Today on Twitter, I became aware of a controversy regarding the popular #fridayreads hashtag. Some folks were unaware that #fridayreads is ALSO a website, and one that sells its services to publishers–meaning, publishers can pay to have their book featured on Friday Reads. There’s more backstory there (including an upset author, and complaints on both sides about lack of transparency, I’ll be honest, I stopped paying attention after a while), but it brought up something I’ve been meaning to write about: what publishers pay for that you may not realize.
Here’s the thing. If you see a book in an ad, you know that was paid for. That’s advertising, duh. But what you MAY not know, is that if you see a book featured LOTS of places, chances are it was paid for.
- When you see a book on a table at Barnes & Noble, that was paid for by the publisher (chosen by B&N, but paid for by the pub).
- When you see a book on the end of an aisle at Barnes & Noble, that was paid for by the publisher.
- When you see a book anywhere on Amazon or BN.com that isn’t the individual book page–that was most likely paid for by the publisher.
- When you see a book at MOST retailers in an endcap, table, or face out feature, the chances are REALLY good (particularly for big chains) that it was paid for by a publisher.*
One of the questions that Shalini asked about publishing was “How do publishers know if something is going to be successful before anyone reads it?” There’s a lot to that question and I’m going to delve into it further next week, but one of the things that question brings up is the fact that books that get publisher money are more likely to do well. When most people think of spending money on a book, they think of advertising, or a big publicity push, or an author tour. But I can tell you that getting a retailer to take your money to promote a book on a table, endcap, front page of the website, or in their window is going to go a LONG way to helping sales.
Think about it: if you are just going to a bookstore to browse (meaning, you don’t have a particular title in mind), are you more likely to shop the tables, where the books are laid out so you can see all the covers, or go to the shelves and search? I know where my eye is drawn and I *know* that it’s paid for.
I think people like to forget that books come to us from a business, an industry. For book lovers, in particular, we like to pretend that they come to us in this cloud of love of the written word alone. And I will say that, by and large, people who work in publishing love books like NO OTHER. But it’s also a business, and there are tricks to this trade. This is one of them–paying for placement. At Amazon, at Barnes & Noble…and at places like Friday Reads.
So my question is–does that bother you? And if so…why?
*updated to add: As Erin points out, accurately, in the comments, many independent bookstores promote titles without publisher payment. My comment was meant more for the big chain stores/national retailers, because indies..well, honestly indies probably have as many ways they deal with this as there are individual bookstores! Which, for those of you who are bothered by pay for placement, is one more reason to support your local indie bookstores!
Tags: NaBloPoMo, publishing