Avoid dead books; clear out your cemetery

By Ramon Rocha

cemetery image
This visual had the most impact on Christian publishers and booksellers at the Cote d’Ivoire workshop where I spoke recently. I gleaned the idea from Edward England’s book, “An Unfading Vision”.

Dead books are dead missionaries not able to come out to spread the good news. In several countries where I have led training, dead inventory is a major problem. Somewhere, somehow, sometime in the past, wrong decisions lead to an accumulation of slow moving titles over the years. You may have overestimated the demand? You were too excited?

Publishing can be profitable but the risks are high. You want to have the right titles at the right quantities at the right time at the right places. Inventory management may reflect how well or poorly a publishing house is run. Learn to move that “dead” inventory in your warehouse and avoid the problem in the first place.

Move your dead inventory
1. Date your inventory
. Aside from aging your inventory in your management reports, color-code the sagging pallets or the dust-covered cartons of books in your warehouse. For example, put a red card on each carton that arrived in your warehouse 10+ years ago, orange for 9 years, yellow for 8 and so on. When you do your MBWA (management by walking around) at least once a week, you will be reminded of how long you’ve been storing dead books.

2. Prepare a marketing plan for each title in your cemetery. The objective is to resurrect and release them to accomplish what they were supposed to do.

3. Slash the price substantially, even below cost. Try “bundling” with other books. If you still can’t sell them, donate them (assuming they do not contain heretical teachings).

Avoid the cemetery
1. Analyze and think through all the titles in your publishing list with your team.
Ensure good, justifiable reasons exist for why you will invest time and money on each new and backlist title you will sell.

2. Publish within your means. Do your revenue and expense budgets far before the start of the fiscal year. Determine with your finance manager how much money you can set aside for new titles and reprints for the coming year using your projected monthly cash flow. Measure actuals versus projections and adjust accordingly.

3. Print only what you can sell in six months to one year. If that’s 500 copies, then so be it, even if the unit cost is higher. It is always better to reprint later than to be stuck with dead inventory. There is always a temptation to print a lot more to get a lower printing quote.

4. Get as many advance orders as possible. This will ensure specific quantities earmarked for certain customers. This is part of the marketing plan you have supposedly drawn up especially for each new “flagship” title.

5. Use print-on-demand (POD). Books printed using POD with offset quality still cost a lot. But prices are expected to decline in the coming years. Research availability in your area.

6. Publish ebooks. Start with your current bestsellers. You will not only save trees but gear up for the wave of the future and will be able to distribute globally.

7. Learn from your mistakes. Pray hard, work hard and avoid a cemetery of dead inventory.

What other ways you found effective in moving dead books and avoiding slow turnover? Leave us a comment here.

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