Every author hears about "returns" when they hear about trade publishing. They're often invoked as one of the big bad problems of trade publishing (and while they are a hurdle, it's more nuanced than that). There's a lot to be said about returns, and at some point I'll blog on it, but today I wanted to share this photo, which I snapped as we were closing the store location where I used to work. (I transferred locations recently due to a store closure--I will get around to blogging about that, I promise!)
This photo is why you see that little note inside a mass-market paperback that says, "If you purchased this book without a cover, it has been reported as unsold to the publisher and neither the publisher or the author have received money for it." Mass-markets have a cost of goods of cents per copy, and it is more money-intensive to return the whole book than it is worth. When you return a mass-market, you "strip" its cover, and only the cover is sent back to the publishing company, because it is light, and cheap. The actual books themselves go to the recycling bin.
Don't ever pay money for a stripcover. Anyone who has one and is selling it is criminally infringing on the ability of the author to earn money from her work. These are unsold books—not used books, not special books. Unsold. They are supposed to be destroyed.
And now you know why my blog is called "From Prose to Pulp."