By Cindy Hudson
Barnes & Noble is a national bookseller willing to work with local authors to help them get their books on the shelves. Community Relations Managers (CRMs) serve as the “go-to people” for writers who want to participate in that process. Page Jordan is one of these CRMs. Working from a flagship store in Clackamas, Oregon, Jordan loves the time she spends meeting with writers and organizing community events such as author presentations.
Here Jordan gives advice to authors about how to approach Barnes & Noble about stocking a book as well as other ways to help promote their work.
Do you have a section in the store to showcase local authors and local subjects?
Oh yes. Barnes & Noble encourages us to bring a local flavor into the store. Each location carries somewhere between 100,000 and 150,000 titles. About 40,000 of those are common to every store in the nation. The rest are specific to an individual store and its local community. While it may seem to you that every Barnes & Noble looks the same and has the same displays and the same books, there is actually a lot of room for each store to enhance the local area and carry what the local community wants to read.
What is the normal distribution channel for books carried by Barnes & Noble?
The majority of books we carry go through a buying process determined by our home office in New York, but stores on a local level can help facilitate that process. While we don’t make the ultimate decision to carry the book at the local store level, we can steer authors to our home office so they can get the information they need to be considered.
Do you buy books directly from authors?
No. We carry books available through wholesalers, and we can help folks figure out which wholesaler to go with. I give out the Barnes & Noble Acceptance Criteria Sheet to anyone who asks about it. This sheet has great information and it puts the author directly in touch with our small press department in New York.
What does a book need to be carried by Barnes &Noble?
It has to have an ISBN, it has to have a bar code and it has to have a certain kind of binding. The book also must be available through a wholesaler for us to carry it on the shelves. All that information is on our Acceptance Criteria Sheet. We also look to see if it is priced competitively with other titles of similar quality. Basically what an author needs to do if a book isn’t already in distribution is submit a finished copy of the book, not a manuscript, but a finished copy to our small press department along with a marketing and promotion plan, trade reviews, and a little something on what makes that book unique. All these factors will play a role in whether we will carry it or not.
Do you carry books by people who are self-published?
We generally don’t carry those on the shelves. What we have available for the print-on-demand or the self-published author is an event called New Writers Night. We typically schedule this with four to six authors who are all self-published. We invite them to come to our store on a particular night or afternoon. They bring their own books with them, make a presentation and perhaps have a question-and-answer session with the audience. We sell the books on consignment at the store during the event, and audience members can have them signed at the time. When the reading is over, authors take the books that didn’t sell back with them, and our home office pays them for the books they sold.
Every store has the opportunity to do one or two of these New Writers Nights a year, but the store locations with CRMs do a whole lot more in the way of events than stores without CRMs. You can call any Barnes & Noble store to ask if they have a CRM on staff.
Can people come to you for general advice about publishing?
I try really hard to give time to every author who comes into our store with questions. I’ll sit down with them and we’ll have a brainstorming session that will help them think about ways of getting their book out there while they’re going through the process of trying to get it into Barnes & Noble. Maybe they can connect with local clubs, local civic organizations or local churches. It’s like I’m helping them look through their personal address book to see whom they can connect with. I encounter so many authors who have no idea what to do and they are desperate to know, and I try to help them with that. I do know how precious those creations are. No matter what the topic or what the book is about there’s somebody out there who wants to see it, who wants to read it.
What else can an author do?
I strongly encourage authors to get out there and pound the pavement, make themselves known, make their books known. I’ve run into folks who were self-published, who started with a grass roots effort who have gone on to make it really, really big. Not every book is going to have that kind of success, but when authors work hard at promoting their work it can make a huge difference in the book’s ultimate success.
Cindy Hudson writes for national trade magazines, regional magazines, online publications and daily newspapers. Her website and its companion blog, publishes reading lists, book reviews, author interviews and other book club resources. She lives with her husband and two daughters in Portland, Oregon, where she writes weekly for The Oregonian. Visit her online at www.cindyhudson.com.