Even when championed by savvy editors and hard-nosed sales staff, predicting sales of first-time authors is a gamble. Much depends on favorable reviews in Publishers Weekly, The New York Times, and other influential publications. In spite of positive endorsements, books still face a capricious public. They may become best sellers, but they often disappear in the flood of returns from bookstores. Printing smaller quantities via digital technology offers a safer way to test the waters for a lower initial investment and opens up the opportunity to publish more authors.
Michael DeFazio, VP, paper purchasing & production planning, Penguin Random House, said1 his firm uses digital technology mainly for one-color text printing of backlist titles, as well as a smaller quantity of front list and first-printing books. For the front list, it might be a debut author, advance copies or a reissue of an existing book that may otherwise not have gone to production.