The B&N Ban

I just learned that I can’t visit any Barnes and Noble store with the release of my upcoming novel Tamarack County, the thirteenth in the Cork O’Connor series.  There’s a spat going on between my publisher, Simon and Schuster, and the bookstore chain.  No Simon and Schuster author may visit any Barnes and Noble until further notice.  It has something to do with money, but nobody seems to know exactly what.

I’ve been setting up my tour for Tamarack County, which comes out on August 20.  I’d arranged two events at Barnes and Noble stores in the Twin Cities, two stores that have been strong supporters of my work from the beginning and that sell enormous quantities of my work.  Then I got the word from New York: No visits to B&N.  I called back the Community Relations Managers of both stores, the wonderful women I’d work with to set up the events.  We all scratched our heads and said it was crazy, but there it was.  The gods had spoken.

There’s more.  Many S&S authors’ works are no longer being ordered or displayed.  I suspect this rift, which has been dragging on for months, has drastically affected my sales and the sales of other Simon and Schuster authors.  And I can’t help but think that the entity benefitting most from this kind of nonsense is Amazon.  Readers who can’t find authors at B&N and who have no local independent are going to pop onto the Internet and buy there, it seems to me.  Or they’re simply not going to buy at all.

Don’t get me wrong.  I love my publisher.  But this business is difficult enough as it is, and I bust my rear end to sell books.  Then this kind of chicanery gets thrown into the mix.  I have a friend who used to wear a T-shirt at writers’ conferences: Publishing Business—Isn’t that an oxymoron?

Damn straight.

18 thoughts on “The B&N Ban”

  1. It is shenanigans, isn’t it? It certainly does impact an author’s sales and it’s unfortunate that you’ve gotten caught in this quagmire. And while I agree that Amazon may benefit from this overall, as an Amazon/Montlake author, I will point out that I have no shelf space in a Barnes & Noble, either. Nor am I welcome there to do a book signing. That being the case, I’d say this is a situation created by B&N and sadly, it’s authors who are paying the ultimate price.

  2. A new independent in Madison, Wisconsin called Mystery to Me will welcome you with open arms! I purchased the inventory from Booked for Murder and have moved it all to a new location. Customers of Booked for Murder continue to remind me that you’re one of Madison’s favorites. Your books are always top sellers. Hope to see you in Madison.

  3. None of you seem interested in finding out what the actual problem is. It has to do with the amount of co-op advertising that B&N would like S&S to pay to stock its books. This is a long standing industry practice (as it is in almost every retail category) they are just fighting over how much. I find it disappointing that authors and the commenters are very comfortable assigning blame but too lazy to look into the real issues.

  4. It is not chicanery if B & N isn’t paying its bills. If they take in money from the sale of a book and then not pay the publisher for the books they sold that’s wrong. I don’t have the details but I am willing to bet B&N owes a significant amount of money if S&S is willing to tack such drastic steps.

  5. I am no expert, but I suspect that B & N is under severe financial pressure, I know their Nook is not doing well compared to the Kindle, I-Pads, and Androids, and their fixed costs are enormous. I do not track their stock or their financials, but I am glad I’m independent and not signed to a brick-and-mortar publisher, at least I can make my own decisions. S & S may very well be using this as an opportunity to sweeten their deal with Amazon, it is difficult to overestimate Amazon’s leverage, both direct and indirect, in the market. Clearly they are trying to position themselves to be indispensable to the emerging self-publishing niche. This may be symptomatic of that reality as S & S and B & N fight for every penny of shrinking margin.

  6. Pancho, casting blame at the ‘laziness’ of ignorant authors strikes me as somewhat misguided. These two companies have been fighting now for five months. Are they awaiting some divine event that will magically break the stalemate? In the meantime, five months of new releases have (for the most part) gotten lost in the fray. I know several authors who saw their sales numbers plummet dramatically. In fact, I am one of them. Surely you can understand if we are impatient with the fact that this fracas is still ongoing.

    On another note, I was surprised by how many long-time readers emailed me to say they could not locate my recent release — surprised because I’d imagined most people would simply take to Amazon after being unable to find the book on B&N shelves. That so many readers instead chose to email me suggests how powerful the brick-and-mortar model remains for many of them — and in much of this country, the only brick-and-mortar option is B&N.

    In closing, for the sake of all S&S authors, I hope this disagreement is resolved very soon.

  7. Pancho – Does finding out all the specific details (other than that there is an open dispute between B&N and S&S) in any way change the impact?

    This blog post was written to address the impact on an author, his real experiences, and his concerns.

    But if it’s better, I suppose everyone can sympathize with the *real* victim of all this nonsense – either B&N or S&S (or both). I’m sure both companies will lose some profits from potential lost sales. It might even impact their financial statements at year-end if one can go out enough decimal places to find it.

    As far as individual authors, whose own financial impact is magnitudes more – well…

  8. Hi William,

    I’m currently on my US tour for my debut american novel (also with the terrific S. Branham of Atria! 🙂 ). I was excited to see how many books were stocked in the big Canadian chain, Indigo, in Toronto. About 40 books each in 6 stores in the capital! And then it was back to the states… where my novel, Golden Boy, isn’t stocked in any Barnes and Noble. It’s so upsetting to hear B&N is persisting in this, as it really hurts sales as a newbie author, as it must for any author. What I think it also hurts is the word-of-mouth, snow-ball effect that having books on shelves brings. Thank goodness for the brilliant independents that are stocking the book. Ps – you might remember I read Ordinary Grace and LOVED it. I reviewed it on the Huffington Post a while back. Thanks for a really wonderful book.

  9. This is a very troubling situation. You are so right. Authors have enough problems without this kind of spat–I would imagine publishers and booksellers do too!

  10. Why the negativity? One of the previous blog posts had all kinds of great ideas on how to save the Independant Bookseller from the nasty book chains and the giant on-line book/ebook seller.

    This is obviously S&S’s way of saving the Independant Booksellers from those nasty book chains like B&N. After all, the publisher only has the author and the readers best interest in mind!

  11. re: Marc Cabot
    Question: Under what authority do they claim the right to issue this command?

    It’s free enterprise, Marc. Distasteful as it is, companies are (and should be) free to set the terms under which they transact. God help us if the Contract Clause under the constitution is ever repealed and the government permitted to intervene to establish terms of sale. That’s known as socialism.

    That said, I agree that B&N is acting very boorishly. That’s a business decision, too, though sadly it harms authors.

  12. Oh, and why I say, “Distasteful though it is,” my use of “it” refers to B&N’s policy, not the idea of free enterprise, which is good for authors, to be sure. (Although, yes, it is government that gives us copyright law.)

  13. Kent,

    Are there any plans to visit any other bookstores in the Twin Cities area? I know you have visited one in WBL.

    I will be so sad if I can’t hear you speak about your new book this August/September. Hoping some plans are being made.

    Carol White

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