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'A focus on frontlist?'

16 March 2009

'If backlist sales decline significantly - notwithstanding the questionable "Long Tail" argument - will publishers have to rely on frontlist and ancillary revenues? We're in an industry that produces perhaps 100,000 new consumer titles every year. We publish as many consumer titles in a day as Hollywood releases movies in a year, each supported by marketing budgets book publishers cannot emulate.

Would it really be so terrible if bookstores stopped selling backlist, aside from a few staples and p.o.d, and became like apparel stores, selling mainly frontlist? There would be more space for big promotions; inventory turn would improve; and publishers and retailers would sharpen up their marketing skills. The book trade hasn't prided itself on business savvy, but now may be the time to develop appropriate skills. Maybe publishers could sell to retailers on a firm sale, guaranteed gross margin basis, allowing markdowns in place, doing away with the expense and nuisance of returns, and their demoralising impact.

Or is thinking like this a step too far?'

Lawrence Orbach, CEO of Quarto, in the Bookseller