Talkin’ Barnes & Noble Blues

May 3rd, 2005 · 1 Comment
by Booksquare

Was it just a last week that we were talking about the magic that can happen when local authors get together with grocery stores? Larry Baker (Athens, Anerica) read our mind — amazingly, he pulled a thought from the brain’s recesses long before we acknowledged its existence (the thought, not the brain). Baker proved that tender loving care and an intense relationship with broccoli can do wonders for a book.

Now here’s what bothers us: Barnes & Noble. To quote Baker:

But I didn’t anticipate the resistance of Barnes and Noble. The local B&N managers, good people, loved the book and were going to order a hundred copies, but they were over–ruled by their home office. The B&N uppers refused to deal directly with my publisher, insisting that they would only buy books through a national distributor even though my dwarfish publisher was offering a better wholesale deal.

And then B&N decided that they would not stock the book at any of their stores in the universe because they didn’t like the cover art. Seriously . . . I’ve got the letter, in black and white. And that really hurt. I’ve been in a lot of B&N stores. They’re full of butt–ugly books, and I took their rejection personally because the cover art was my concept.

Is this the case for all B&N stores? Is it possible that local managers have no discretion on what they can stock in their stores? Is there really so little leeway and will this lead to the collapse of the behemoth? Are we asking too many questions today?

We get the beauty of centralized distribution and cost savings. There is something comforting about knowing that we can walk into just about any grocery store in the United States and buy a can of Campbell’s Chicken Noodle Soup, should we require that particular object. Heck, it’s even comforting to know that we can walk into major bookstores and buy certain national bestsellers, should we choose.

Larry Baker had the last laugh in Iowa City. The 980 people who bought his book also learned a lesson: maybe they should try other venues for interesting reads.

File Under: Books/Mags/Blogs

1 response so far ↓

  • Susan Gable // May 4, 2005 at 5:38 am

    I heard recently from an editor at a bigwig publishing company that the B&N buyer also doesn’t like white covers. If your novel has a white cover it appears to be the kiss-of-death for this chain. (shrug)

    Was this guy’s cover white?