Director’s Desk: Retailers’ Measuring Rods for Books

November 2001
by Jan Nathan

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Last week I met with two gentlemen who have joined forces
to offer consulting services to publishers. I had known both of these men for
several years and first encountered them when they were employees elsewhere. Tom
Jourdane was formerly of Advanced Marketing Services, and John Morris, formerly
of Fisher Books. We were discussing the nontraditional and also the traditional
retail market.

During our discussion, it occurred to me that many
publishers’ views of the retail market are completely different from retailers’.
Perhaps if publishers could understand the retailer’s point of view, inroads
could be made both in getting titles into this retail market … and, more
important, in getting them out of it and into the hands of customers!

Dollar per square foot (in the case of a storefront) or per
square inch (in the case of catalogs) are how retailers look at a product. In
many retail establishments that deal with books and other products, the book
really needs to perform at least as well as the other things sold there—or
actually better. If it doesn’t, the book will be replaced with another product
that does measure up. It’s that simple.

Look at it this way. Let’s say you have a book on how to do
tune-ups on cars, and you manage to get it into a chain of car repair places
like Pep Boys. Well, sales for your title will be compared with those for motor

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