Friday, September 14, 2018

Advice For Barnes & Noble

Publishers, authors, and book promoters know that the way for books to sell well is to market them effectively.  They may have their own expectations of which methods would be most effective, but it’s well established that a concerted effort is needed.  However, when it comes to Barnes & Noble, something has been lost when it comes to book marketing.  It’s hard to believe, but America’s last big book chain has been bleeding red ink for years, while the book industry overall is healthy and stable.  Amazon is up, indie bookstores are up, publishers are making money – but B&N is in turmoil.

As a consumer and book marketer I tried to help them, offering my advice through my blog as well as email and snail mail. I never received a reply back.  Maybe it was because they were too busy switching the CEO’s desk.  They’ve gone through four in the past five years. Right now they don’t even have a CEO.

They hire wrong, including people from outside the book world.  Each of the recent CEOs has a year or less to audition for the right to stay on – and they fail miserably.  They can’t blame the retail apocalypse – sales in retail America 2018 are up 5.5%.  They can’t blame the book industry – it’s growing.  They can’t blame anyone but themselves.

So what can they do to turn things around?

1.      Develop a relevant partnership.  They need someone who sells a profitable item in their store, just as they do well selling coffee. Further, they need traffic boosters – something that gets people in their stores.  I would suggest the stores make a government service available.  Have a mini-DMV in a store – people that come in with a purpose (license) may end up browsing books, buying coffee, etc.

2.      Sell books that aren’t sold elsewhere.  Enter into an agreement to sell books published by a think- tank, association, or non-profit-provided they’re not sold elsewhere.  BN can agree to donate resources to them as well.

3.      Have around-the-clock events. No reason not to.  They bring people in and they get authors and publishers to help market B&N.

4.      Lease out event space to those who want to hold a special event there, from a party to a graduation, especially during off-hours.

5.      Brand yourself --g ive out (don’t sell) bags, hats, mugs, shirts with B&N on them.  This is Marketing 101.  Don’t they know anything?

6.      Open more stores in areas that are growing but are underserved.  Stop closing stores – open more.  You can’t grow if you shrink.  Simple math here, folks.

7.      Get out there and market the book-reading, sin-tore ,paper-book experience.  Take ownership of it.

8.      When you hold a name-author event, film it and use it for social media, traditional media, and your website. Give people good content and a reason to tune into the site.

9.      Tell your story. When people purchase from you, stick a card in the bag to explain the rich history and importance of B&N.  Brand yourself!

10.  Sell something that no other retailer sells, including Amazon, especially something that kids would want – which brings parents in with them.

11.  Create a rooftop restaurant.  A café is nice, but this would be great in warm-weather areas.

12.  Work with local stores to hold a sponsored cocktail hour – “Barnes & Noble and Jack’s Winery Celebrate September 25th.”

13.  Have a costumed carnival barker right outside your store or down the block. Create a mascot. Have it call attention to daily events, deals, and new books.

14.  Encourage local schools to do field trips to the bookstore.  Have students prepay to get a deal on books.  Bring authors in to speak.  Serve snacks.

15.  Create “buy local” campaigns for some stores where B&N is the only game in town.  Rail against Amazon and promote human touch, paper books, real people.

Barnes & Noble needs to shape up or get sold. It has floundered the past decade, losing market share to Amazon and indies. It went down hill after Borders, its main brick-and-mortar competitor closed up. It can’t hold onto a CEO and it keeps closing stores.  B&N can do better.  It needs to.

Maybe it can read a book on bookstore management – but they probably don’t carry it.

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Brian Feinblum’s insightful views, provocative opinions, and interesting ideas expressed in this terrific blog are his alone and not that of his employer or anyone else. You can – and should -- follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels much more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2018. Born and raised in Brooklyn, he now resides in Westchester. His writings are often featured in The Writer and IBPA’s Independent.  This was named one of the best book marketing blogs by Book Baby and recognized by Feedspot in 2018 as one of the top book marketing blogs. Also named by as a "best resource.” He recently hosted a panel on book publicity for Book Expo America and participated in a PR panel at the Sarah Lawrence College Writers Institute Conference.

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