Here’s a very long post by Kristine Kathryn Rusch — I know, all her posts are super long, so that part need not be emphasized — but anyway: Supply Chain Woes…Traditional, Indie, And More
The post starts by quoting parts of a Twitter thread by a bookseller:
got notice from a rep that a book pubbed TWO WEEKS AGO has sold through the print run and they don’t expect any more to be printed…btw we’re in extreme red alert territory because this was random house
Kristine goes on:
I know some of you live under rocks and/or have decided not to pay attention to anything right now (and boy, do I relate), but surely even you all have noted the supply chain issues. Your favorite grocery store doesn’t stock the same things it used to.…
I have in fact decided not to pay attention to anything this year, but yes, I have certainly noticed that. Do you realize you often can’t get cream? Almost every week I pick up a pint or a quart of heavy cream, and lately cream has mostly been impossible to find. It’s just not there. Other things may be in short supply too, but this is the one that is really missing. I don’t know what’s going on with that.
I had no idea this was happening to books. It’s hard to imagine a big publisher — the biggest — doing a small print run of a book, having it sell out in a couple weeks, and saying nope, no more printings of that book are planned. I bet they will hold poor sales numbers against the author, too. The publisher will move on to something new and never reprint this book.
Yes, I see Kristine agrees with that assessment. She’s a lot more cynical than I am in many areas, but in this case I think she’s nailed it. Not just in very poor print runs even for books that are selling really well, but in everything in this post. For example:
What used to happen in the past was that a book that didn’t sell as well in paper often showed up in used bookstores. Booksellers waited too long to dump their copies, so they turned them into used bookstores for credit. Enough copies of the book got out to the public that some readers didn’t want to keep their books and so gave them to used bookstores. Not this time. … Building a new readership with the 2021 book will be nearly impossible for a traditionally published writer.
I have been thinking I should order some author copies of titles I don’t have on hand. I see now I’d better do that promptly. Paper books are slower to print and deliver now than they used to be, apparently, and Ingram is warning that the prices for paper books are going to go up.
Kristine suggests, and this seems wise, that if you like paper editions, and a new book you want is coming out, you might want to preorder or at least order right away once the title is released. If you don’t, you may never see a paper copy of that book.