Let’s Talk Supply Chain (and What It Means for Holiday)
On November 10, 2021

You might not know this, but we’re in the middle of a global pandemic.

All right, you probably do already know that – otherwise, I would like the address of the rock you’ve been living under, and I hope you’ve got space for a roommate.

What you may not know is that on top of the bad hand we’ve already been dealt with COVID-19, we’re also in the middle of a supply-chain crisis. Which sounds scary. And truthfully? It kind of is.

But what exactly is a “supply-chain crisis”?

Well, in the publishing industry it means: labour shortages, lumber shortages, transportation issues, and backlogs at printing companies (who are dealing with all of those aforementioned issues too.) This has a trickle-down effect that leads to printing and shipping delays and flat-out inabilities to meet the printing demands of publishers globally. What all of this will very likely lead to, unfortunately, is a book shortage.

Our intention here is not to wax poetic about the supply chain – it’s about transparency. The fact of the matter is, in the next couple of weeks and months (i.e., the holiday season) it might be hard to find the books you’re looking for. It’s very possible you’ll see empty shelves when you visit your local bookstores, and “out of stock” listings on your favourite online retailers. This is because when these books sell out, there will be significant delays for publishers to release more copies (what we call “reprints”). That means there’s no guarantee you’ll be able to get the books you want in a timely manner.

As a publisher, this is stressful for us. It’s doubly stressful for authors whose excitement for their new releases is now fraught with the worry of what if people can’t buy my book?. It’s extra stressful for the bookstores who are trying their very best to stock the books that you want to buy.

So what can be done about it?

  1. Start your shopping early
    • With everything else going on in the world, holiday shopping might be (understandably) rather far from your radar at the moment. But it may be wise to start looking around for titles that you know you’d like to give (or receive!) as holiday gifts just to make sure you have what you’re looking for when the time comes.
  2. Watch for markets or events that local booksellers or publishers may be participating in!
    • We have a pre-Black Friday warehouse sale coming up on November 20th here at Nimbus, which is a perfect opportunity to pick up some discounted books ahead of the gift-giving season. Lots of other retailers and publishers have promotions and events coming up too, so keep an eye out for newsletters or posts on social media!
  3. Pre-order whenever you can
    • This helps publishers know how many copies to order for initial print runs, which helps us avoid selling out and running into reprint delays. It also guarantees that a copy of the book will make it to you when the release date arrives.
  4. Consider e-reading!
    • Most of our books are simultaneously released as eBooks on all major eReading platforms (like Kindle, iBooks, Kobo, and through your local library). If you’ve been looking for a reason to get into reading digitally, or dusting off that Kobo you bought a few years ago but never really used, this might be it!
  5. Try to be understanding
    • Publishers, booksellers, readers — we’re all equally powerless in this situation. The only thing we can do is be compassionate and do our best (whenever possible) to find compromises.

If you’re looking to learn more, Don Gorman from Calgary-based publisher Rocky Mountain Books compiled this list of fantastic resources for further reading on these issues for RMB’s authors which offers plenty of different perspectives on what the next few months might look like for booksellers and book buyers alike.

New books will be hard to come by for the rest of the year
Quartz – Sept 16, 2021

Bookstores may not have the book you want this holiday — here’s why
Yahoo Finance News – Sept 16, 2021

Why local bookstores are telling you to buy gifts now
ABC News – Sept 15, 2021

The Latest Major Shortage Is Happening at the Worst Time Possible
Best LIfe – Sept 14, 2021

The Publishing Industry Is Facing Never Before Seen Book Shortages — Here’s Why
Distractify – Sept 15, 2021

Supply Chain Challenges: Put Your Book Orders In Now For the Holidays
BookRiot – Sept 14, 2021

The World Is Still Short of Everything. Get Used to It.
NY Times – August 30, 2021