It’s interesting being both a writer and a publisher. I see both sides of the story. Occasionally we have to do things that might seem unfriendly towards the writer but actually we are working on the same side.
We offer our books sale or return to book shops. We keep our fingers crossed that they don’t return them. They’re usually not fit to be sold afterwards and even if they are, the mechanics of warehousing can be complex. Many publishers will charge back the cost of returns against the writer’s royalties. So, it’s in our mutual interest to avoid this. Perhaps we don’t need to be so keen to see our books get into bookshops except where we know we shall definitely sell.
Going out of print
Yes, at some point a book has had its life. We tend to keep books in print as long as they are covering any overhead cost e.g. the cost of hooking it up to the distributors annually. Yes, even print on demand has that sort of cost associated with it.
These need never go out of print. There is no overhead cost involved. In fact, now, we’re publishing e-book and only doing the paperback after 1000 e-books have sold.
Some advantages of going out of print
This can allow the writer to take charge of their book again. They can edit and republish it themselves.
Or they might even dissociate themselves from it. They’ve outgrown it and want to be known for more recent work.
Book just not selling
There may be nothing at all wrong with the book but the author is just not able to get behind it enough. Even though the small press can be more sympathetic it still needs to cover its costs.
There are fixes. We just need to find them and apply.
Otherwise, the book has to be pulled and the next one by that author can’t be taken.