Yes, friends: today, PMN turns one year old. Please forward inquiries regarding where to send your presents to the Pimp My Novel inbox.
In celebration, I'll be running a multi-part series (re)covering the most popular topics on the blog over the past year. This includes (but is not limited to): book covers, comp titles, co-op, e-books, genre-specific sales, returns, and self-publishing. As always, if you have any questions, requests, praise, vitriol, or delightful non-sequiturs, feel free to post them in the comments.
Today's segment: co-op!
I've discussed and/or referenced traditional co-op (and, to some extent, electronic co-op) before, but I think it bears revisiting.
Basically, co-op is the system by which vendors (a.k.a. publishers) pay retailers to place their titles in various eye-catching locations throughout stores. The main octagon table at the front of Barnes & Noble, the new release table at the front of Borders, the ends of bookstore aisles (called "endcaps," featuring face-out rather than spine-out copies) are all examples of co-op placement. Sometimes publishers pay a lump sum for a promotion or set of promotions; other times, they'll allocate co-op dollars based on how many copies of the title the store or chain takes.
Needless to say, if you can get such placement for your book, you'll have a significant leg up in the market. Also needless to say, with the bajillions of titles that drop into stores every Tuesday, only a tiny fraction receive co-op placement (front-of-store, such as the aforementioned "new title" tables, or in-section, such as endcaps or face-out copies on section shelves). Oh yeah, speaking of: that's why book store staff will turn your book spine-out if you wander through the store and turn it face-out. No co-op dollars, no co-op placement.*
If you're curious about getting co-op attention for your book, the first thing you'll want to do is talk to your agent. Promotions are generally figured out about five or six months ahead of publication, so if your book is coming out this holiday season, now is the time to ask your agent if he or she has heard anything in terms of co-op and marketing planning. It's not the end of the world if you can't secure major placement, but even a face-out in-section promotion can help. You can't get what you don't ask for!
Speaking of asking for things, if you don't already know the folks at your local independent book stores, now is the time to make their acquaintance. While being bros with the local Barnes & Noble or Borders folks is also good, they don't always have a ton of control over what goes on in the store; even managers (especially managers) are subject to corporate direction. But if you make friends with the owner of a local indie and then mention you've got a book coming out, not only is there huge potential for in-store events and good word-of-mouth, but you can also try to get a little piece of prime real estate (front-of-store is best, but any co-op is tremendously helpful) in return. Remember: your publisher is selling you and your book, but so are you. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.
Tomorrow: another look at book covers!
*This isn't 100% true; some co-op is engineered at the store's discretion. As mentioned above, independent stores generally have a lot more leeway than chain stores, whose co-op is determined at the corporate level.