Ideas for the Manifesto of a new editorial distribution
If you like books, magazines and the scent of paper in general, this time we ask you to do something. Ask your trusted bookstore or the small publisher you are fond of if the titles it deals with buys or distributes them on consignment, if they don't do it or if they would like not to do so, then let us contact you to express your opposition to this system (via email to firstname.lastname@example.org, on Instagram a @frabs_magazines). If you are a publisher, a bookshop or even a distributor, write to us directly because we need to join forces to change everything that is wrong with our country's publishing system.
In writing completely new and different rules for the new publishing in Italy, one of the most difficult obstacles to overcome is the monster of the sales account. We know, this post will probably make many booksellers turn up their noses, but let us explain our point of view.
When in the last decades you have read that in Italy there are now more books than readers (in 2019 237 books were published a day - Source: ISTAT) it is not because there are particularly enlightened minds who want to publish everything and the opposite of everything. But simply because the legacies of last century publishing, dying and now dead, are of a senseless system based on a Trojan horse called "returned": in essence you only pay me what you sell. A system that hides behind more pitfalls than benefits and that from our beginning we fight every single day. The paper publishing of tomorrow (books, magazines and even newspapers) will have its own relevant space in this sector (also made up of e-books, digital magazines and audio books) only if able to stand out for a very important element: the quality of the product physical and content. But what is the best system to guarantee this high quality? If 40% of the magazines or books I produce and let the monopolist distribute it comes back to me (the official ISTAT statistics simply tell us that well over 50% of the titles are subject to yield, but without providing us with specific data, which must make us think) will I be stimulated to spend a lot of money to make a nice product or will I be forced to drastically lower the quality of subsequent publications to recover expenses?
If for a small independent bookseller or a newsstand, this system can be an immediate economic breath of fresh air (if sales drop and you don't have money to buy other titles, with the sales account you can still have an assorted shelf), for publishers it translates into potential failure.
Being forced to produce many copies, estimating a certain profit, but then seeing much lower actual revenues and a quantity of unsold product that becomes exclusively a warehouse or waste cost, feeds an insane vicious circle. If you want to learn more about this issue, we recommend the detailed 2017 article by Antonio Tombolini that you find HERE, Our Frab's Guide to the costs of a magazine you find HERE and this interesting article de Linkiesta.
It is no coincidence that we tell you that for the bookseller the breath of fresh air is only immediate: accepting this system only means "floating" a little more. Yes, because avoiding immediate inventory risks translates into increasingly narrow margins that often do not allow the costs of managing the library to be repaid in the medium term.
We experienced the monopoly of distribution based on consignment in the first month of Frab's (when we were new and inexperienced) and here's how it worked: we were offered semi-annual or annual magazines with the possibility of returns, but with a margin of 20%, the thing funny is that we had to return the return within 30 days from the order and this meant not having time to sell the magazines, but above all to shred titles that are still valid (which some magazines are valid forever). A huge damage to the publishers we didn't want to contribute to.
However, in our opinion, the problem is also of nature qualitative: the “if I don't sell it I'll give it back” often does not stimulate a careful selection of products that are poor from all points of view. The result? The whole system loses quality.
Frab’s is a small company that tries to do something else. We buy a few pieces of each magazine at a time, but with the certainty of being a sure sale for the publisher. Even if sometimes you get angry because the titles in the catalog soon sell out and if we lose some sales as a result, we have chosen to definitively abandon the sales account system. This allows us to truly support projects we believe in and to take the liberty of saying no in some capacity. We are not interested in having everything to attract more visitors to our virtual library, we are interested in proposing projects that have real value.
We see around us a market, that of independent bookstores, where many are being born and many are dying, and among those who are born the system on which distribution is currently based appears increasingly as an obstacle to the possibility of creating financially solid and free realities apply your own distinctive selection.
So here we are: we want to put together all the voices that are tired and want to put an end to the mantra of the consignment. Simply to look beyond and write the incredible history of independent publishing in the coming years.