What’s Going On With Barnes & Noble?

What’s Going On With Barnes & Noble?

Summary: James Daunt, who also heads the U.K.’s Waterstones bookstore group, and new at the command of Barnes & Noble, is in hot water for announcing giving more book ordering responsibility to individual stores with the theory being that local buyers know better what will sell than compared to corporate-level buyers.

Some have regarded this in both the publishing and creative community as a really bad move. And I can’t blame them.

Last Wednesday evening, Bethany Baptiste, author of Izzy Hawthorne: Destiny Awaits and The Poisons We Drink, sounded the alarm about B&N’s controversial strategy.

In an interview with Publishers Weekly, Daunt had this to say about the controversial strategy:

“What we are doing—with middle grade and adult, fiction and nonfiction, alike—is to exercise taste and judgment,” Daunt continued. “This is to buy less but, if it is done with skill, it is to sell more. Far from being just for proven authors, this will be to allow the new that is good to have the space and attention to find an audience.”

Publishers Weekly

Translation: This strategy only focuses on purchasing books with “proven sales records.”

Who Hurts The Most From This Decision?

It’s no secret that books with BIPOC authors/creative teams have a tougher time breaking into the publishing industry. And when they do, there are fewer sales.

So, B&N withholding initial support for books without proven sales records is indeed “a middle finger to debut authors, if they’re midlist & marginalized,” as Baptiste puts it.

Daunt goes on to comment that this is the “latest step in making ‘B&N behave like a true bookseller and indeed in the manner of the best independent booksellers.”

Jenn Northington of BookRiot.com mentions an interesting part of this strategy: smaller tables. We’ve all seen them lately – all the tiny square tables with a “witty” title; the book form of “As Seen on TV”.

Customers, especially teenagers whose dollars retailers are hungry to acquire, are now just as likely (if not more) to come in looking for a book they saw blowing up on social media as an older customer might be to look for a book that they saw reviewed in the New York Times or heard about on NPR. And those books that are blowing up on BookTok? Not necessarily debuts, or hardcovers for that matter! Many of them are books that have been out for years, that new readers are only just discovering thanks to the magic of algorithms.

Jenn Northington | What Is Going On With Barnes & Noble?

It’s a shared concern this strategy gives traditional publishing more incentive to throw more money behind books they want to be considered “worthy.” Most times, Baptiste mentions, “debut books traditional publishers consider worthy are white or white-appealing ones.”

Even if a debut doesn’t hit the bestseller list, its sales will still have an impact on future book deals, advance sizes, and more. In short, debut authors stand a greater risk of little to no success in a publishing industry already incredibly tough for midlist & marginalized authors.

But even established, seasoned authors, including marginalized bestsellers, are being impacted.

On August 18th, Kelly Yang, author of Key Player and the 4th Front Desk book (which comes out in less than two weeks now), announced Barnes & Noble will not be carrying her books. Why? Because B&N is only giving shelf space for the top 1-2 books per publisher.

Even New York Times & Indie Bestselling Author, Kalynn Bayron, has been impacted by B&N’s latest decision:

If you want to get a deeper look into how both the author and publishing community have been impacted, please check out this article, “Barnes & Noble’s New Policy Harms Marginalized Authors” by Anna Wenner.

So, What Can Authors Do At This Point?

Like Jenn says later in the article, visit your local bookstore if you’ve got ’em. Support a debut author by looking for their book in your store. If they don’t have it yet, ask ’em. And don’t forget about your local libraries, too! They need as much love as they can get right now, too.

Don’t be afraid to go out there and spread the word about debut authors, including from the BIPOC community and other underrepresented groups.

Don’t have the budget?

Share the news online!

For more tips, please check out the above-linked article by Anna Wenner.

Seek out authors new to you, and give them a chance. The book eco-system can survive, and our choices can make a difference.

Jenn Northington

Book Haul & A Little News

Today, I had heard the Barnes & Noble location in the Arrowhead Towne Center (Glendale, Arizona) is closing on March 13th!

So, I decided to still support the one I’m confident isn’t closing by visiting the location closest to me in Surprise, Arizona. Honestly, my original plan was just to buy one book. We all know what’s really about to happen, right? Yeah, I walked out with FIVE! In my defense, four of those are books working towards my author career.

So far, I’m really enjoying the Junie B. Jones books by Barbara Park. It’s full of humor, sass, and simple to understand lessons beginner reader-aged kids can learn. Plus, they’re indicative of multiple manuscripts I currently have in progress. These books are quite cute, and they remind me of my daughter’s sass and stubbornness. That is to say, well, I’m in trouble when she reaches kindergarten age haha!

It doesn’t hurt to have a writing guide or two in your library as well. This would be my third writing guide on my shelf, actually.

I haven’t read anything by Gary Provost just yet but I’m confident I’ll get a ton of valuable information from this book. At least I hope I do, especially if you have “Proven Professional Techniques for Writing with Style and Power” in the title. It’s not quite geared towards children’s books per se, but maybe what I’ll learn is some excellent foundational techniques.

  • Come up with ideas
  • Create an irresistible opening
  • Develop an effective writing style
  • Choose the most powerful words
  • Master grammar and punctuation
  • Hold the reader’s attention and win the reader’s respect
  • Get past writer’s block (oh, my GODS, YES!!)
  • Craft a strong title
  • Rewrite and put the finishing touches on a manuscript

And much, much more!

I’m excited to dive in to this book!

I must admit – I’ve never read a single Rick Riordan book in my life. I know, I know, I might lose followers/subscribers with that admission. Sorry? Haha! Luckily, Rick Riordan has been expanding on mythologies from around the world such as Egyptian mythology, Norse, and others. You see, I’m a SUCKER for Norse mythology. And no, not just because of the Marvel Cinematic Universe :-P. But if that’s how you were introduced to it, or through the Vikings tv show, The Last Kingdom, or however else, that’s alright, too. I’ve been a long-time fan, at least since I was a pre-teen. There’s so much to appreciate and admire of the Nordic culture – from their food to their music, Viking subculture, and laws. Let’s not forget their otherworldly landscapes. That’s why I decided to buy Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard (the Sword of Summer).

And now, some more information on the news surrounding the Arrowhead Towne Center Barnes & Noble closing on March 13th, 2021!

Simply put, they’re only closing due to a leasing issue and not because of low sales and other issues. Despite the rise in e-commerce, including e-books, over the last ten years, this location (and some others) are still holding strong. Throw in a global pandemic, and the rumor mill starts spinning uncontrollably. Now, it’s not to say that Barnes & Noble didn’t close any stores any time these last two years. B&N is poised to close 400 of its 627 stores.

At this time, there is not enough information to determine accurately how many have been closed so far if any. What we do know is is that in most stores, due to the pandemic, massive layoffs took place. Most employees who have been working at a location for less than six months got the ax.

Many Barnes & Noble locations that have closed due to local ordinances continue to offer curbside pick up for online orders. These orders allow a small number of employees to continue working while maintaining a safe distance from customers and ensuring time for stores to disinfect surfaces.” – (Source)

To me, if COVID-19 cases continue to decline (hopefully), perhaps soon enough these closures will be seen as nothing more than temporary.

Let’s be honest, though, most Barnes & Noble stores hasn’t been so kind to the author community. A hard to pill to swallow: both B&N and authors like myself know that visibility and ease of purchase is crucial for selling, especially in a seemingly oversaturated industry. It’s why I prefer to refer as many folks as I can to smaller bookstores, and even libraries (if they accept new authors) rather than B&N.

So begs the question of whether B&N will change their overall culture and subculture to better reflect the author communities that support them.

What are your thoughts?

Did you buy some books recently? What are your favorites as of late?