B&N vs. S&S: Keep Authors Out of It

There’s an ongoing dispute over retail terms between Simon & Schuster and Barnes & Noble. Ebook sales terms seem to be a key battlefield, but accounts of the dispute are conflicting.

Accounts of the tactics are conflicting as well. It seems clear that B&N has pared back its orders of Simon & Schuster titles — as a story posted by Jeffrey Trachtenberg of the Wall Street Journal (subscription required) this afternoon confirms. We haven’t been able to confirm, however, that B&N is taking punitive action directed at Simon & Schuster or whether it’s cutting back on book orders generally. It seems unlikely that B&N would be cutting back generally on new titles (it still has many, many stores to fill with books, and new titles are the lifeblood of retailing), but odder things have happened.

We strongly condemned Amazon three years ago when it removed the “buy buttons” from nearly all of Macmillan’s books in an attempt to pressure the publisher into rescinding an announced change to its ebook sales terms. We said then that those “hardest and most unfairly hit are authors with new books published by Macmillan that are in their prime sales period.” See “The Right Battle at the Right Time,” Feb. 2, 2010.

Our views haven’t changed: targeting a publisher by punishing authors as their new books hit the marketplace is an over-the-top tactic that a retailer with B&N’s market clout should never employ. A new book makes or breaks in the first few weeks after it hits bookstores.

Publishers and retailers have fought over sales terms forever.  We hope that reports of B&N singling out new Simon & Schuster titles prove to be unfounded.  New books deserve a fair shot at reaching their readers.

Comments: more
  • EMoonTX

    When publishers and booksellers fight, writers and readers lose. Readers lose the opportunity to find titles in the stores, make those fortuitous discoveries while browsin, explore new writers. Writers lose twice–not only the lost sales from that bookseller, but too often the loss of a contract when (due to no fault of the writer or the book) the sales figures drop and the publisher declines another book by that writer. Those in the business of selling books should not take revenge on publishers books by refusing to stock their books. At base, booksellers should understand that if they damage publishers (as by demanding larger discounts or setting lower prices) they are damaging writers, some of whose careers will not recover.

  • Lisa Genova

    My third book, Love Anthony, comes out in paperback next week, and just as Randy Susan Meyers said with her book, B&N’s order is slashed to essentially nothing. If you go into any B&N store next week, Love Anthony either won’t be stocked at all, or it will be difficult to find the one copy. B&N has always been a huge champion of my books. This political tactic is upsetting for many reasons–one of the biggest is that B&N is dishonoring its relationship with authors.

  • Ruth Bass

    It’s not just S&S. When my second novel was published two years ago, B&N listed it but did not stock it. Therefore, despite my best efforts, my local B&N was not allowed to carry it — not even by direct order from the publisher, a small firm in a town near me. B&N carried the first one, “Sarah’s Daughter,” and my local store hosted a talk and signing for me. But that was five years ago when things were apparently better. It’s a killer thing, whether it’s targeted or general.

  • http://twitter.com/MJRose MJRose

    My novel, The Book of Lost Fragrances is involved in this and the orders were cut by over 90% and I got none of the coop that I was supposed to get. What reports are conflicting here? S&S and B&N haven’t come to terms and dozens of us have been affected. No one is disputing that. I’m confused why you are suggesting that our books are not being hurt. I would love to hear how you can help us as the DC author below asks.

  • Randy Susan Meyers

    I am one of the authors caught in this problem. My novel, THE COMFORT OF LIES, came out Feb 12 and the orginal B&N order was slashed to almost nothing (as were all the other SImon & Schuster authors I knew.) This has been devastating for all of us. There is no doubt that it is the authors who are caught as collateral damage. (Ironicallly, when my debut novel, THE MURDERER’S DAUGHTERS, released, it was from Macmillan, and it was launched the week that Amazon’s ‘buy buttons’ were removed from Macmillan books.) As on ongoing member of the Guild, I would like to see more coverage of and outrage about this.

  • DCAuthor

    Why do you doubt the story – I am one of dozens of authors whose books are not in BN and are published by S&S. There’s no question that BN has slashed our orders and is hot stocking our books. Are you here to help authors or not?

  • Penney Peirce

    As my new book from Simon & Schuster was in production, B&N looked at my website and made me put links to them on it—for all my books—or they wouldn’t carry my book. I thought it odd that they were so detailed about it. . .