The Future of Barnes & Noble

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Barnes & Noble Sold

I just heard that Barnes & Noble was sold to Elliot, a venture capital firm that also owns the U.K. bookseller Waterstones.

I have had a tenuous, love/hate kind of relationship with B&N, and have blogged about it in the past. I’m not a fan of the way Barnes & Noble annihilated numerous other book retailers and mom&pop shops through the late 1990’s and 2K’s (similar to Blockbuster Video), but it’s nice to have an option besides Amazon if my local indie book seller can’t get what I want. Plus, I’m still one of those weirdos who reads “enthusiast magazines” and B&N is literally the only brick and mortar retailer I know who stocks a variety of those.

Venture capital firm purchases are almost always dicey, but at least B&N will still exist.

What I’d like to see happen

  • Get some personality: The pitch is a more “decentralized” model where the individual stores have a bit more autonomy. I think this is a great idea, and knowing some actual real-life B&N employees, I think its for the best. I have three Barnes & Noble in my general vicinity, and the one that does best allows its workers to inject personality and unique style into the space. It makes the place feel a bit more like a large indie book store, and feels inviting.
  • Re-focus on books: Get rid of the toys, games, Funko Pop figurines, and all that other junk, and add a wider selection of things to read! I’m still all for book-related gifts like Moleskines, bookmarks, and reading lights. That’s fine. But if I want vinyl I’ll go to a record store. Give me a horror and expanded literature section.
  • Kill the Nook: Just do it. Please. Put the thing into the landfill with all those copies of “E.T.” for the Atari.
  • Engage local reading and and writing communities: More local author readings, more book clubs, more big names stopping in on their book tours. All of it. Give readers a reason to drop by.

Better Than Nothing

I’m still a proponent of local independent bookstores over Barnes & Noble (support your local indie!) but it’s better than having no stores at all. Amazon is just the coldest experience possible. No tactile feel, no page whoosh, no book smell.

I guess we’ll see what the future holds for Barnes & Noble, and I hope it’s a turn for the better.

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Thoughts on Self-Publishing in 2019

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I’ve written a few posts in the past on the “Traditional versus Self-Publishing” debate. As someone who has work released through both channels, it is something I periodically reflect on. Mostly on the self-publishing side, because it changes very rapidly in comparison to the iceberg-like pace of the traditional publishing industry.

This week I listened to a podcast interview with a small publisher, and he spoke about the self-publishing landscape as retracting. Not from the content standpoint, but from the perspective of readers becoming more selective in their purchases.

This coincides with something I’ve been feeling now for a while, which is that self-publishing, specifically through Amazon, is no longer a viable path for a majority of writers. It’s in no way a slam against indie authors. For the few who are making it work, that’s awesome, and certain segments of the industry (mainly Romance) are reaping the majority of their sales through it. But for the average “aspiring author” who is creating literary fiction or writing in a broad genre like “YA”, fantasy, or science fiction, traditional publishing seems to be the way to go in 2019.

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The Benefits of Reprints

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I recently received an acceptance note (hooray!) that one of my short stories was accepted by a literary journal as a reprint. I haven’t seen much discussion of reprinted works on here or social media, so I figured I’d post for the benefit of other authors who might not have given them much thought.

Expand Your Audience

Reprints are an excellent way to get your existing work in front of new readers. My short story “Yard Sharks” was originally published in a print-only lit mag. That means it had a relatively narrow audience. The literary journal that picked it up as a reprint is online, so it will now exist in a whole different medium; with the power to share it more easily. Reprints can breathe new life into an old story, and you never know who might read it.

Keep Up Author Momentum

We can’t always write new stuff. Life happens, and even the best of us get occasional writer’s block or just need time to recharge our creative batteries. Submitting existing work for reprint is a great way to keep your “author momentum” going, and “make your writing work for you” as a friend of mine said. It gives you a positive goal and something to talk to your readers about in those extended periods of downtime when you are either struggling with an idea or perhaps deep in the throes of revising a novel.

Validate Your Work

What’s better than having a publication accept your work? Having two publications accept it. Or three. Or five.

Publishing is a numbers game, and a networking game. There’s clout to be had when editors or outlets look at a piece that has been picked up multiple times. It implies quality, which might mean the difference between them giving you an opportunity versus a rejection.

Seeking Reprints

There are fewer literary journals and anthologies that accept reprints than don’t. Most places want previously unpublished works. That said, there are still a number across all genres that are willing to give good stories another home. Just be sure, as always, that you read submission guidelines carefully and that all your republication rights have effectively returned to you before you seek new pathways to reprint your work.

 

The Slow Death of Barnes&Noble

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Barnes & Noble recently laid off 1800 employees.

This is one more step along its slow demise along with other “big box” brands being cannibalized by Amazon and other online retailers.

On Monday morning, every single Barnes & Noble location – that’s 781 stores – told their full-time employees to pack up and leave. The eliminated positions were as follows: the head cashiers (those are the people responsible for handling the money), the receiving managers (the people responsible for bringing in product and making sure it goes where it should), the digital leads (the people responsible for solving Nook problems), the newsstand leads (the people responsible for distributing the magazines), and the bargain leads (the people responsible for keeping up the massive discount sections).

I’m conflicted by this news, because I have something of a love/hate relationship with B&N.

Let’s start with the bad points first

  • I don’t ever want to see people lose their jobs. Ever.
  • B&N handled this really poorly. Not unexpected from a large corporation, but still not right.
  • B&N becoming a victim of “efficiency” and “profitability” at the sake of no longer being an interesting place to drink coffee and peruse books. Ayn Rand ultra-capitalism in action.
  • One less place to purchase books in your neighborhood (eventually), and one less e-reader to foster competition in the online space

Now let’s focus on the “good” points

  • Barnes & Noble (and Borders) all but killed independent bookstores in the 1990’s. Their collapse will create a space for small business owners to rise up
  • The lack of any physical bookstore in an area may drive people back to their local library (we can hope).
  • With proper leadership, maybe Barnes & Noble can save itself and get back to selling books on a smaller scale (instead of toys and board games)

There are a few items I purchase regularly at my local B&N, mainly magazines, that Amazon doesn’t carry. Shocking, I know.

The problem is that Barnes & Noble has begun to reek of desperation, in all the wrong ways. Like other big retailers who had their predatory hay day in the late 90’s and early 2000’s and ignored digital sales ::cough, Gamestop, cough:: they are adopting wildly irritating tactics in an attempt to salvage their remaining customers.

I want to buy a book or magazine. I do not want to

  • sign up for your discount card
  • buy more things to “save money”
  • sign up for your marketing emails under the guise of “getting my receipt emailed to me”

These are all annoyances that make myself, and most customers I bet, just want to shop online even more. This latest move to eliminate their full-time employees aka “the knowledgeable people who will provide customer service” will only hurt their shoppers experience even further.

What do you think? Do you shop at Barnes & Noble? Will you sit on the sidelines, shopping at Amazon until you hear about the going-out-of-business sale to get cheap hardcovers?

I won’t mourn the death of Barnes & Noble specifically, but more what its collapse signifies.

Writing Tip: Self Edit Your Work

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Editing is one of the most important parts of the writing process.

Common practical advice, especially among self-publishers, is to hire a professional editor and wrangle beta readers to edit and proofread your work. That’s helpful for final polish, but what about re-shaping the roughest first draft of your novel? Or maybe you’ve written a short story that you don’t want to invest money into a professional edit.

Fear not! I’ve compiled 10 great DIY editing tips from Lisa Lepki at The Write Life and Ryan Van Cleave from Writer’s Mag that are guaranteed to whip your writing into shape before you submit it for publication or show it to a potential editor which can save you both time and money on your road to publication.

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