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Supply issues disrupt fall publishing schedules

Aug 28 2020

Back in March, many publisher rescheduled large chunks of their catalog to the fall in the hope that things would be back to normal. But they are not, and now we are entering a very overcrowded season with the extra issue that the two largest printing companies in the United States are under significant financial strain. LSC Communications declared bankruptcy in April, and the company’s sales fell nearly 40 percent in the fiscal quarter that ended in June. Quad’s book printing business is also up for sale and in the spring the company had to temporarily shut production at three plants due to the pandemic.

To add to the strain there has been an unexpected spike in demand for print books with unit sales up 5% comparing 2020 to 2019 to date. Comparing the most recent 10 weeks of 2020 to the same period in 2019, print sales up are 12% driven by the demand for blockbuster titles including new books by Suzanne Collins and Stephanie Meyer and various books on Trump; plus increased demand for older titles on race and children’s educational books.

The issue is impacting reprints of existing books and schedules for new releases–a number of which are moving at very short notice to later seasons. For example, Knopf and Pantheon are shifting the release of more than a dozen fall titles, including a memoir by the cookbook author Deborah Madison and a biography of Sylvia Plath. Also fiction by Robert Harris, Martin Amis, Jo Nesbo, Alexander McCall Smith and Tom Bissell.

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