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Publishers Hope the Holidays Will Boost Print Sales

4958780234_701313c375_bWith all the major US trade publishers reporting ebook sales down in recent quarters, it should come as no surprise that said publishers are pinning their hopes on print books this holiday season.

The WSJ reported on Saturday that HarperCollins, S&S, Penguin Random House, and Hachette have all planned large print runs on what they hope will be their next best-selling titles:

The biggest bets are on familiar names and faces, a reminder of how much track records matter to readers at this time of the year. HarperCollins Publishers, for example, has printed 700,000 hardcover copies of Mitch Albom’s “The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto,” a story narrated by a guitarist touched by the supernatural. HarperCollins, like The Wall Street Journal, is owned by News Corp.

Tuesday also marks the return of Jon Meacham, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author. Random House is printing 390,000 copies of Mr. Meacham’s new work, “Destiny and Power: The American Odyssey of George Herbert Walker Bush,” making it the publisher’s biggest nonfiction work of the year.

On the lighter side, Grand Central Publishing will publish 120,000 hardcover copies of model Christie Brinkley’s “Timeless Beauty: Over 100 Tips, Secrets, and Shortcuts to Looking Great,” while Simon & Schuster has teed up 75,000 copies of TV producer Shonda Rhimes’s memoir “Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand in the Sun and Be Your Own Person.”

Fun fact: half or more of a print run is usually returned by booksellers and either remaindered or trashed. That’s good news for readers; even if Amazon doesn’t heavily discount the books (as expected) then the glut of books in the aftermarket will drive prices down.

But either outcome is bad news for authors. A deeply discounted paper book doesn’t pay as high of a royalty as say an ebook, and remaindered books pay no royalty at all.

The relatively large print runs come at a time publishers are already admitting that higher ebook prices are damping sales. Unfortunately, that has not resulted in the logical response (lowering the price). Instead, major publishers continue to focus on print, possibly to their detriment.

Would anyone care to bet on how that will work out for them?

image by jaycross

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