Saturday, April 07, 2007

Distribution with Bookstores

Question from reader:

You like stories so here is one. I am on my 3rd year in business as a publisher and can not understand why not one of my 18 printed books have been accepted by Barnes and Noble nor by American for BAMM. We put out a nice professionally covered book, use #60 white paper, children's books are 8 X10's in beautiful covers and illustrations with games at the end of the 42 page books to help with retention, etc, etc. I have been struggling to hold on. Well, by accident I found out why our books have not been picked up by those stores, and why my authors cannot get appearances there. It seems that B&N has barred us and marked us as a publisher that does not take back our books. Crock! It is marked on Bowker, has been explained to the stores by the authors, etc. We just learned that that is the way that Barnes and Noble and the others notify all of their stores that we are not to be stocked nor appearances given. But no explanation to us!

I have emailed Marcella Smith who does not even return an email acknowledging that she received mine, and her assistant is the one who let the cat out of the bag when we were once again told that because we do not accept our books back that our authors cannot get appearances. I do not understand why Barnes and Noble has shut us down. We have done nothing against the rules, we are new and innovative but are not outside the scope of norm. So why on earth would any of my authors believe you when we know that you cannot get us in every big store. The only store that works with my company is Borders and Amazon, so from now on, we will not honor any orders from Barnes and Noble, B Dalton nor BAMM unless it is for an appearance for one of our authors, and we refer all customers to Borders, Amazon and our new bookstore on our site.

John's Answer:

I know few books that get into every bookstore. It's impossible with 6 million books in print and 175,000 new ones every year. Even the biggest stores only carry 100,000 or so titles. They have to be selective. And all stores, whether an independent or a chain, tend to have a bias against small publishers. Given a gardening book from a big publisher and a gardening book from a small publisher, they will almost always carry the one from the big publisher (even when the book from the smaller publisher is better).

Over time, many small publishers grow by continuing to produce great books and finally breaking into more and more bookstores -- or finding other avenues for selling their books. I've seen lots of great small publishers grow from one book to many, creating great covers, doing superb publicity campaigns, etc. And, then, eventually getting accepted into the major chains.

Don't deny Barnes and Noble and BAM any orders they do place. They have to get comfortable working with you. They will come around. Just keep knocking on their doors, keep producing good books, keep doing knock-your-socks-off publicity and promotion.

And, if you really want to get into these stores, get a distributor. With the number of titles you have, you should be able to find a good distributor. And you should have one.
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