Sunday, December 6, 2009


The closer a table is to the front of the bookstore, the more expensive the real estate--and each book on each table costs publishers anywhere from $3,000 to $30,000, and even up to $50,000 depending on placement. [Viral Loop Chronicles Part 6]

You all know this, right?!?

Actually, I think most consumers do not know that publishers pay to have their books placed on tables, end caps and displays. I know this because I worked in cereal and in the supermarket you pay to play. Publishing is not so different.

"If you took everything out of a supermarket that was bought and paid for promotions, it would look like Soviet Russia," says Lorraine Shanley, a principal of Market Partners International, a consulting firm. "Books have a kind of halo effect because they are advertisement-free, but they are not promotions-free."

Barnes & Noble monetizes only a scant 3% to 5% of a store's total space, far less than supermarkets. The miles and miles of shelves crammed with books with only their spines showing don't cost publishers anything. But because Barnes & Noble, Amazon and Borders control distribution, they have immense clout, deciding which titles stick out when customers browse their stores and Web sites. They are empowered by a scarcity of space: There are so many books but only so much square footage available in stores.

Read the full article here: Bookstore Baksheesh: The Real Estate Deals That Sell Books | The Penenberg Post | Fast Company

So the next time you find yourself wandering into a Barnes & Noble and stop at a table to thumb through a book that catches your eye, remember that a publisher paid to put it there, hoping you would do just that. It's not that you've been punk'd. You've just been marketed to.


  1. Thanks for posting this, Jill. It's interesting to see how much this costs publishers.

  2. Very true... however, some books deserve that marketing push (certain vampire books/bandaids/snapbracelets aside). Publishers DO pay for that space, but sometimes the space they pay for promotes worthy books (I have to include mine because I think they're worthy... sorry). If a book will or does make bestseller lists, they will be at the front of the store, whether or not they're worthy. (Mine, of course ALWAYS will be!!!!!)

  3. This is fascinating. I knew publishers paid for placement, but I had no idea how much they paid.

    What goes in to a publisher's decision-making process when it comes to buying space? Is it simple economics -- the books they expect to be the most profitable go up front?


  4. Please, All Powerful One, let my book be on a table at the front of Borders. I promise I'll never say, think, or do anything bad ever again. Ever!

    I know, ridiculous. But I love this post and find it interesting how the marketing side of the publishing biz works. I have a background in marketing so I totally "get it."

  5. Let's see, "You give me this advantage that will help me make more money, and I'll pay you some cash." In government and lobbying, we call this a scandal. In contracting, we call this a kickback. Both are illegal. It's a pretty fine line between "marketing" and "kickback," isn't it? I think that's why the industry keeps it quiet, and I'm sad to hear that indies participate in this, too.

  6. Ellen- Absolutely some books deserve a marketing push and deserve to be on the tables/end caps/etc. The publishers and booksellers do not just put up any old books, the publishers back books they love and books they believe will sell. Most often the two are not mutually exclusive.

    Pay to play is the way many, many businesses work. That is just business.

    Great books, important books, silly books and unworthy books end up with marketing pushes.

    And Ellen, your books are amazing and will always warrant window and front of the store placement.

    Anon--I don't see this as a kickback. Just business. If you go into a department store and see a Guess Boutique or a Roxy Boutique, the store did not set aside that real estate because they think Guess and Roxy are their best brands. They rented Guess and Roxy that space because 1)they think the merchandise will sell through and 2)Guess and Roxy are willing to pay for the signage and square footage.

  7. I knew about the cereal from a marketing class I took a million years ago, but I didn't know it applied to books as well. Makes sense, though. It is amazing how much publishers have to shell out.

    Thanks for sharing.

  8. Thanks for the great post. I learned at some conference that prime space is paid for, but like JL Marting, I didn't know how much! One thing I heard from people who work at B&N and Borders, which is heartening for writers who don't get the prime treatment -- many times booksellers stocking shelves choose random books to face front, as opposed to just the spine. Many have said that, when authors take the time to go in the store and introduce themselves, they'll be sure to face that author's book frontwards. Kindness is free!

  9. The publishers probably wouldn't care for my practice of placing my favorite books on that table, would they?

  10. I was thinking along the same lines as Paul. What's to keep me from going in and turning my book face first on the shelf at Barnes & Noble

    ...every day?

  11. My book has been on quite a few endcaps along with related books (thank you, O Bookstore Gods!) but my publisher didn't pay for it -- so not all placements are paid for. Definitely some are, but not all!

  12. Great to hear, Kimberly. LOVE the titles of your books. I'll have to read them:)

  13. I did know there was money involved but had NO idea it was THAT MUCH!
    In Canada we have Chapters/Indigo (our B&B) but I think I can safely assume placement works in the same way. Not sure what, if anything, is paid for "face out" picture books on the regular shelves. Do you know how that is decided Jill?
    One thing that is really bugging me is the chains carrying (mostly on their sites but sometimes in sections of their stores) vanity press books. Chapters has a partnership with "iuniverse" and so I can only imagine the money authors PAY to the vanity presses for being included on a chain booksellers list is then, in part or all, passed on from the press to the book store. Does anyone know?
    It bothers me in that it clogs the site with more books then necessary and makes it that much harder to find a commercial book, especially if you only know a part of the title.

  14. Independent bookstores don't get (take?) kickbacks from publishers for their book placement. Managers and employees make the decisions regarding where books go, which makes these indies more appealing places for me to shop (that and the fact that my family owns one). When I walk into a store, I know those books are on front-and-center display because someone who works there actually *read* them, loved them, and now wants me to read and love them, too.

    As anyone knows, heavy advertising doesn't mean the product is going to be any good, whether it's in a bookstore or a grocery store. What you want is a personal recommendation--not a publisher's.

  15. Well said, Bobbie.
    Thank you so much for bringing the indie pov to this discussion.

  16. My background in sales and marketing also made me aware that there is a pay to play field out there in consumer goods land.

    Of course in some places companies do pay to have their products just on the shelves via co-op monies etc. Nothing comes for free - but of course, they are going to push the books (like Ellen Hopkins') that make them money.

    I still think that relationships with bookstores can get authors extra space and on display, but that is more the job of the salesperson for the publishing company. Which is whole other ball game. So to speak. :)

  17. Adding- also the author relationship with stores too. If only we could get into them all!

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  19. I feel much better knowing this. My new book, Tomorrow May Be Too Late, is self-published, and they are not interested in putting it on the shelves, even with full returnability and no risk.

    I am still confident in the work and will continue to self-promote it.


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