Sunday, June 19, 2011

A Sneak Peek Behind The Scenes Of Barnes & Noble

Our COSCBWI Barnes & Noble bookfair is just around the corner on June 25 at Easton Town Center.  It's a fundraising opportunity for our local SCBWI chapter and we hope to raise enough money to host a FREE event for our members next year.  When customers use our bookfair voucher at checkout (in-store or online), our organization earns a percentage of the sale.  Pretty cool, huh?  We have a spectacular line-up planned for anyone who comes to the store that day including author and illustrator presentations by: Edith Pattou, Dee Garretson, Linda Gerber, Steve Harpster, Tracey Dils, Nikki Boetger, Sally Derby and Erin Burchwell.  Think of it as a free mini-conference that just happens to take place by the oh-so-delicious Cheesecake Factory.  (Anyone for dessert at the end of the day?)

In preparation for our upcoming bookfair, B&N Community Relations Manager, Jill Folden, came to our chapter meeting this past week to talk about what it takes to get your published book into the store.  Her discussion mainly applied to authors whose books have been self-published or published by a smaller publishing house rather than the biggies like Scholastic and Penguin. Though it's harder to get your foot in the B&N door in these instances, all hope is not lost.  Authors can still set up in-store book-signings and sales if they follow a list of guidelines and pass a submission process.  Many of the criteria on the guidelines are non-negotiable but make perfect sense.  Books MUST have an ISBN number and a barcode for starters, otherwise they simply cannot be sold.  It must also be available through a wholesaler so they can order it more easily and hopefully turn a profit, too.  You have to send the book (printed and bound--not the manuscript) as well as your marketing plan, etc. to The Small Press Department for review and approval.  The biggest surprise to me were the guidelines on what physical materials the book can contain.  For safety compliance reasons, they can only stock books that have been "cleared" by material standards and contain no hazardous components like lead.  This is particularly important to self-publishers and they recommend you make sure the publisher/printer you choose only uses high-quality materials that meet safety guidelines.  (I shudder at the thought of lead-filled books in the hands of kids!)

A lot of the time, though, Corporate ultimately mandates what goes in the store and what doesn't.  The books they carry from the main publishing houses are all carefully researched and distributed.  They decide shelf placement and what goes on the end caps, display tables, etc.  She told us that once a week, they even have someone come in to each store who "re-stages" the shelves, making sure the appropriate books are where they belong, in the appropriate numbers, and displayed just so.  (Now I don't feel so bad when I take a book off a shelf and can't remember where it goes.)   

Jill also talked a bit about Nooks--yet another way to get your work into the hands of readers.  She said anyone can set up their book in this format and start selling their novel electronically through the Barnes & Noble website.  The royalties are higher, but the e-books sell for cheaper to begin with, so you may bring in big bucks or mere peanuts depending on your sales.  I personally don't have an e-reader, but I'm starting to think they're looking pretty irresistible...

It was very interesting to hear all this behind the scenes info.  I now feel like I have a much better understanding of Barnes & Noble's book purchasing procedures and options for authors.  Our event is in good hands with Jill at the helm and I can't wait for our bookfair this weekend!  For more information about our event, check out our website:  For online purchases you wish to make to help our cause, the code is: Bookfair ID 10475671 (Note: at checkout, the code goes in the Bookfair spot--not the coupon spot.)  This Saturday's event is sure to be great!  We hope to see you there!

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