A Real Good Deal

Josie Leavitt - August 18, 2011

Yesterday, I met with Katie McGarry, my new Workman rep, and while I was thrilled to work with Katie again, I was even more thrilled at the promotion being offered to bookstores, called Square Deal. It’s a very simple idea that starts when Workman sends the bookstore a display with two shelves that’s only 15 inches wide.
Once a month a selection of backlist books arrive, either for kids or adults. The terms of the deal are extraordinary: 50% discount, free freight, $20 a month in co-op and 120-day terms. It’s like a backlist special that most publishers offer, except the minimum is tiny and the terms are longer. The big difference is, I don’t get to choose the books. And the beauty of this deal is, if the books don’t sell, I can return them well before the bill is due. Essentially, Workman is renting a 15-inch display space in my store with books they are confident will sell. This could be an idea that might catch on.
I signed up for this deal for two reasons. The first is, I think it’s a good deal. And the second is I’m very curious to see how this will work. What I like about this is Workman is so confident with the selection of books, they are certain this deal will work and bookstores will sell books. It’s an interesting collaboration and it speaks to the changes in the publishing industry.
We’re all struggling to sell books. Publishers strive to place their books in stores in a way they think they’ll sell. Most backlist deals just come with books and decent terms. They don’t come with displays that seek to be unobtrusive. Usually, the displays are reserved for frontlist, save for the mixed holiday ones or summer reading. The difference here is the display is small and designed to fit in without giving up too much floor space. There’s nothing more irritating than a display that’s so big it obstructs shelves of books behind it. But I can imagine the frustration publishers must feel when they knew they would sell more books if they were just displayed better. And let’s face it, backlist is what keeps us all in business, and this is a great way to try to sell some.
This kind of deal is being seen throughout the industry. Publishers, usually the smaller ones, are working to create promotions that will drive traffic into stores. Unbridled Books just offered 25 ebooks for 25 cents. Several publishers, including Algonquin, are now starting to offer bundled hardcovers and e-books. Hillary Jordan’s new book, When She Woke, when purchased will come with a code that can be used to get a free e-book of the book. This helps to drive business back to the store. Any good promotion will have quality books at its focus. If the books aren’t good, then it won’t matter how nice the display or bundle is.
I’ll revisit this post in three moths and report back on how it’s done. I’m curious how other booksellers feel about the promos that are cropping for the fall.

5 thoughts on “A Real Good Deal

  1. Ellen R

    I love CHIRP (Candlewick Handselling Indie Recognition Program) from Candlewick, whose books I love anyway. They recognize that many of our book sales are the result of some super hand selling by front line booksellers, so CHIRP was designed to help with handselling.
    It’s a great promotion designed just for the Indies. Candlewick and their sales reps pick a group of (5 or so) favorite titles to promote per season. You need to buy an assortment of 20 books from the list, but get extra discount and dating. Also provided are shelf talkers and hand selling tip cards. The new twist this season is the fact that the stores can each pick two additional titles of their own for CHIRP. (There just happened to be two Maine books on the list that I’m excited about, so they’re my two extra CHIRP choices.)

  2. Laura

    I thought this was great out of the “cube” thinking and I commend Workman for creating it. I am hopefully optimistic that it’s going to work as well as they think it will. We already had success with their gardening table that came with a great wooden display and pulled in a craft display for the next quarter, in addition to the cubes. “Yay!” to Workman for coming up with the promotion and “Yay!” to Katie for selling it. I will look forward to hearing your 3-month report!

  3. Sue Roegge

    I opened my SMALL bookstore 5 weeks ago. As a newbie I have to say, this is fantastic. Tall and narrow, free display, a little less decision making on my part. Thanks for bringing this to my attention.


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