Viking Books, a division of Penguin Random House, surprised booksellers on Wednesday by raising the price of one of the most anticipated books of the upcoming holiday season. In an August 25 email, the publisher informed booksellers that Amanda Gorman’s upcoming collection of poetry, Call us what we wearwould increase the price by $5 per book, from $19.99 to $24.99.
“The book will also have an expanded page count of 240 pages (previously 120 pages) – great news for all of us who love Amanda’s work,” the email read.
PRH later confirmed that the book would in fact be three times longer than expected, but enthusiasm quickly waned, with booksellers expressing concerns about recouping the price difference on existing pre-orders. The outcry prompted PRH to announce that they “will honor the original price for all customers who pre-ordered the book before the price change, which took effect August 25, 2021,” according to a PRH spokesperson. . The statement applies to all PRH customers taking pre-orders.
Gorman’s propelling inaugural poem catapulted her to the forefront of American poetry, and Viking Books soon signed the author to a three-book deal in January. The deal included the publication of a stand-alone commemorative edition of the inaugural poem, which was released in March, as well as a forthcoming children’s picture book, and Call us what we wear.
At Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh, North Carolina, news of the book deal was accompanied by a push to take pre-orders, encouraged by PRH, which was eager to seize the momentum of the inauguration. The store eventually took 300 pre-orders. The initial announcement of the price change would have meant the bookstore would be liable for thousands of dollars in losses, with no way to recover them from customers or the publisher.
Jason Jeffries, general manager of Quail Ridge, was one of many booksellers who contacted PRH yesterday and said he was relieved to receive a phone call this morning, informing him of the new terms. “We are very pleased with PRH’s solution as it was very fast,” Jeffries said. TP.
The deployment of the title had its twists and turns. In a July 27 press release, Viking revealed the cover of the collection and pushed back the book’s release date from September to December 7. The publisher also changed the title of The Hill We Climb and Other Poems in its current title, Call us what we wear. At the time, the price was still listed at $19.99.
But it was rising prices that threatened to cause industry-wide disruption. In most cases, customers pre-order books from Indes within months of a book’s release. A bookstore can then securely store the customer’s credit card data. When the book arrives, the customer is debited. But in the case of Call us what we wearstores processed transactions immediately last winter because credit card processors do not allow them to retain credit card data for long periods of time.
On social networks, many booksellers have expressed their indignation at the rise in prices. In a BookTok, Tubby & Coos Mid-City Bookshop owner Candice Huber said, “Penguin Random House expects independent bookstores like mine – tiny independent bookstores – that don’t have as many money to Penguin Random House to eat the cost of five dollars a pound, which may not seem like a lot, but it’s – it adds up – or to pass that cost on to our customers who paid for those books in January [or] February… If you can buy Simon and Schuster, you can eat five dollars a pound.
At Quail Ridge, Jeffries supported booksellers’ awareness of PRH, but was more measured, noting that artists in other media like music often make changes to their work up to, and even after, the initial release. While print books add to the challenge of making similar changes, he said he shares the publisher’s enthusiasm. “Amanda Gorman is an important young voice in this country and you want her to release the product that she is happy with and proud of,” Jeffries said, adding that the publisher’s quick resolution to the issue was welcome.
PRH noted that they are “reaching out to booksellers to discuss the process and logistics for fulfilling these pre-paid pre-orders. We value our bookseller partners and look forward to launching this rich and timeless collection with them, which explores themes of identity, mourning and memory.