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Mar 23, 2009

How B&N's Fourth Quarter Affects New Writers

Hat tip to author Maya Reynolds who highlighted the most interesting 400 words out of a much longer and more boring document, the Barnes & Noble, Inc. Q4 2008 Earnings Call Transcript. And I'm going to highlight just two points from what she posted.

I'll call it the Good News and the Bad News.

The Bad News: "The year 2008 was by far the most challenging retail environment we’ve ever experienced. In fact, it was the first year in which our comparable store sales declined every quarter."

So book sales in the stores are down. B&N has responded to this by controlling "store payroll", which, if I understand correctly means layoffs and closing stores. However, I can't but think it also would determine how many books they are willing to buy from publishers.

If bookstores buy less from publishers, publishers will buy less from agents, agents will accept fewer submissions from writers. But writers are not submitting less to agents. On the contrary, agents have been flooded with queries, and in some cases, the levees have broken.

The Good News: "We . . . plan to return to the business of offering customers digital content inclusive of eBooks, newspapers and magazines. We have a large number of assets in place to enable us to sell digital content, our ecommerce platform is solid . . . We operate a world class in-house service center and our recent acquisition of Fictionwise has enhanced our ability to conduct digital transactions."

So maybe bookstores will buy more ebooks from publishers, publishers will buy more from agents, and agents will accept more submissions from writers.

10 comments:

Windsong said...

No wonder why so many writers tend to see the neurotic side of life! ;) But even with the bad news, I'm glad for the good news. :)

Kate Karyus Quinn said...

Thanks for the breakdown. There is so much bad economic news everywhere that it is sometimes hard to process it all.

lotusgirl said...

I'm thinking that there are always ups and downs with every issue. I'm interested to see what kind of eReader B&N would come up with. Do you know if that is in the works?

Tara Maya said...

Interesting question, lotusgirl. I'll keep an ear out.

Cindy said...

I've also heard that agents have been receiving an influx of queries. And it sounds to me like they aren't accepting less clients per se, they are just able to be choosier because the quality of queries has gone up. But it still does sound as though publishers are accepting less from newer authors and trying to stick to what they know will sell. I have mixed feelings about eReaders and such but it will be interesting go to see how that goes. Have you heard of the Espresso? Some new way of printing off books directly in stores. I don't know much about it but wouldn't it be strange if B&N went in that direction instead of trying for their own portable reading device?

Davin Malasarn said...

Thanks for the update, Maya. It's nice to get the gist of these articles. Sad news, but not surprising. I've started to just ignore a lot of this because I'm too depressed to submit otherwise.

scott g.f. bailey said...

The thing is, agents *are* accepting new clients; I'm proof of that. I'll find out if publishers are picking up new authors in a couple of months, I guess. I try not to think about that.

I've heard of the Espresso POD machines, which print up trade paperback-sized books on demand. Like a coin-op photo booth! I have no idea about the quality, and I also wonder about a bookstore that's basically an automat with a Starbucks in one corner. Would I want to shop there? Not likely. I hope I continue to have the choice.

Tara Maya said...

I'd be interested to hear your "how I found an agent" story, Scott. It's good to know that, yes, agents are still -- are always -- on the lookout for great writing and great stories.

jessie said...

Ereaders make me sad. I like paper. But maybe in fifty years paper will be a thing of the past. :(

Tara Maya said...

I don't think paper books will be a thing of the past. Or perhaps, they will, but be all the more cherished because of it. Certain books, like treasures, will still be given print form, so admirers can caress them.

Other books, the fast, forgettable reads, will be downloaded.

That's one possible future.