Books Front Matter

Printing and Shipping and Sales, Oh, My!

Supply chain delays and frustrations are far reaching, affecting virtually every business and consumer alike. Whether you are redoing your kitchen, buying a car, or simply looking for your next read, prices across a wide range of products have been affected by the ever-apparent clogs in what used to be a rather invisible wheel. Book publishing is no exception. And over the last three years, each step of the process, from obtaining materials to printing to binding to shipping, has become increasingly difficult.

Current state of the book supply chain

The costs of paper and ink, the two most basic components of a book, have significantly increased as raw material factories close and paper mills switch their focus to more sustainable — and lucrative — products, such as paper-based packaging.

Despite rising costs and labor shortages, imagine a book has been made and is ready to ship to the U.S. The cost of transpacific per container shipping has more than doubled since last summer, from approximately $3,000 then to nearly $8,000 today. What’s more, when a cargo ship does arrive, ports are clogged, transportation trucks are scarce, and warehouses are full – though recently these issues seem to be improving slightly.

Every step of the book production and distribution process has serious challenges to overcome.

The reading boom is waning

In 2020, when supply chain issues signaled major concerns across all industries, the book industry saw a surge in book sales commensurate with stay-at-home orders. These ballooning book sales helped offset some of the production headaches. At the close of 2021, everyone expected the reading boom to continue well into this year, but the first half of 2022 proved those expectations overly optimistic. According to the AAP, “Year-to-date revenues were down 1.6%, at $5.5 billion for the first six months of the year.”

What’s a publisher to do?

The news isn’t all bad. Publishers have an opportunity to create resilient systems that can withstand today’s challenges and those that lie ahead. Consider a few strategies you can implement today:

  1. Pad your timeline. Delivery schedules of books arriving in a warehouse used to be predictable and reliable: Order a print run and expect it to be there in three to four weeks. Today, publishers must contend with a less-than-predictable timeline. Instead of looking back at the way things used to be, publishers must take a new approach — expect delays, and pad timelines to accommodate them.
  2. Consider digital printing. Many publishers are turning to digital inkjet and toner printing to lower costs, shorten turnaround times, and mitigate the risk of printing too many books that may not sell.
  3. Think beyond the first print run. With printing, shipping, and distribution challenges, it is important to think beyond the first print run. Some publishers have struggled to restock surprise bestsellers, while others are switching to smaller, more frequent print runs to address demand. Instead of a first print run of 10,000 copies, consider successive print runs of a few thousand.
  4. Shorten and streamline supply chains. Working with the right printer can make all the difference in today’s market. A printing partner can work with other vendors to secure the best prices for paper, other essential materials, and even freight.
  5. Produce an eBook in conjunction with your print title. When your title is produced in multiple formats, it is always available for purchase. If/when print copies sell out, an eBook option can still secure a sale.

The supply chain headache is not over yet, and with book sales down, publishers must make difficult fiscal choices without sacrificing book quality. Sheridan continues to provide high-quality print production, a single point of contact for purchasing, and the negotiating power to keep costs down.

Contact your Sheridan representative to discuss how Sheridan can streamline your publishing process..

Proven Content