A unique blog dedicated to covering the worlds of book publishing and the news media, revealing creative ideas, practical strategies, interesting stories, and provocative opinions. Along the way, discover savvy but entertaining insights on book marketing, public relations, branding, and advertising from a veteran of two decades in the industry of book publishing publicity and marketing.
Tuesday, May 2, 2017
12 Ways Barnes & Noble Can Stop Losing Money – And Win The Book Market Back!
people hire the publicity firm that I work for, they often tell us they want a
public relations firm that has experience not only in promoting books, but in
their specific genre. Makes sense. They want to feel we understand them and have
relevant experience. So why does Barnes
& Noble, America’s last-standing large bookstore chain continue to hire
CEOs from outside the book industry?
& Noble just announced it was appointing Demos Parneros, a top executive at
Staples, to become it’s fourth chief executive officer since 2013. The company is underperforming, to say the
the Great Recession, the collapse of Borders, and the establishment of a
digital book market, B&N is in bad shape compared to its competitors. While the American Booksellers Association
notes that independent bookstores increased in number by more than 25% from
2010 to 2016, and Amazon continues to grow, B&N keeps announcing store
closings and profit shrinkage.
for the third quarter of B&N show an 8% decline in sales, to 1.3 billion
dollars, compared to a year ago. Sales
of its failing digital content and devices fell 25%, to $38.4 million. After closing another 7 stores, B&N has
gone from 720 in 2010 to 634 – a drop of more than 12%. But print book sales have been reportedly up
– industry wide – in each of the past several years, so why can’t B&N take
advantage of this?
founded 131 years ago, is the last of the big bookstore chains standing. It had wild growth in the 1980s, 90’s and
early 21st century, led by superstores and locations in malls. But that all came tumbling about a decade
ago. Amazon was getting more powerful,
Borders was falling apart, and digital books were about to take off. This was a critical time for B&N and it
failed the test miserably. Its Nook
never took off. As malls closed or shrunk,
it just has never recovered.
success starts at the top. B&N has
made terrible decisions regarding its choice of CEO. It took someone who ran Sears, another
failing old-time brand – Ronald Boire – and put him in a position to fail. He didn’t even last a year on the job. Now they selected a guy who rose to be the
president of Staples North America, overseeing, 1800 stores and its online
business. But this guy knows nothing
in Cyprus, he came to America and didn’t speak any English upon transferring
into elementary school. He reportedly
has “virtually no experience in the business in the last few months,” says The New York Times.
me, the solution is simple and all that Barnes & Noble needs to do is
listen up and execute accordingly:
events and author appearances at every single store, around the clock. Many of the stores do not hold book signings
nor do they hold many of them. Take
advantage, of your space and schedule authors all day and night. The mornings can feature authors that appeal
to parents of young children. Lunch-time
can be business authors or novelists.
The afternoons can be a mixture of topics. The early evenings should appeal to the
working class and late night can be a time for entertainment-oriented topics
that appeal to teens, 20-30’s, and the singles class. Turn the store into a community center and
serve people well.
a way to collaborate with the self-publishing segment. It’s a huge area that continues to grow. Hold workshops that draw in authors. Feature books about writing, editing,
publishing, marketing, publicity, etc.
Further, give these authors a showcase for their POD books. They are passionate, energized and hungry
authors who will go out of their way to help sell books.
your store. The best way to do this is to advertise a store’s events, but it
can also partner with local organizations, from schools to small businesses,
and from non-profits to government agencies.
Go knocking on their doors.
Encourage them to visit the bookstore and to consider holding an event
there. Let people register to vote at B&N – and then showcase political and
social activism books. Have a local
business talk about what it does, such as, a home decorating store. Charge them a fee. Then sell books relating to decorating
homes. How hard is this to do???
the stores to people. Have a book mobile from B&N circulate on busy street
corners. Talk to condo hi-rise buildings
or big corporate towers about taking some lobby space for a day and showcase
upcoming events, books, and store features.
need be, give the Nook away. They need
to hook in new digital readers fast or they’ll always severely lag behind Amazon’s
Kindle. Once they have a faithful legion
to sell digital content to, they can grow and build up.
more stores, especially in underserved areas.
Can’t B&N look at the census or demographic data and figure out a
place like the Bronx should have a store, or that fast-growing population
centers would benefit from having a B&N?
more items in your store that serve a book-buying public. Music, games, videos, stationery, pens, and
the like are no-brainers. But how about
lamps, bookcases, and even some art work?
By selling other stuff, you increase your chance of selling something
and create a little bit of a one-stop shoping experience for consumers.
out B&N swag. Bags T-shirts, mugs,
and other premiums could be sold with the B&N logo and a tagline, but I say just
give it away. Build up good will and
greater visibility. Don’t cheap out on
something that could get you attention!
from the independent bookstore. How can
B&N flounder with all of its resources and name recognition, while some
hole-in-the-wall store on a side street eats its lunch? The local indie makes sure it gives a
personal touch to all interactions. The
owner is there and her staff is intelligent, well-trained, and dedicated. The store listens to what its customers
want. The store has speakers and lets
people feel it’s a piece of the community.
B&N needs to humanize its stores and the experience of a customer.
people to come in to your stores by giving something to those who are
contributing. For instance, celebrate
great school grades with area schools.
Any kid who brings in a report card with at least a B+ average gets $5
off a book. Anyone who brings a receipt
showing they donated goods, or funds to charities that exceeds $100 gets a
second book half-off with the purchase of another book. If you volunteered to help improve literacy
or make your world better, show up with a letter from the organization you
helped and get a free iced tea from the café for your efforts.
out to those who live and die with words – teachers, professors, librarians,
linguists, tutors, speechwriters, editors – and encourage them to share fliers
with their students, clients, or colleagues.
These fliers can offer discounts, list events, highlight great books,
and be a plea to grow the reading community.
a little fun. Invite kids to come
dressed in their jammies for a book reading and nap session. Have employees dress up as famous costumed book
characters. Invite people to meet a
best-selling author and make suggestions of his or her next book. Bring in amateur chefs and invite them to
cook up and hand out food samples to shoppers.
Bring a juggler, clown or puppeteer to do a little show while talking
about children’s books. Have a makeover
day, where beautician students come in to do free hair makeovers to anyone who
buys a book on the subject matter.
know running a store – let alone an aging sagging chain – has its
challenges. But it is mind-boggling to
see that Barnes & Noble can’t seem to get back on its feet. Maybe some of my suggestions are not so
practical or cost effective, but some of them are no-brainers. B&N has nothing to lose in following them,
for they’ve done everything imaginable to fail.
book industry needs to grow and a central piece is Barnes & Noble. America can’t allow its book giant to just
fold up. Even if B&N makes bad CEO
choices and is top too stubborn to change its ways, we need to tell it that we
want them to do better.
you think my ideas are any good-or have your own to share-send them (and this
blog post) to: firstname.lastname@example.org mail to:
Barnes & Noble, 122 Fifth Avenue #2, NY, NY, 10011 Attn: Founder & Chairman Leonard Riggio. Or Tweet @LeonardRiggio.
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