Monday, July 16, 2012

Barnes & Noble's Good News is Good for Authors


We writers (and the few retailers who follow this blog) have a reason—a very small reason—to celebrate.

Barnes and Noble is doing better.

The LA Times business section reports that the esteemed bookstore chain's profit loss narrowed in the last quarter. Some may think that just having a little less loss than the quarter before is no big guns, but Chief Executive William Lynch attributes this positive step to their Nook, one presumes both the sales of the device and the books offered on it.

And, if you'll allow me to extrapolate a tad here. That kind of success—where many of the available titles are not from the giant traditional publishers but are, in fact, from independent- and self-publishers, may foreshadow a further acceptance of good books in the marketplace no matter how they are published. I. e., that may mean an end to judging a book by its cover or by the press it's printed on.

Another indicator of this trend is the new Vroman's consignment program. (Vroman's is one of the nation's most venerable independent bookstores.) I learned about it when I was a guest lecturer at UCLA for Eve Caram's beginning fiction class. Because there is a $35. charge for the service, my kneejerk reaction was that it's another way to scam authors and make them pay for things they shouldn't in the vein of pay-for reviews (like the ones at Kirkus) , pay-for agent-reading services, etc. I also didn't like the idea that the program doesn't appear to be vetted in any way. I mean, if poorly produced books are stocked, isn't that a disservice to the rest of the participating authors with well-thought out books—and to Vroman's customers who expect quality? I mean, Vroman's has a reputation—a brand—to uphold. They've been in Pasadena, CA since 1894.

But having thought it over, I think this move from Vroman's may be a move in the right direction—that their apparent understanding of the demand for self-published books. Maybe this change in attitude has occurred because independent publishers get better at putting out well-written and more professional products on a greater scale. It seems to me that it is a program that many authors (LA local authors and authors willing to promote their books as being available at Vroman's) would benefit. And there may be other bookstores doing the same thing. Here is Vroman's link to learn more:




I will try this progam with some of my books (I suspect my poetry chapbooks would not qualify because chapbooks don't have a spine and bookstores tend to eschew books without spines even when they come from the most recognized publishers.) After I've done it, I'll let you know more about it.

I have some questions that can only be answered by trying it first hand. I asked them these questions by phone, but didn't get clear answers on them.

Does Vroman's set these books aside in a separate department which would then encourage their customers (readers) to view them differently? I've heard that they do, but maybe their answer wasn't clear because sometimes they feature specific titles elsewhere, too. 

Does Vroman's list these titles in their online catalog so that the books are easily found (and sold) when their customers ask for them by name?

So, watch my newsletter and this blog for more on this subject and do let me know if there are bookstores in your area that have a similar policy.
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Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author of This Is the Place; Harkening: A Collection of Stories Remembered; Tracings, a chapbook of poetry; and how to books for writers including the award-winning second ediction of, The Frugal Book Promoter: How to get nearly free publicity on your own or by partnering with your publisher; The Frugal Editor: Put Your Best Book Forward to Avoid Humiliation and Ensure Success; and Great Little Last Minute Editing Tips for Writers . The Great First Impression Book Proposal is her newest booklet for writers. She has three FRUGAL books for retailers including A Retailer’s Guide to Frugal In-Store Promotions: How To Increase Profits and Spit in the Eyes of Economic Downturns with Thrifty Events and Sales Techniques. Some of her other blogs are TheNewBookReview.blogspot.com, a blog where authors can recycle their favorite reviews. She also blogs at all things editing, grammar, formatting and more at The Frugal, Smart and Tuned-In Editor . If your followers at Twitter would benefit from this blog post, please use the little Green widget to let them know about this blog:

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