sturtz observes. “And we need to communicate to the booksellers what we need them to do to make it profitable for both of us to show up at their doorstep.”

The nine major regional bookseller trade shows are, in a perfect world, where manna falls from heaven. From Portland, Oregon to Jekyll Island, Georgia, that’s where finished fall titles are grabbable for the first time; where an independent bookseller can actually catch the eye of a sales manager; where orders are written, and those already written are upped. It’s where booksellers and reps have collegial tête-à-têtes, while authors sign copies for gaga bookstore clerks. It’s where buzz builds for fall and starts for spring. And saliently, for the nation’s hardscrabble booksellers, it’s not a costly convention in New York or Los Angeles. “It’s a way to do good solid business without having to incur the high cost of BookExpo America,” as one publisher sums up. “It’s sort of where the rubber meets the road.” (See Calendar for fall show dates and details.)

Yet those Pirellis have been hitting some cold, hard, asphalt lately. While some regional groups are keeping traction in a lousy economic climate, others have been socked with bookseller attrition, slumping ad sales for their holiday catalogs, and what they perceive as a jilting from large publishing houses. “We’re seeing some increases in small presses,” says Thom Chambliss, Executive Director of the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association, “but with the conglomeration of the industry, we’re getting less participation from the majors on a regular basis. They’re cutting back in every way they can.” And he’s not the only one feeling the pain. “In the past three years our number of exhibitors has gone down,” says Lisa Knudsen, Executive Director of Mountains & Plains Booksellers Association. “All the regional associations have suffered financially from the consolidations in publishing.”

Crux of the Catalog

When it comes to publisher support, the regional sine qua non is buying advertising in the winter catalogs — the major revenue source for most regional groups, and a key marketing piece that booksellers pitch to customers over the holiday season. MPBA prints 500,000 copies of its version, with as many as 10,000 given free to each member store, plus inserts in The Denver Post and The Bloomsbury Review. The problem, however, is not merely conning publishers into taking ads; the real trick is to get them to take the right ad. “Many times, marketing departments are not even thinking regionally at all,” Knudsen says, and they’ll put blockbuster titles in catalogs across the board — the same titles that are heavily discounted at the chains. “If the books that are advertised are not the ones our booksellers can sell, the whole thing is an exercise in futility.” So last spring the group got 25 booksellers to suggest better titles to publishers; the strategy worked, and some titles publishers had intended to advertise were pulled and replaced with bookseller suggestions. It may be a tough battle, however, as publishers such as Hyperion, which used to carefully pick books for each region, now buy space across all the catalogs for just a couple of key titles, according to former Sales Director Michael Burkin (who will now head up field sales and client distribution at Simon & Schuster).

Indeed, “everybody’s budgets are tight right now,” says Susan Walker, Executive Director of the Upper Midwest Booksellers Association. “We have publishers who have advertised with us year after year, and this year they are telling us they cannot do it.” The UMBA prints 310,000 catalogs, with distribution directly to store customers and inserts in regional copies of the New York Times. Meanwhile, UMBA’s “Midwest Favorites” program offers reduced ad rates to regional publishers or to midlist titles from large houses. UMBA has also been deploying more sophisticated tools — Bookscan data and Book Sense regional bestseller lists — that help persuade publishers to pitch in. “We had 19 books that were in the catalog that were all on the bestseller list during the time that the catalog was active,” Walker says. “It was awfully nice to go to the publishers and say, ‘See, it worked!’”

Beyond the catalog, groups such as the New Atlantic Independent Booksellers Association are working hard to keep show numbers from slipping. “This year is the first time in a few years that we’re seeing new exhibitors come onto our trade show floor,” notes Executive Director Eileen Dengler. “We’re getting newer, smaller presses, and this year we’re expecting we might even be sold out.” The show will highlight bookstore events that can be held to market titles without necessarily having the author on hand (Joe Drabyak of The Chester County Book & Music Company will roam the halls, daring any publisher to suggest a title they think can’t be promoted without an author), as well as profitable store sidelines. Dengler says membership has jumped by at least 100 to about 300 stores since she took over in early 2000, partly due to bolstered renewals, plus initiatives including the author tour program, which clusters bookstores in geographic zones that authors can feasibly hit in a two-day blitz.

As cash-strapped booksellers abandon BEA, adds Jim Dana, Executive Director at the Great Lakes Booksellers Association, “the regionals are getting to be more important for them in terms of their one trade show for the year.” Meanwhile, Dana has taken a radical approach to keeping his stores on the map. “Publishers kept asking me what was happening in the stores,” he explains. “It was very clear to me that in New York a lot of those people don’t see many stores outside of the East Coast.” So for three years now Dana has escorted a group of booksellers on a week-long trek to New York City, visiting publishers for brief presentations about their stores that frequently turn into mini-focus groups. “There have been some great success stories,” Dana says, “with booksellers from pretty out-of-the-way places now being sent authors and having ongoing relationships with publishers that didn’t exist before — and would probably never have existed had they not had that personal experience.”

Some larger publishers say their commitment to regional shows hasn’t wavered. “The regional shows have been something that all the publishers that I’ve worked at have always taken very seriously,” says Josh Marwell, SVP Sales at HarperCollins. “We have a full booth at all of them.” As do other large publishers, Harper sends telephone sales reps to the shows — in addition to marketing, publicity, and other sales staffers — where they gain face-to-face time with front-line bookstore buyers who would not normally attend the larger national convention: “It’s a benefit that has year-long positive effect,” Marwell says. “Over the last five years we’ve had the same level of participation,” adds Kathy Smith, VP Sales Administration and Operations. “We do have authors going to every single show. We do have advance readers and galleys to give away. We participate in all of the regional holiday catalogs.” Executives at other large houses privately admit to cutting back on the catalogs — $2,000 for an entry can mean no marketing — and argue that buying space does not influence orders. And at smaller houses, budgets are even more barren. “Our advertising budgets are just not big enough to participate in as many holiday catalogs as I would like,” says Hilary Reeves, Managing Director of Milkweed Editions. “But we have elbow grease, and we use it to maximum effect. To a certain degree these regional shows are big-time elbow grease.” Of course, for some publishers, manna does still fall from heaven. Stranger in the Woods, self-published from Michigan–based Carl R. Sams II Photography, got its start at GLBA and other regional shows and hit #1 on the New York Times Children’s Picture Book list last December (it was also #4 on the Book Sense National Bestseller List; the title’s millionth copy is currently on press). “That first year we actually bought cover positions on some of the bookseller association catalogs,” Sams tells PT, “and they’re the ones that put us on the national bestseller list.”

From a rep’s perspective, the regionals still pay off — at least in goodwill. “I haven’t really noticed the larger publishers pulling back from the regional shows, at least not ours,” observes Ted Heinecken of Heinecken Associates. He says the regionals have been putting more pressure on membership to actually buy titles in the catalog and display them in stores. “I keep thinking that there might be a way to combine this with Book Sense,” he says — possibly in the form of a national Book Sense catalog — and adds that he does track orders and calculates the profit or loss on attending the show. “At this point, I’m happy if we can show that we’re breaking even with these calculations. Then the profit would be more likely to show up in terms of goodwill.” Others note that the regionals could benefit from some conglomeration themselves, perhaps combining forces (NEBA with NAIBA, UMBA with Great Lakes) for greater heft and store diversity.

Don Sturtz of Fujii Associates concurs that freight and travel costs can be hard to recoup on show orders. “If the membership is not able to support us by writing orders, maybe we should rethink the exhibition portion of the shows,” he says. Sturtz — who works with UMBA, Great Lakes, and Mid-South, and will support all three shows this year — would also like to see educational programming on nuts-and-bolts issues that include local reps, rather than higher-level publisher-to-bookseller chats about financial management or selling Spanish-language titles (take note, Random House, which finances many of these sessions). “The stores need to communicate better to the reps what we’re doing right and wrong,” Sturtz observes. “And we need to communicate to the booksellers what we need them to do to make it profitable for both of us to show up at their doorstep.”