Remaindering is the practice whereby unsold books which remain at the publishing house are disposed of - sometimes by selling them off at huge discounts to stores like Sams or by destroying them (shredding or burning usually). My own contract with PP says that if they want to remainder my books, they have to give me the opportunity to match any third party (i.e. Sam's) offer.
The idea of being "remaindered" used to fill me with dread. I mean, how much worse can it get than to see one's baby on the "75% OFF" stall at some giant discount store, next to a selection of coloring books (with crayons) and The Dummy's Guide to Macramé.
But no longer. I have just finished Hardy's The Return of the Native. I collect Norton Critical editions because I enjoy the critical essays at the back. In addition to the essays, they usually include some kind of historical wash-up, and in the "Composition, Publication, and Scholarship" section appears the following note:
The Return of the Native was published at 31s. 6d. in an edition of 1000 copies on 4 November 1878. The reviews were not flattering, and in 1882 there were 100 quires [unbound copies of the book] and 22 copies in cloth to be remaindered. (322)
It seems that the book was lucky to have been published at all; it was turned down by a number of publishers - book and magazine. Leslie Stephen of the Cornhill magazine turned it down because he felt that the relationship between Eustacia, Wildeve and Thomasic might get a little too dodgy for the magazine readership to handle.
I often imagine that the classics enjoyed plain sailing into publication. I'm finding out again and again that this wasn't so.