Publishers are being more generous on book title margin, but could still be more flexible on payment terms, according to independent booksellers.
More than 48% of respondents to The Bookseller’s Christmas trading survey said publishers have been more willing to give larger discounts on titles to indie booksellers over the past 12 months, following a year in which indies’ challenges were put under the spotlight with the launch of the Booksellers Association’s Books Are My Bag campaign (designed by M&C Saatchi) and the closure of several indie bookshops.
Around 28% of indies said they hadn’t seen any increase in flexibility on terms from publishers, and 24% of bookshops said they carried out their business through wholesalers instead.
Eleanor Davies from Linghams Bookshop in Heswell said: “I think publishers are trying, especially with big titles, and particularly in the area of margin. They seem to be open to more discussion.”
Sheila O’Reilly from Dulwich Books added: “I feel there is an understanding within some of the major publishers that they need to do more to encourage booksellers to put their books on display and in front of customers.
“However, I feel in particular that more needs to be done on titles such as début novels or non-fiction that is slightly out of the mainstream, to allow us to take the chance to put copies on display.”
Peter Donaldson from Red Lion Books in Colchester, however, said that indies are only offered high discounts on top titles on which the discounts also increase for Amazon, W H Smith and supermarkets. “It doesn’t leave us better able to compete and we are still often in the position of titles being sold elsewhere at less than we can buy them in for,” he said.
Independents have also commented that academic publishers are particularly inflexible when it comes to offering extra discount.
While many welcome the extra margin—with indies facing further strain as business rates are set to rise by 2.0% in April, and the trend in online shopping continues—many bookshops are calling for an extension to payment terms as well.
Sarah Rees of Cover to Cover Bookshop, said: “There have been some good promotions by some publishers, but not more flexibility on payment terms—unlike some gift companies I use which offer 90 days payment.”
Tim Morris from Booka Bookshop in Shropshire said: “There is flexibility on discount but only one publisher offered us 60 days for payment.” Most publishers will ask for payment for titles within 30 days.