November 12, 2019

Amazon slashing orders to publishers just in time for the holidays


Publishers Weekly reports that Amazon has been cutting book orders to book publishers over the last several weeks. Jim Milliot reports:

It isn’t clear how widespread the reduction in orders is, but several independent publishers contacted by PW reported cuts in their weekly orders since late October.

Milliot quotes one indie CEO who reports October numbers are low and November is slow out of the gate and another company head who is concerned that they’ll lose their whole holiday selling season.

Amazon’s famously opaque ordering system has long been the bane of publishers, and during moments of peak warehouse congestion, such as Prime Day promotional periods, the irregularities are profoundly felt. Apparently, warehouse congestion is the issue at hand today. Be that as it may, adding “holiday season” to the list of times publishers feel the squeeze is totally untenable

One of Milliot’s anonymous sources called the current unexplained slump a “nightmare” while another mused that and Walmart might pick up some of Amazon’s business.

Amazon last ruffled feathers in the publishing world when it shipped copies of Margaret Atwood’s hotly anticipated sequel to Handmaid’s Tale early. Atwood’s publisher, Penguin Random House, put out a statement at the time that a “retailer error” had resulted in a “very small number of copies” making their way to customers early, but bookstore owners were furious.

Our blog post which covered the incident pointed out that PRH did not take any meaningful action, despite Amazon’s blatant disregard for the agreed-upon publishing date embargo, largely because publishers (even of the scope and size of PRH) are dwarfed in size, money, and power by Amazon.

So back to the question at hand. Will this major slash in orders to independent publishers be devastating? Yes! Will there be any repercussions to Amazon? No! Does this feel like a normal or healthy business environment? No!

Jeff Bezos made $440,584 during the time it took you to read this article.



Athena Bryan is an editor at Melville House.