Big Changes at Chapters/Indigo

It appears that Chapters (Indigo in Canada) is repositioning itself as a “lifestyle store”  for booklovers.”

Along with the various changes being implemented are a couple that will hammer authors like me hard:

There will be a greatly shortened shelf-life for books. If a book hasn’t been sold in 45 days, it will be returned to the publisher. This used to be 90 days. The change will be implemented on January 1 so it won’t affect the Christmas market but it will certainly hurt my sales, since my book won’t be out until February. 

Publishers will have to pay a 4 per cent surcharge on the wholesale price of all books sold. This isn’t a handling charge but more like a success fee. For example, on The Beggar’s Opera, which is retailing for $ 24.00, Chapters will charge .96 cents per book on top of its cut.

All of this is going to hurt Canadian authors as well as publishers. The publishing world is already being squeezed by e-books;  I’m sure Chapters must be hurting, too. But removing display space, selling more non-book products, and punishing publishers when their books actually sell, strikes me as a rather strange long-term strategy. 

I suspect that these marketing decisions may boost Chapter’s short term bottom line, but I wonder about their long-term success. 

The additional cost of selling  may encourage publishers to jump on the e-book wagon and bypass stores like Chapters/Indigo altogether. As for authors, if publishers have to pay more to Chapters, expect it to be even harder than it already is to get published. And get ready for even lower advances and royalties. 

And applying the law of unintended consequences, if publishers’ profits are being cut further, more of us will be driven into self-publishing and out of this whole loop altogether.

On the other hand, if the goal is to convert Chapters/Indigo into a gift store, being able to return one’s stock-in-trade after 45 days for a full refund and selling fewer books overall will create more space for all those toys, perfumes, and tchotchkes they want to sell instead.

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 Check out Penguin Canada’s book trailer for The Beggar’s Opera  here! It’s pretty cool!

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6 Responses to Big Changes at Chapters/Indigo

  1. RP Fields says:

    Personally, I find less reason to go to Chapters pretty much every month. First they took away the comfy chairs, then they added all the crap at the expense of book space, and now you say they have made a decision that amounts to carrying only the newest releases… Sigh.

    I try to look at the bright side, though. Maybe this will be good for independent booksellers?

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    • Peggy Blair says:

      Might help keep some of them afloat, but they seem to be a dying breed. I see this pushing the e-book envelope even faster. But that’s just my take on it; I guess we’ll have to see.

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  2. I don’t quite understand the 45/90 day thing. Chapters here still has three copies of my first book in stock. I know they have done re-orders since they first took it this time last year, but I don’t see that they’ve sent any back.

    Doesn’t it make sense to have a few copies of earlier works in a mystery series on the shelves? I thought that’s what they were doing.

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    • Peggy Blair says:

      I agree that’s what they were doing, but they have a new CEO, hence the change. My guess is that he was brought in to staunch some bleeding, and he wants to be able to return books early if needed. Do it enough and you get cash flow — full refund. (And space for all those new trinkets.)

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  3. Lisa says:

    Gawd, this seems foolish in the extreme, and very disheartening. The 45 versus 90 days thing encapsulates the short-term thinking that has dominated so much of the corporate world at the expense of long-term growth and profits.

    Some independent bookstores are doing well, because they’ve figured out how to make themselves an integral part of their communities. This just sounds like a coffee house with book decorations.

    (for some reason I couldn’t read the article linked — will try with another browser)

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  4. Peggy Blair says:

    Sorry about that, Lisa — I’ve updated the link so it should open now. It’s from an article in today’s Toronto Star, but here it is again:

    http://www.thestar.com/business/companies/article/1067524–anxious-publishers-watch-indigo-makeover

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