What Makes Barnes & Noble Decide to Buy a Book?

July 2001
by Marcella Smith

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In any given week, the Small Press Department at Barnes & Noble receives more than 100 new titles to be considered for inclusion in the store title mix. Over the years, the ratio of “titles selected” to “titles passed” has remained steady; we tag three out of every 10 for distribution into the stores and must turn the other seven down for a variety of reasons.

For instance:

• The production values are shoddy–the book appears not to have been professionally designed or professionally edited.

• There’s nothing remarkable about the book, and there are hundred of titles in the same category with good track records as well as a publisher and author who promote them vigorously.

• The content of the book is a personal story, told in a style that has meaning only for the friends and family of the author or of the book’s subject.

But if those sorts of reasons lead us to decline a book, what makes us decide to place an order? I think all booksellers ask themselves the same three questions every time they encounter information about a new title or pick up a book to consider it for the first time.

1. What is the book?

2. Who is the customer?

3. How will the customer find out about this book?


The answers to these three questions–which are explored below–will determine whether the bookseller decides to buy the book, how many copies will be ordered…IBPA Members – Click here to view the full article (login required).

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