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A blog wherein a literary agent will sometimes discuss his business, sometimes discuss the movies he sees, the tennis he watches, or the world around him. In which he will often wish he could say more, but will be obliged by business necessity and basic politeness and simple civility to hold his tongue. Rankings are done on a scale of one to five Slithy Toads, where a 0 is a complete waste of time, a 2 is a completely innocuous way to spend your time, and a 4 is intended as a geas compelling you to make the time.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

B&N cuts back

So it's possible you've heard from different places, a blog somewhere or your editor trying to explain why your new offer is so low, that Barnes & Noble has cut back their orders.

Boy, are they!

B&N has long had a fixture called the New Mass Market Tower. It's the square thing that usually sits in the central aisle of the stores that's around six feet tall, four rows across and maybe eight or so down, with new mass market books.

A publisher pays to put your new mass market on the new mass market tower, of course B&N also has to agree they'd like it there because there are only so many books that can go on it over the course of the month and way more to choose from than that. But your publisher has to want it there.

And for all those years, it used to be that being on this fixture meant that pretty much every Barnes & Noble was going to get 8 copies of your new sf/fantasy book, other than for the really most awful stores for sf/fantasy where they would put in an initial order of 6 copies.

Those are nice numbers. You could certainly fill one pocket on the tower, maybe even fill two pockets, and maybe even have a copy or two left over to go back into the section.

Well, not any more.

Now a publisher is paying to get a book on to the New Mass Market Tower, and B&N is ordering 3 copies for the bad stores, 5 copies for somewhat better stores, dramatically fewer copies.

So, big picture, where once B&N might routinely have ordered 6000 copies in exchange for a New Mass Market Tower placement to cover store stock and a ready reserve for the warehouse, now it could be more like 4250 or 4500.

Little picture, let's look at those bad-in-genre stores that had gotten 6 copies and are now getting 3. Well, 3 isn't going to fill 2 pockets, so maybe you'll only get one. For thinner books, 3 copies might not even fill a pocket. Either way, there's no extra copy to go in section, so some dedicated genre fans who bee-line to the section might not notice your new book on the Tower. If one copy sells, all of a sudden there are only 2 copies in a pocket that can fit 3 or 4 so it's harder to see the book on the Tower, the display looks forlorn and lonely. B&N has a great supply chain and can get more copies of a new book from warehouse to store in a couple of days, but if demands at any of these stores is way stronger than expected you're still looking at maybe having only one copy for a day or two or maybe even going clean before the 72 hours it might take to get a box opened. To have this happening now... I can think of some B&Ns where demand might uptick because a nearby Borders has closed, it's a bad time to decide to be less robust in your ordering.

Will these things cost sales? Of course! If the initial order is down by 25%, if some stores are getting 50% fewer copies -- well, it doesn't matter if you have the same placement, this is going to have an effect.

But not to worry, you'll still find plenty of ways to accessorize your Nook.


Elizabeth Moon said...

What I don't understand is why B&N seems determined to follow the same route that (in part at least) deepsixed Borders...cutting down on books to carry more other stuff.

Next thing you know they'll be carrying gourmet cookware and designer shoes.

Mary Holland said...

In their heart of hearts, corporate finance types don't understand selling books. They think they are selling cans of beans. So when times get tight, they stock fewer cans. They don't get it: when you visit B&N and have to wade through the frou-frou to get to the books only to discover they don't have the title you want, you're going to go elsewhere. They think you're going to grab the next book over, because they have the same price point. Content/genre/quality are meaningless to them.

Maria said...

Exposure matters SO MUCH. Impulse buying matters and so does...having the book. The book has to be there to sell.

Not a positive development, not at all.

Wolf said...

The B&N here already DO carry gourmet cookware. Mario Batali's brand, I believe. Designer shoes can't be far behind.

It doesn't help that they stashed the Sci-Fi/Fantasy section way in a back corner, cutting down on selection and merging it with the Fiction section now, either. Makes for finding a particular book difficult.

It's also why I've started either ordering online or doing an online 'Pick Up In Store' instead. THEY can go wade through the frou-frou for the book I want instead of me wasting my time and getting frustrated because I can't find it anymore.