Thursday, October 8, 2009


With the holiday season drawing ever nearer, you may have noticed that those delightful front-of-store displays—one of a myriad examples of the magic of co-op—are starting to draw slightly larger crowds at your local bookstore (at least, that's what I've noticed happening around here and I pray is happening elsewhere). For my account, we generally do co-op on a monthly basis, but after October we simply dub the rest of the year "Holiday," the yearly book-based retail free-for-fall in which we generally make the majority of our money. (I once heard someone say that the industry loses money in the first three quarters of the year and finally turns a profit in the fourth, but I'm not sure that's true at all.)

As you know if you've been following along here at PMN, publishers pay retailers top dollar for co-op advertising/placement: all those big "New Release" tables, aisle endcaps, cardboard displays, &c are all part of the co-op system. As publishers prepare for the ramp-up into the holiday season, the complicated co-op dance of death becomes even more serious. That memoir everybody's gotta have for Christmas? As the publisher, you'll cripple sales if you don't pay retailers for front-of-store (or placement, prominent biography section positioning, &c &c. In short, it's going to be a madhouse out there. What does this mean for you?

Well, if your book is coming out this holiday season and you're a solidly mid-list author, it may be difficult to secure any kind of substantial promotional placement before the end of the year. Co-op is generally figured out several months ahead of time, so it might be a little late in the game to try to hammer something out now. If you're in this situation, however, consider asking your agent if there's any way to determine what co-op (if any) you've got scheduled this fall/winter, and if there's anything that can be done to improve it. (Note: please do not drive your agent insane with hourly requests for co-op updates.) Even if there's nothing you can do on a national/chain level, there's usually some co-op that's left to the individual stores' discretion, so think about popping on down to your local book store (you do already know everyone there, don't you?) and ask if there's any possibility of additional placement, events, signings, you name it.

It's a book-eat-book world out there, but that doesn't mean there's no room for you to step up and help yourself out. In fact, sometimes that's the main factor that separates the up-and-coming author from the one-hit—or, worse yet, no-hit—wonder.


  1. Ya, like when a guest sleeps over and I ask if they are warm enough before they go to bed, and they say "Yes". Yet, they shiver though the night, and ask me in the morning, "don't you people put the heat on ever"?.. and then I point to the thermostat and reply, "Did you know, that God helps those who help themselves?..'cause you could turn it up any time you want".

  2. My book is released in fall of 2010 and I'm already thinking about the co-op situation. I so want my book to be a success! I've just started editing, but it's still a conversation I want/need to have with my pub at some point.

    Thanks Eric!

    xoxo -- Hilary Wagner

  3. I believe online retailers (Amazon, etc.) get co-op for placing books on their landing pages (i.e. the one you get when you type in as well as for placement in the "If You Liked" section, etc. I'm not entirely sure about that though, but they certainly get and use co-op!

    Indie bookstores also get co-op, but barely any when compared with what the chains/box stores/major online retailers get. But here's they thing: indie booksellers will display and promote a book simply because they've read and liked it. Indies will support a book without expecting to publishers to pay them for it.

  4. Thank you, Eric, for more insight into the mysterious world of publishing. So many hurdles.

  5. OK, so I may be two months late but ... English slang is right as rain, in no way would I want to pull the wool over your eyes but I've always thought that it was American slang that was a bit out there.

    Cheerful thoughts for the author-in-waiting. Your postings are always informative. When is it too early to buy a travel toothbrush?