Barnes & Noble Had My POD Book On The Shelf!

The title of this post is self explanatory. I stopped in my local Barnes & Noble yesterday to check the stocking of some big trade titles, and was shocked to see my POD printed book of diagnostic flowcharts on the shelf! My guess is that somebody must have special ordered it and then never returned to pick it up, but it's beyond me why Barnes & Noble didn't just send it back, since the book is returnable. The reason they would never order a copy for stock on their own initiative is that it's a $14.95 book with a short discount of 25%. Not enough profit for any bricks-n-mortar store to stock.

I expect some of the shoppers browsing through the computer books at that Barnes & Noble must do a double take. The cover looks like an amateur spent 15 minutes designing it in PowerPoint, probably because an amateur DID spend 15 minutes designing the cover in PowerPoint. I never intended for the book to be sold in stores and designed it accordingly. It's really just a collection of flowcharts with some explanatory text, and the first sentence of the book is, "This book was not designed to be read from cover to cover." It's also printed in the large 8.25" x 11.0" Lightning Source POD format for the sake of making the flowcharts readable, which resulted in a very thin book, about a quarter of an inch.

Interestingly, B& now shows the book as in stock and shipping in 24 hours. The vast majority of titles printed by Lightning Source are listed as being available for shipping 2-3 days at, even if they are physically in stock at Ingram. I don't know if this means that the Barnes & Noble warehouse actually has a copy in stock, or if their computer system is tracking all books on all shelves at all stores and in case of a sale, would instruct the local Barnes & Noble staff to pack it up and ship it. I do know Barnes & Noble store computers have access to the stocking information at other regional stores and can always tell you the closest location of a store with a book in stock.

It strikes me as very funny that I spend so much time blogging about a POD business model that bypasses bookstore stocking, yet the local Barnes & Noble currently has one of my titles in stock. I was really there to see if the book I write for McGraw-Hill was in stock because I'm waiting to see if they are going to take it out-of-print or try to get me to do a new edition, which would be the fifth. It also gets me thinking along those dangerous lines of publishing books that are intended to be stocked on store shelves. The little devil sitting on my shoulder is whispering, "If you can get a POD book onto the shelf in at least one Barnes & Noble without even trying, imagine what you could do if you went back to offset printing and offering the trade discount."

I could go broke is what I could do.

Damn devil!


Patrick Gerard said...

I can tell you why they stocked it.

Many B&Ns will order multiple copies of a book when they receive a special order for it. This isn't always the case but the idea is that if a book is of interest to one customer, it may be of interest to more.

This tends to be the case more with niche, special interest, and genre titles, because the person handling the ordering is generally not as familiar with those.

It's less likely with mass market fiction, which the person doing the ordering knows better. The manager knows what sells there (but may make an exception for a local author if they get requests) but likely doesn't know highly technical or niche fields as well.

I was told by one store manager that their store orders 1-5 extra copies of most special requests.

Unknown said...


That B&N manager was either snowing you or some kind of rogue:-)

You would be shocked how many authors (or their mothers) try to push their books into B&N by buying books through their local store, and in some cases, calling stores all over the country. Might have worked once for some guy fifteen years ago, it's all computerized now.

Since I use Lightning Source for shipping to B&N, I can monitor dates and quantities of special orders, and to what stores. I never seen B&N order in quantity 2-5. When my popular book was stocked in the superstores that featured computer sections, they ordered a couple hundred copies at a time for their warehouses.