Returns Kill Another Great Company
Blu Sky Media Group announced on Friday that they were forced to close their doors. Greg Snider, the owner of Blu Sky Media Group is not declaring bankruptcy, he has negotiated with his bank to allow him to make a structured closing.
Snider is a real class act. He could have shut his doors and walked away, but he didn’t. He is spending the next several months working (for nothing) to make sure all of his publisher clients find new homes.
This good deed in the face of tragedy is even more remarkable when you realize that Blu Sky’s troubles are in no way Greg’s doing. He gave small presses a chance to sell their books to the trade and the trade was happy to buy them. Blu Sky was formed to offer small presses the chance at distribution. Most distributors will not touch a small press because one or two books rarely recoup the expenses and time needed to launch a press properly.
Snider found a way around that. He was able to offer small presses way into the bookstore and library market.
What messed everything up? Returns used as cash. Blu Sky saw huge sales while things were good and huge returns when they weren’t, just like everyone else. Stores and wholesalers are allowed to return books that do not sell, that is part of the Faustonian pact we have all made, but for the last several years, they are paying their bills with returns. Books are returned days before the invoices are due and then those same books are reordered a week later…. starting the clock all over again. This practice is now so common place that many small and midsized businesses are shipping books over and over again for free.
I am not clamoring for the end of returns. I don’t want a complete turn-around on the policy that allows bookshops to take a risk on unknown publishers. It is hard enough these days to get a small-yet-worthy book onto a bookstore’s shelf. What I want is a reform of HOW we accept returns. We have to stop the practice of using returns as cash. It is killing good companies.