One of my favorite people of all time was General Douglas MacArthur. He was so much more than a general -- he was also a great statesman who helped mold a defeated Japan into one of our greatest allies. He was also famous for promising "I shall return!" while leaving the Philippines. He then did so. A promise of returning was certainly a bold statement for a five-star general --- but it is not something you want to hear from your books!
First, before you hit the panic button, as shown last month, we are entering an era when more books are sold online than are sold in physical stores. This is true of Sunbury Press too. Only about a third of our sales are through physical bookstores. Almost all of these sales are handled by Ingram, our largest distribution partner. As I said above, we are now in the red with them, having experienced more returns in recent months than sales.
Over 90% of the returns were fiction titles --- many of them older. This means a number of you will be seeing red on your royalty reports where there has been black -- or little reported for a while. This is just the nature of the business, but it is concerning that fiction is hit so hard.
In one instance (I will not name the title or author), nearly ALL of the books shipped to stores over the last two years have boomeranged back. Most of these were hardcovers, adding to the cost. This poor author thought he had sold a ton of books to stores --- and he did for a while. These stores held these books for many months, and then sent them all back. Given that Sunbury Press was not holding funds over $50 on reserve, we took a hit by carrying negative royalty balances --- due to returns AFTER royalties have been paid.
It is common practice for publishers to hold in reserve up to 30% of royalties to account for potential returns. We have never done this in the past, but we may be forced to do so for new fiction authors.
In the meantime, should you be planning a signing event, or you know of a store wanting to carry your titles (especially fiction), please check with us first to see if we have inventory on hand. Thanks!