May 09, 2011
“It’s discouraging to meet with your sales rep and then get a call from the billing department. So it’s really affected our buying this year,” said Amy Thomas, owner of Pegasus Books with three stores in the Bay Area.
Jon Platt, owner of Nonesuch Books & Cards in South Portland and Bidde-ford, Maine, regards some credit departments as beyond aggressive, including two of the big six, which he seldom buys from direct for that reason. “There are some companies that are abrupt, rude, and treat us like criminals,” said Platt. “Everybody wants to get paid faster. We’ve always pushed sidelines to 45. Some of them are worried. If Borders goes down, how can Jon Platt pay me?”
He would like to see publisher terms that reflect the fact that backlist may only turn three times a year. “Give me net 90 or net 120 on big orders,” said Platt, who is concerned about e-books eroding backlist sales, too. “We’ve cut back quantities on bestsellers because of e-books. I’ve dropped those numbers by 30% to 40%. This is the problem. Let’s say the new Ann Patchett is coming out. If customers are loading it up on their e-reader, there are not tons of other books in front of them. It’s losing the incremental sales.”
New stores are feeling a different kind of pinch. “We started off knowing we’d have very tight credit,” said Daniel Goldin, who opened Boswell Book Company in Milwaukee in April 2009. “We have one publisher where it’s been a tricky thing. They had faith in us to give us events, but we kept hitting our [credit] ceiling. And they’re not very accommodating at increasing it.” The publisher cut back Goldin’s stock shipments to make up the difference. Like Platt, Goldin would like to see terms extended. “With the rise of other formats, you need longer terms,” he said, noting he has skipped some titles that he would have ordered in the past. Still there are some books he can’t do without. “Titles that are selling in the region I have to have,” Goldin said. “I can’t run out of Bossypants or David Foster Wallace or Tiger’s Wife.”