”Harry Potter” may be breaking sales records for Scholastic, but the success of the boy wizard is one reason publishers are having a harder time getting their books printed this summer than anyone in the industry can remember. Strong sales in general, a 2 million copy first printing of Tom Clancy’s latest thousand page opus (”The Bear and the Dragon”), and a thriving textbook market have added to the crunch. ”All that together is creating what I call ‘the perfect storm’ in book manufacturing,” says Tim McGuire, VP of production at Simon & Schuster. ”The equipment’s sold out 24 hours a day, with nothing free for the unanticipated Oprah book.”
Though no one will say which titles have had their reprints delayed, publishers admit jockeying with their fall lists. ”Smaller titles will be in stores a little later than originally hoped,” says Steve Cohen, senior VP at St. Martin’s Press, which is planning a whopping 750,000 copy first printing of Robert Ludlum’s ”The Prometheus Deception” in October. ”Books that have prearranged marketing money committed get into the stores on time,” Cohen adds.
The printing companies, meanwhile, don’t plan to invest in new presses any time soon. ”We expect reference and academic books may become electronic in a few years, and that may give us more capacity,” says Tony Ross, a spokesman for Quebecor World. ”It’s somewhat unique that the different segments of publishing — textbook, religious, trade — are very hot at the same time,” adds Ed Lane, president, book publishing services at R.R. Donnelley. Execs are strategizing, though. ”There’s a ‘Harry Potter’ 5 scheduled for next summer,” warns McGuire. ”None of us want to go through this again.”