It’s getting harder and harder to get your books printed — we were all hoping that the new year would bring a bit of relief, but not yet apparently. There are book manufacturers who are refusing to accept any more orders for books to be delivered during 2022! Those that will accept an order keep slipping their dates.

I suspect that the problem is affecting different publishers differently. Purchasing power has always been a determinant of service — as a supplier you don’t want to be pissing off a customer who can remove a quarter of your capacity if pushed. Over the past decades there has been a tendency for large publishers to sign contracts with a few book manufacturing companies: “in return for these pricing breaks, we promise to send you this number of books every year which you will produce on such and such a schedule”. Clearly if you as a manufacturer have committed to such a deal, honoring it isn’t really an option — thus all available resources have to be devoted to getting out books from Big Publisher A, which means Small Publisher Z will just have to wait, or slouch off elsewhere — if anywhere else can be found.

I always used to hate these sorts of contracts, though I have worked with plenty of them. In an ideal world I always wanted my staff to be able to negotiate their own deals on a book-by-book basis, and learn how to be adaptable and quick on their feet. But under the current circumstances I cannot but agree that publishers who work under such agreements are the beneficiaries of the wisdom of their past managers.

So smaller publishers are scrambling right now. Cheryl Teh reveals at Yahoo!News, that our ex-president’s new book, a photo album about his term in office, has also been delayed. His proud publisher (Don Junior) pays tribute to what I think we can all agree is extraordinary authorial commitment by telling us “My father picked every single photo in this book, wrote all the captions, including some by hand.”

I suspect that the resolution of all this clogging up of supply chains will turn out to be sudden. When enough people have come back to work, one Monday morning we’ll discover that our book manufacturing operation has got more free capacity than orders, and we’ll have to whip our sales force out to beat those bushes. I may forecast this, but I cannot forecast on which Monday it will happen. Let’s hope it’s a Spring-time Monday.