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Is B&N Really Attracting Readers While Repelling Authors?

IMG_0506A story crossed my desk this morning which has me questioning B&N’s motivations.

Writing for Huffington Post, Kallen Diggs argues that indie authors should work more closely with indie bookstores because B&n was only interested in readers:

Barnes & Noble. It is the last, major physical bookstore left. With Amazon physical bookstores, many people are wondering if Barnes & Noble will be able to stay afloat. I am not a fan of Barnes & Noble. For customers, it is great. Many of them use Barnes & Noble as the new hangout place to read books with their latte.

For most indie authors, Barnes & Noble can be their worst enemy. Why? Well, there are not very friendly. I only got a book signing there because of my publisher (Morgan James Publishing). Although, it was not worth my time there at all.

If I remember correctly, I sold 10 books during the book signing. Furthermore, you will be competing with the big name authors like Robert Kiyosaki, Jack Canfield, Stephen King, and J.K. Rowling.

I personally do not like competition, especially when they favor the big names over the indie authors. Often, these big name authors are getting their own shelf, which usually sit at the end of the aisle. With such a great placement, their book significantly stands out from the rest of the books.

It’s funny he should argue that B&N is attracting readers who want to hangout; as I recall B&N has a habit of removing all of its comfy chairs to discourage hanging out and so it could stock more pasta and 3d printers. And it’s hard to see B&N interested in attracting readers, not when their next four stores are going to be restaurants first and bookstores second.

But none of that really matters.

TBH the post I linked to reads less like a criticism of B&N than self-centered whining by an entitled author who did not get the access he wanted. And the fundamental problem with that complaint is that this author thinks Barnes & Noble has demonstrated a disinterest in authors when in reality he is one of tens of thousands of authors competing for a slice of B&N’s finite space and time.

It’s not B&N’s fault that he is one of many, many, many small fish in a very large pond.

That said, what do you think of Diggs' recommendation that authors connect with indie bookstores?

On the one hand, it is of course a great opportunity for authors. On the other hand, authors are still competing for space in a finite number of stores.


image by zcopley

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Fbone August 8, 2016 um 2:49 pm

He doesn’t like competition?

He sells his 226-page hardcover for $39.95. Paperback for $18 and the Kindle ebook is $3.99. Why would anyone buy his books at B&N?

Fjtorres August 8, 2016 um 4:12 pm

His pbook prices might be better if he weren’t working through a vanity press.

Fbone August 8, 2016 um 6:58 pm

A vanity press founded by a mortgage banker.

BJ Wanlund August 8, 2016 um 3:20 pm

They’re not having a terrible time attracting customers at my store. Seriously, I have gone into B&N a number of times just in the last couple of weeks and have been pleasantly surprised to see almost every seat in the little cafe filled (those seats are still marginally comfortable). There were also a ton of people, and I don’t think it was just because there was a book fair going on.

BDR November 8, 2017 um 3:05 pm

Look at their earnings. Your store may or may not be profitable but B&N isn’t, hasn’t been & (almost certainly) never will be.

There’s a reason that, as the overall stock market is making record highs, BKS stock price has plummeted in the last 10 years, is near 20 year lows AND, despite lifting their skirt with a come-hither look, still can’t find a buyer.

Your anecdotal story doesn’t change that.

Nat August 9, 2016 um 9:06 am

I wonder about the expected scale. Is 10 books actually a small number for a reading, or perfectly reasonable? In my mind’s eye a reading is an intimate affair with 30 to maybe 50 chairs set up, tops. Even the really big bookstores I’ve been in don’t really have a bigger open space than that. So let’s say it’s packed to the point of standing room only and 70 people have attended. How many of those people are already fans of the author before this event? And how many of those fans have already bought their books, before this event? Is 1 out of 7 who both enjoy the author’s work enough to want to buy it and haven’t previously bought it really that dismal of a number? Are my numbers just that off? (An author I care about has never done a reading near me, so I’ve never attended.)

I do know the RPG business, however. If you manage to sell 30 copies of a new game at Gen Con, that’s good—and that’s over the course of 4 solid days of exposure/selling, not just a couple hours. Hit 100 copies, and you’re amazing. Mostly the only people who do better are the established names/brands.

So, anyway, what’s a reasonable expectation for sales at an author appearance in a bookstore?

BDR August 9, 2016 um 9:10 am

Diggs' slaughter of the English language in this article makes me think that this guy should be looking for another line of work; something that does not involve written communication in English.

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