Tough Times in the Publishing Industry

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We live in unsettling times, not just because of the pandemic and climate change devastation, although they certainly play key roles. Lately, much has been written about the uncertainty and new challenges facing the publishing industry. By publishing industry, I mean indie and traditionally published authors, publishing houses of all sizes, distributors, and bookstores.

An article from IG Wealth Management, which focuses on the situation here in Canada, reports that supply shortages in paper, ink, and glue have hampered the ability to make books. Also, what used to take weeks to produce and ship now takes months and at a much higher cost.

One result of the shortages is that successful books which have sold out aren’t getting their second print runs. Nor are new releases being shipped in time for the Christmas market. Transportation challenges, which you’re likely aware of, further diminish the prospect of full shelves.

This means that bookstores, distributors, publishers, and authors are not going to make the money they would have under normal conditions. If you’d like to know more from the perspective of well-known Canadian publisher, Dundurn Press, please read the important article HERE.

As a geographically large country with a small publishing community stretched thousands of miles apart, distribution has long been a challenge for Canadian bookstores, but as this article clearly shows, things have become much worse and aren’t likely to improve quickly.

Another article from Friesen Press, which addresses some American issues, also stresses the lack of supplies, right down to printing plates. As stated in this article, paper production was becoming a major problem before COVID, as a significant number of paper mills have shut down in the U.S. over the last 5 to 10 years. Things have now reached a point where paper is being rationed to publishers. You can read more HERE.

The last print run I did was just over a year ago, when I had 100 copies printed of The Opposite of Dark locally. There were no issues with shortages at that time, but I wonder if this is still the case.

These challenges now force publishers, large and small, to be even more careful about releasing new books and assessing print-run size. What hasn’t been said yet, but which I sense from anecdotal information, is that publishers, and perhaps agents, are far less likely to take on new authors right now.

Of course, I know of a number of Canadian mystery authors who are releasing their latest titles this fall, but they signed their contracts a while ago and their publishers likely know how many books they can reasonably expect to sell in various formats.

A new author trying to break into the market is a huge uncertainty. Think about it. Even if publishers come across a fantastic author with a surefire blockbuster, how will they print enough copies to meet the demand? And what will they have to charge for those books to break even?

Some of you might think, well ebooks and audible books can step up, and I agree. But based on articles I’ve read (and I’m sure some of you have seen them) over the past couple of years, print still sells, especially at Christmas. It’ll be interesting to see what the stats show for 2021 and 2022.

Writers have had to endure a variety of challenges for many decades, but we keep creating and find ways to adapt under changing conditions. We might not have enough paper, ink, glue, or truck drivers, but we have plenty of ideas about how we can pivot and perhaps even help make things better.

Thanks to author Julie Ferguson, for forwarding me the IG Wealth Management and giving me the idea for this important topic.

Author: debrapurdykong

I'm a British Columbia author who's been writing for over 30 years. My volunteer experiences, criminology diploma, and various jobs, inspired me to write mysteries set in BC’s Lower Mainland. Employment as a campus security patrol and communications officer provide the background for my my Casey Holland transit security novels. I'm also a part-time facilitator in Creative Writing Workshops through Port Moody's Recreation program. Feel free to contact me at dpurdykong@gmail.com

16 thoughts on “Tough Times in the Publishing Industry”

  1. It’s very sad when you think about the number of books that are just destroyed at bookstores because they don’t sell. I’ll have to rethink where I’ll get my new book printed. Thanks for the info.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I generally sell about 20% of my Amazon books as print. Just out of curiosity, I checked and it remains that. Which, of course, doesn’t tell me how long buyers have to wait for their print book. Good article. Supply chain wasn’t even in our vocabulary a year ago. Now, it’s changing our world.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I ordered 40 copies of my children’s book when I first published it in April. It took a few weeks to get them. The printing used to be local, 30 miles away. Now it’s from another state. When I order 20 in early October, it took about 10 days to arrive. I ordered another 20 at the end of October, it took one week to arrive. I don’t know how long it take to ship to my readers though. Good discussion of the issue, Debra. We bought a recliner for my husband and picked up the floor model. When we ordered the second one, it won’t be shipped until May next year. I eventually cancelled it. Many furniture are in back order because the furniture manufactures are not getting the loams from China.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Interesting, Miriam. Thank you for sharing this information. I think that the size of your orders make it far more manageable than publishers who are trying to order 2,000 copies, especially if they’re using overseas printers. I’ve heard this about furniture as well, and now there appears to be shortages on toy shelves because the shipments are so far behind.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Orca Books recently lost thousands of books in a fire on a container ship bringing them from China. Sad indeed, but you have to wonder about the practice of so much manufacturing being done overseas.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, I saw that on the news, and immediately thought, there goes their profit margin for the season. And I agree, Audrey. Publishers really need to rethink the viability of publishing cheaply overseas, especially if the books can’t get to market in time for book launches, planned marketing campaigns, and the Christmas season.

      Liked by 1 person

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