IN COLD TYPE: Overcoming the Book Crisis by Leonard Shatzkin

IN COLD TYPE: Overcoming the Book Crisis

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After a long career in trade book publishing (McGraw-Hill, Doubleday, Macmillan), Shatzkin became a leading industry problem-solver--but he concentrates so largely here on effecting a changeover in book distribution (so repetitively, moreover, and in such manual-like detail) that his book has little reach beyond the trade. The present system is inarguably nonsensical: after a semi-annual sales conference (at which sponsoring editors briefly talk-up each title), publishers' reps fan out across their territories and, in a harried minute or less for each, try to put the titles over with booksellers--or, more accurately, to get the biggest possible advance orders for the leading titles. . . in the knowledge that those titles (and only those) count with the home office and that unsold copies can be returned (for up to a year). Instead of such quixotic ""distribution-by-negotiation""--costly and unproductive--Shatzkin would institute ""rational, publisher-controlled and publisher-responsible distribution."" He spells out how the system would operate (the increase in turnover, the reduction in overstock and returns) and cites its attendant benefits: a broader selection of titles in each outlet, a better representation of backlist titles, etc. Publishers would be freed from the present lengthy production-and-marketing schedule (keyed to those semi-annual conferences and ""lists""), so that timely books could get into print faster; duplication (of Italian cookbooks, etc.) would be reduced, since titles would have a potentially longer life; more titles--or at least a greater variety--might be published, Book-selling and publishing profits would rise; prices--far too high, in Shatzkin's estimate--would decline. He also has suggestions re production economies (with examples from his own experience) and editorial reforms (""a positive mandate,"" individual independence). ""Corrective action may be taken by any publisher,"" Shatzkin stresses again and again. Even book-conscious others, though, are apt to find this too much about too little.

Pub Date: Aug. 23rd, 1982
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin