Saturday, March 08, 2008

Book Mark-Up, Barnes and Noble and Why It's All Worth the Effort

I count myself so lucky because in the process of consulting with other authors I get to learn new things myself. Also, my clients and friends are so incredibly generous with the knowlege they glean from experience. Here is a you-shouldn't-miss-this-one letter from Christopher Meeks, a fellow UCLA Extension Writers' Program instructor. And, yes, of course he gave me permission to include it in my blog. (-: Scroll down and you'll even find some important Barnes and Noble contact information.


I learned a lot yesterday more about the workings of Barnes and Noble in relation to my signing on June 13th that's sponsored by Barnes and Noble. At one point, I had an executive in the B&N Small Press Department, Diane Simowski, call me, and between her and others, here are a few points I learned that impact POD publishers:

o POD titles are rarely on the shelves of a Barnes & Noble unless two conditions are met: they are returnable, and there's at least a 40% discount.

o B&N's computers show that a book's title is either a short discount or retail. A short discount means it's less than a 40% discount, which means a customer who wants it has to prepay it before it can be ordered. Individual stores are not supposed to order books for their shelves that have less than a 40% discount.

o The Small Press Department really won't help POD publishers because the department is basically meant for old-fashioned publishers who are small (under 4' 11"... kidding). That is, if one self-published a book and has boxes of books in the garage, an author can send his/her book to the Small Press department if it'll match various critieria, as follows:

- B&N will get at least a 40% discount
- Books can be returnable
- There is a marketing campaign, which you have to give details on
- You have a copy of the book (no manuscripts accepted)
- Trade reviews are a plus
- You have a note explaining what makes the book unique
- Your book can be purchased from one of B&N's approved wholesalers; B&N will not purchase directly to a publisher or author; therefore, an author/publisher has to make a distribution deal with one of these wholesalers and still leave a 40% margin for B&N

If you can meet these criteria, then send your book and all the details about it to:

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

Once the book is evaluated and the criteria are met, the Small Press Department will show the book to their buyers, and the buyers decide whether or not to order any books. Diane said each buyer might decide on ordering one or two books to try it out at a store first.

Originally, I was told that for my event, B&N wanted to order my books a month in advance, which meant my book had to be available at that point. That meant if B&N could order it, so could anyone, and it would be available on Diane underscored what you said, Carolyn, which is publication dates are not all that holy. JK Rowling's books might be strict, but many others are not. Hence, my book with a June 13th publication date might be available in May.

I also learned that my first book, The Middle-Aged Man and the Sea, listed at $12.95--which originally had a 40% discount to bookstores--now has only a 15% discount from Ingram to bookstores. That means there's not a lot of incentive for a bookstore to want it, and at B&N, anyone who wants it has to prepay. That kind of kills the book completely at bookstores. If Barnes and Noble can get at least a 40% discount, their computers will show the book as retail, and thus they won't make the customer prepay. Individual stores who like the book--if it gets good press thanks to a good frugal book promoter--can order it more easily for their store. Less than that discount, managers are not supposed to order it at all.

I now need to find out if Lulu can bump up the list price and if so, how much will it cost me? If it costs me $100 to change the price as I think it will, and I bump up the list price to $14.95, which will be the price of my new book, I might make only 32 cents more per book (at a 16% royalty), which means I will have to sell 625 books to pay for the increase, which is unlikely in the next year.

So as I go into the marketing of my new book, these are things on my mind. There's no point in my sending my book to the Small Press Department at Barnes and Noble because my book won't meet the criteria. Some POD publishers now will offer returnability, but that means authors won't be getting as much royalty because money will be held to pay for returns. Then again, if you get more sales in bookstores, it's something to consider. I don't know if Lulu offers that, but I'll investigate.

As for my opening, I'm now told I should bring all the copies of the books, which B&N will sell. They will then order that many books from Ingram and give those books back to me to replace the ones they sold. Why give B$N so much profit? If I sell a hundred books or more that night, I'll show up on the Los Angeles area best seller list. Once on the list, people will take note, and the book can keep selling. I'm told one author who sold over a hundred at her opening landed on the list and stayed there for a year. Now my trick is to get people to come to the reading & publication party on June 13th at the Beverly Hills Library. The reading will be done by four different actors, so it's a paid performance. The library sells $10 tickets for the performance, but I have to say, it's a good show. There will also be food and drinks, so it should make a good night.


Chris Meeks

Diane L. Simowski
Small Press Dept.
Barnes & Noble, Inc.
122 Fifth Ave.
New York, NY 10011
tel: (212) 633-3549
fax: (212) 463-5677

Her other blogs include and, a blog that helps writers and publishers turn a ho-hum book fair booth into a sizzler.

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