Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Barnes and Noble's Six Book Problem

My neighbor from up the street emailed me last week.  He'd walked into my local Barnes and Noble and asked an employee to help him find my books.  After all, I live 4 miles from the store and my books are on both the Amazon and iTunes bestseller lists.  Of course the employee explained that Barnes and Noble doesn't carry my books in stores but could special order them.

Not wanting to wait, my neighbor contacted me directly and I sold him two full sets of my trilogy. I don't mind BN kicking customers my way.  It's happened before and I make more on direct sales.  But the incident got me to thinking about the future of my local bookstore.

See, losing a six book sale isn't a big deal.  It's maybe a couple of bucks of profit.  But when you think about how many self-published books are out there, including the backlists of traditionally published authors, it isn't a stretch to think that this is happening at every store across the country on a regular basis.  Add that to the popularity of self-publishing and that many serious readers are now also writers, and you can see how fast a six book problem can become a six hundred thousand book problem.

It would be unrealistic to think that BN would or could carry every title on their shelves. No one expects that. But if it were my business, I would have the community relations person in each store become more involved in reaching out to local authors and writers groups. Barnes and Noble could be more welcoming, maybe developing a process and/or criteria for carrying indie books. Another idea is a local author bookshelf. Or incorporation of POD machines, such as the Espresso book publishing machine.

I sincerely hope my local Barnes and Noble is still there ten years from now. I'm a bookstore person. I enjoy going there and I still occasionally buy hardcover.  But I can't help but think that my BN just trained a customer to check Amazon or the author's website first before driving to their store. And, in my opinion, that type of policy has long term and far reaching consequences.

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