It’s Co-op Time

Josie Leavitt - December 14, 2010

As if the end of the year weren’t hectic enough, most publishers have December 31st deadlines for claiming co-op monies. The amount of co-op earned is a percent of the money spent with the publisher during the year. Stores get money for direct sales (right from the publisher) or indirectly (through distributors), and a separate “pool” for newsletters and events. It should be easy, right? But somehow getting the co-op claims ready at the end of the year just seems to suck the life blood out of me.
Publishers give us free money, but they make us work for it, and honestly, who could blame them for it? You want free money, you might have to fill out a paper or two. The problem arises when all the publishers have different policies and different forms. It’s like when I applied to college when every school had its own application, essay and other requirements. Now there’s the Common App, which can be submitted electronically. Oh, what a novel concept: all the different colleges working together to make it easier to apply to them. Oh, wouldn’t that be a lovely idea.  Just as we have Edelweiss, the online source for lots of publishers’ catalogs, why couldn’t we have one central place to get co-op forms and submit them electronically? But I digress.
Co-op deadlines are firm. If  a store doesn’t spend its earned money by the end of the year, they lose it, never to be seen again. There is no roll-over for co-op, so it’s imperative to get on the ball and spend the last of your money. I now have a part-time staffer whose only job is helping me get organized with my co-op claims. There are several things I’m learning from this experience.
First, I need to be better organized. One store I know has literally priced out every inch of their store, so when they feature a book  in the front window for a week, two weeks or three weeks, they have a pre-made form which they just fill out, take a picture and send it in. Oh, how easy is that? Much better than my last-minute scrambling to find my newspaper tear sheets and invoices.
Second, I need to claim every last bit of co-op I can. There’s no reason why I can’t ask for co-op from a publisher who has no established co-op policy. I’m learning that the old adage “nothing ventured, nothing gained” most definitely applies to co-op. You can’t know if you’ll get some money for an awesome event, especially if you’ve ordered a lot of books in support of the event.
And lastly, I’m going to be more pro-active and claim my co-op as it occurs, when I actually have events and special promotions, rather than waiting for the very end of the year. I’m busy enough this time of year that I’m actually get color-coded emails from my co-op person so I know what parts of the email to skip, because let’s face it, co-op talk can turn into a pretty dull dissertation pretty quick. But I need to get past the boredom and realize that credits on my monthly statements are lovely to discuss.

5 thoughts on “It’s Co-op Time

  1. Ginny

    Just wanted to let you know that Sourcebooks recently revamped its co-op policies to make it easier for booksellers. The form is due 30 days after the end of the promotion and we do ask for proof of the promotion, but there is no limit to the $$ amount and no pre-approval necessary! As a publisher, we’d love to know what else we could do to make the process even smoother for you. is our contact.
    Great idea about one centralized place for forms! Maybe that’s something IndieBound might be able to help with, since that’s already the go-to place for information?

  2. Roseanna

    Don’t assume that publisher reps will agree to claims from that store who has priced out every inch of their store. I’ve had customers send me claims with lists of titles they have faced out, put on windows, and at the end of the day, denied them because they weren’t real advertising or promotion. A holiday table may be worthy of co-op, but charging for space in your store for a title gets dicey, especially if the buy was the same as if it went onto a shelf instead of in a window, on a table. And don’t assume the chains do it that way either, because in my experience they don’t.

  3. Carol B. Chittenden

    STRONGLY agree that a common claim procedure/form would be an improvement — and while we’re at it, how about making it electronic? Sales reps are incredibly helpful with coop — because they don’t have any other paperwork to accomplish? (hah!) The regional holiday catalogue, which we ran in our local newspaper, has not only sold scores (hundreds?) of books we’d never even have considered carrying — and yesterday’s mail brought us a check to help cover the cost of the newspaper insertion! Every little $350 helps, I always say.


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