Don’t Blame B&N…

Expert publishing blog opinions are solely those of the blogger and not necessarily endorsed by DBW.

Barnes & Noble is pushing publishers for better terms, higher marketing funds and cutting back on their initial orders of books. The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times both recently reported that B&N and corporate publisher Simon & Schuster are feuding.

A couple of thoughts:

  • This is really nothing new — Ever since Len Riggio started to expand B&N into the superstore model and grabbed more real estate than anyone, they have been negotiating better terms and raising in-store promotional fees. This is just one more chapter in the 20-year relationship between the largest retailer and the largest publishers.
  • B&N should charge publishers what they can for prime space in stores — It is a world of supply and demand. As retail display space erodes, B&N’s becomes more valuable. Publishers are not forced into paying for this space. Actually today with so many opportunities to promote on-line and not in bookstores, publishers have options. But the fact remains, B&N front-of-store is beachfront property, it is limited and and everyone wants it.
  • This won’t hurt best-selling authors — There are two issues here, one is the rising cost of placement and the other is the quantity of physical books B&N takes as their initial order. The prime locations at B&N stores only go to big name authors or big-break out books heavily subsidized by corporate publishers. The key programs are too costly for anyone but the biggest players to participate. In the end, the big authors will continue to get the top placement. As for the initial orders, with JIT inventory and the shift to on-line buying, the need to carry extra copies is no longer necessary.
  • This won’t hurt mid-list authors — B&N has been reducing their orders for the past five years. The world has changed and many new authors are broken out with eBooks not making sure B&N has “10 copies per store.”. So the necessity of having B&N support the title should not be determined by their physical support. The reality is B&N can not survive with tons of excess inventory. If publishers still want the showrooms, then they will have to pay for it.

There has been a lot of doom and gloom regarding B&N’s future. All publishers have stated that they want B&N to survive. So having B&N come out and push for more placement dollars, better terms and tightening up their inventory are all moves that are expected.

If B&N is on the rocks, then now is the time for them to push for better terms while they still have the swagger to get it.


(book image via Shutterstock)


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