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Publisher’s Glossary: Comparing Remainders, Bargain Books & Hurt Books

Remainders in the publishing industry are generally known as any book that is sold at a deep discount to the end customer. (The wholesale price from the publisher to the trade is equally discounted.)

True remainders are only those books that have been taken out of circulation because sales have fallen off and the publisher can no longer justify the carrying costs associated with the book. Remainders may vary from an initial printing that did not sell to the last couple hundred books of a best selling novel that has sold hundreds of thousands of copies. When a publisher has a backlog of a new title to introduce, they may need to cut their losses on slow moving titles by remaindering the balance of stock to free up cash and make room in their warehouse for new items. The publisher will sell the entire remaining (hence the word) inventory to the highest bidder. Once remaindered, the book no longer generates royalties for the author, it cannot be returned to the publisher for credit and it is considered out of print. Years ago, remainders were marked by stripping the spine of the book with green paint. Today, that is often not the case and sometimes they are even in mint condition when they are remaindered.

Hurts are returned books that have been slightly damaged.

Many times, when a bookseller returns a book to the publisher or distributor for credit, it is worn and cannot be sold as new. These slightly worn books are placed into a bin to be eventually sold off to one of the remainder wholesalers. (Again, remainder is a generic word often used in place of the word hurts, and this can lead to some problems.) Distributors that buy hurt books are looking for several things, including books that are more current and in high demand, and small quantities of each title with a lot of variety in titles. This gives the distributor the ability to build a bargain department around hurts rather than remainders, due to broader selection. As an added note, there are a number of remainder wholesalers in the business who trade exclusively in hurts, but call themselves remainder wholesalers.

Overstocks can be returns, but are typically the books in their original print cartons and in first quality condition.

Overstocks tend to be worth more, with an expected purchase price of 15% to 25% of wholesale price, as opposed to the 10% to 15% for hurts and remainders. Overstocks, like hurts, are still current books. They often show up in higher quantities than hurts, but lower than remainders. Overstock books are created when the publisher decides they need more room in their warehouse or decides that sales are not going to live up to expectation, while keeping the book in print.

Bargain Books include all of the above, as well as books published to be sold at bargain prices.

Bargain books are great books produced by old school remainder wholesalers turned publishers to fill the gaps left by huge hits in the remainder market. For example, the Wordsworth series – all classics and reference works of past centuries, all high quality reprints – most of which were meant to sell between $4.95 and $12.95.

Skids or Pallets. Hurts are sometimes sold by skid or pallet.

These are usually smaller pallets – no more than 42 inches in height. The price per pallet ranges from $500 to $750. For the buyer, it is a good way to build up their bargain section in a hurry. For the publishers, it is a good method for selling small quantities of mixed titles. The main reason you want to buy books in this manner is for the diversity of titles and the cheaper price. When you look at it on a per book base, you may be sell the book for between $.0.30 and $1.00 per copy depending on the overall quality.

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