During the nineteen seventies and early eighties, the trade book publishing industry faced financial and philosophical problems of a magnitude unparalleled in its 342 years of existence. It was believed that without the undertaking of urgent and farreaching reforms, the profits of publishing houses would decline to a level that would make the survival of many old and established firms extremely doubtful. The expansion of the major bookselling chains, combined with antiquated distribution and marketing methods, ...
During the nineteen seventies and early eighties, the trade book publishing industry faced financial and philosophical problems of a magnitude unparalleled in its 342 years of existence. It was believed that without the undertaking of urgent and farreaching reforms, the profits of publishing houses would decline to a level that would make the survival of many old and established firms extremely doubtful. The expansion of the major bookselling chains, combined with antiquated distribution and marketing methods, would cause large numbers of independent booksellers to close. Authors of talent, vision, and intellect would find it more difficult to be published than ever before. And readers would grow more jaded by a glut of formula books, or more frustrated trying to find that special title that suits their needs. Leonard Shatzkin’s "In Cold Type" explores the reasons behind that decade’s crisis in publishing. Neither an essay about the perils and personalities of the best-seller list syndrome, nor a bland sociological study, "In Cold Type" offers a penetrating critique of exactly what was wrong with the nuts and bolts of publishing and with the ingrained attitudes that resisted change and reform. Backed by more than thirty-five years of experience in executive positions at major publishing houses, Leonard Shatzkin discusses publishing’s nineteenth-century methods of distribution, the marginal profitability of booksellers, the unnecessary evils of remaindering, the mountainous waste in book production, the decline of the editorial function to a clerkship, the collapse of the paperback book publishers, what authors need to know about their publishers’ “skills,” and why the commonly heard complaint “We publish too many books!” is simply not true.
Shatzkin not only saw what was, he also saw what could be, and offered a number of new solutions that helped the book industry overcome its malaise. Solutions that were immediate, practical, and necessary. Solutions that were, above all, essential for America to continue to have a vital publishing industry dedicated to free expression in the marketplace of ideas.
Leonard Shatzkin is the author of The Mathematics of Bookselling (Sun River Press, 1997). He held executive positions for over thirty-five years in a number of publishing houses, covering wide areas of responsibility, including retail bookselling, production, editorial, marketing, and sales, and warehousing and shipping. He was production manager at The Viking Press and at Doubleday Book Company as well as vice-president at both McGraw-Hill and Crowell-Collier Macmillan. When Crowell-Collier bought the Brentano bookstore chain, it was placed under Shatzkin’s direction.
While at Doubleday, Shatzkin hired George Blagowidow to develop a mathematical method to predict advance sale so printing decisions could be made earlier and more accurately. In the first year of operation, for the first time in memory, not a single Doubleday title was sold as overstock and no title was out of stock for even one day.
The sales prediction method later provided the means for measuring the effectiveness of the sales force, nationally and by region. Shatzkin was put in charge of applying these guides to improve sales force productivity. In the five years from the resulting expansion of the sales force until Shatzkin left Doubleday, sales increased almost fourfold, with no discernible change in number or mix of published titles.
An offshoot of the sales prediction system, later adapted for inventory control at the bookstore level, generated the Doubleday Merchandising Plan, under which the titles and quantities of Doubleday titles were mathematically controlled in the retail stores that enrolled in the plan. The sale of Doubleday titles doubled in participating stores; the profitability of Doubleday books for Gimbel’s because of better stock turn, higher discounts, and reduced returns, increased thirteen times. At its height, the Doubleday Merchandising Plan was operating in 800 stores.
In 1978, Shatzkin became an independent consultant in book retailing, publishing, and manufacturing. His clients included Doubleday, the Ford Foundation, CBS International Publishing, Dodd Mead, Grolier, St. Martin’s Press, General Mills, Avon Products, Macmillan, and John Wiley.
He wrote extensively on the book industry in Publishers Weekly, American Bookseller, Daedalus, Book Production Industries, Library Quarterly, and other journals, and lectured to publishers groups in Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Spain, Mexico, Yugoslavia, Cuba, and other countries.