Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Your Book, B and N, The Truth and the Fallacies

When I was speaking at the Pen to Paper Symposium in Dayton, OH, I was lucky enough to meet someone whose hair is the same color as mine. Ha! She thinks lots like me, too. Here is what Linda Keller, a community relations manager for a B&N in the Dayton area says about books and promoting (and trust me, she's probably seen authors make every mistake in the book: "The author must be a marketing genius."

Yep, you knew that. That's why you read this blog or my newsletter.

She also says, "Bookstores don't know all the new books that are being published. The books we automatically receive are deals and contracts between store buyers and publisher reps. If your publisher's rep feels strongly about your book, he/she will push the chains to carry it. If not, then that's your job."

We knew that, too. That's why you own a copy of The Frugal Book Promoter.www.amazon.com/gp/product/193299310X/qid=1149015406/sr=2-1/

However, she also says, "Any bookseller in a Barnes & Noble has the authority to order copies of books for shelf inventory (as long as the books are returnable). You will have to tell us about your book. Call. Stop in. . . . But please understand, how that dream turns out . . . is this a career? or a hobby?"

Now that's something we might not be so aware of. So many stories go around about B&N policy. Some may be true. Some may be misinterpretations of the facts. Some may be based on anger or disappointment or revenge. But like anything else, you will need to know what you are doing if you want your book to appear on B&N shelves. Here is the Barnes & Noble Acceptance Criteria and how you can conform to it.

Barnes and Noble will accept books into their database for sales based on "subject matter and salability." That last word can cover a lot of territory, from cover design to formatting. Further, should a self- or subsidy-published book be accepted, that does not guarantee that your book will be shelved in B&N stores, only that it available on a special order basis and tha (should you have a signing or other event at a B&N store) your book will be available to be ordered by the store manager. By going through this process, your book may well appear in the B&N online store but the online store and the brick and mortar chain two are separate entities and acceptance for the online store does not guarantee acceptance in the other stores.

Here is what you must do (if your publisher hasn't) to have your book listed in the B&N database:

 Your book must have a 10 or 13 digit ISBN. For more information on these numbers go to www.bisg.org/isbn-13/index.html. It may take ten days or more for you to get your ISBN and their guidelines vary; you probably will not be able to buy only one. Sometimes you can find a small publisher who will sell one of theirs to you. That kind of arrangement may present some problems so be sure to explore them with the publisher you work with. The address is:

ISBN Agency
630 Central Ave.
New Providence, NJ 07974

Their phone is 877-310-7333. Their fax is 908-219-1088. The website is www.ISBN.org.

 Your book must have a barcode. That's how merchandise is sold these days. It must be scanable. For a list of commercial barcode supplies go to www.bisg.org/barcoding/bc_suppliers.html. If your book has already been printed without a barcode, you can have labels printed and applied to the back cover of your book.

 Because B&N puts most of their titles on shelves spine out, they prefer perfect bound books with a well-designed spine that gives browsers essential information about your book. If your printer tells you that your book is an Otabind, that is equally acceptable.

 Your book should be available through a wholesaler. Wholesalers may ask for a 50 to 55% discount from the cover price. If you haven't selected a retail price that is high enough to allow for their percentage, you may have difficulty here. Many also will expect you to ship your books at your own expense. Bookstores (not just B&N) tend to prefer to order their books all from one place or from as few places as possible to make invoicing and payables more cost effective. Large stores like B&N also like to put their better selling books on automatic replenishment. They probably cannot do that if they are buying your book from you or your publisher.

 B&N will look at the price of your book. Is it competitive with other similar books?

 Be prepared to tell B&N what makes your book special, or why you are the one to have written your book. Can you back up that information with what you have done to promote your book, with reviews, etc.?

 Before you submit you book, enter the information on your title in Bowker Books in Print. www.bowkerlink.com.

 For consideration send a finished book (B&N is just like any other process in publishing, you must follow the submission guidelines exactly; When they say "finished" that's what they mean. No manuscripts or galleys.) to:

The Small Press Dept
Barnes&Noble, Inc
122 Fifth Ave
New York, NY 10011

For more information call 212-633-3388 or fax them at 212-463-5677. Do not expect an answer for about six weeks.

The latest information on this process may be found by going to B&N online at www.bn.com. Scroll down to the "Services" section and click on "Publisher and Author Guidelines." Find more information on working with B&N find the "For Author Connection" link at www.barnesandnobleinc.com.

Note: Some subsidy publishers and most traditional publisher will take care of this B&N application for you.
Her other blogs include TheNewBookReview and AuthorsCoalition, a blog that helps writers and publishers turn a ho-hum book fair booth into a sizzler.

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