Last Updated on August 28, 2022 by Ben Oakley
Barnes & Noble has picked up attention in recent days from authors claiming one of their policies is hurting them.
The policy, which has been in place since September 2019, limits the stock of hardcover fiction in their retail stores.
Why could this be a bad thing?
It really depends on where you have your investments. For authors like Bethany Baptiste, the three-year-old policy is especially enraging.
According to Baptiste, the three-year-old policy will directly affect non-white authors.
Read the full Twitter thread to see hundreds more opinions on the Barnes & Noble policy.
Baptiste has, as far as I can tell, one book out with Disney Books. It’s an incredible achievement and one that many other authors would be salivating over. It is available on hardback from the Barnes & Noble online store.
Her debut novel called ‘The Poisons We Drink’ is scheduled for release in February 2024. It’s unclear if the hardcover version of the book will be available in Barnes & Noble retail stores.
It will be available online, nonetheless. Baptiste describes her debut novel in a pre-order tweet.
NBC News picked up the story, in part due to Baptiste’s Twitter thread, which caused a response from Barnes & Noble’s CEO, James Daunt.
According to Daunt, the policy allows B&N to ‘exercise taste in the selection of new titles and to send lower initial quantities into stores.’
Since the Twitter thread, other authors got in touch with NBC claiming the policy was ‘shocking‘ and that unless an author has a built-in audience, there’s no hope for them.
Many other authors jumping in on the Twitter thread saw the policy as the downfall of one of America’s largest bookstores. Many claimed that the bookstores are no longer recognisable due to different product ranges away from books.
Other authors claim they will never be able to sign a deal with a traditional publisher due to their debut books having minimal sales. And for this, they blame Barnes & Noble for the lack of discoverability.
Regardless of whether a title is on display in a book shop, the title still needs to be marketed in order to sell. Book don’t sell simply because they have shelf space. Discovery is the consequence of marketing.
Why retail change is a good thing?
HMV in the UK was once a mecca of printed movies and music. Today, it’s a pop culture store, speckled with Funko Pop Vinyl’s, Japanese food, and merchandise.
A few years ago, HMV was on its way out, its business model was unsustainable, as the digital realm took over. Now, the company has recovered to such a point that its original proposition has returned.
Vinyl and records are now HMV’s biggest seller, putting them right back in the game, and clawing back their share from the internet giants.
HMV exists on high streets in the UK today because it changed their business model. If they hadn’t expanded into new ranges, then they wouldn’t be here today.
Is there a problem with Barnes & Noble taking business decisions to keep themselves afloat?
B&N CEO, Daunt, continued. ‘When we just took what was imposed by publishers, approximately 80% of the books were ultimately returned unsold. In effect, the bookstores were filled with books customers had no interest in reading. Now we sell most of what we buy.’
Daunt believes the policy will bring ‘much more dynamic support for new authors, including ones of color, than was possible before.’
Barnes & Noble is a business, just like HMV and Waterstones. To keep themselves afloat, they’ve had to become more frugal in the finances and operations of the business.
If that means stocking hardback books that are likely to sell over those with minimal marketing or few paperback sales, then perhaps it is the right thing to do.
The story leaves us with a vital question.
Would you rather see Barnes & Noble go under due to poor business decisions, or remain afloat, by making changes to the way they operate?