business news in context, analysis with attitude

by Kevin Coupe

The New York Times reports that Barnes & Noble, hoping to combat Amazon and get people into its stores during the upcoming holiday season, has "recruited 100 prominent authors - including Donna Tartt, David Mitchell, Dan Brown, E. L. James, Jeff Kinney, George W. Bush and Hillary Clinton - to each sign roughly 5,000 copies of their latest books. The company will distribute the 500,000 signed books among its more than 650 retail stores," and will promote them for the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday weekend that is the traditional beginning of the holiday shopping season.

The story goes on to note that "independent bookstores are also counting on authors to draw customers for the holidays, a period when many of them make as much as 30 percent of their annual sales. As part of the American Booksellers Association’s 'Indies First' holiday initiative, about 1,200 authors will sign books, greet customers and, in some cases, work behind the counter at more than 400 independent bookstores around the country this Saturday."

Oren Teicher, chief executive of the American Booksellers Association, tells the Times that author appearances and signed copies were "among the best weapons brick-and-mortar stores had against online retailers."

“Books are identical no matter where you buy them,” he says. “You don’t get a different or better ending if you buy them from us."

That last sentence could be applied to a lot of retail experiences. It is largely true of many stores - think most supermarkets, drug stores, c-stores - that they all sell the items. The Eye-Opening differences have to be found in the services and service they offer, and in the ways they brand themselves as being unique and differentiated.

Getting authors to sign books may not solve all their problems, but this certainly is one way for booksellers to differentiate themselves as opposed to Amazon.

And, I can tell you this - most authors are thrilled to do it. Michael Sansolo and I will tell you that signing books is one of the things we enjoy the most.

And, by the way, we appreciate all the folks who ordered copies of "Retail Rules!" and "Business Rules!" in time to get the signed and delivered in time for the holidays. The "official" deadline for getting signed books has passed, but if you want one for the holidays, just shoot me an email and I'll do my best to make that happen. (The rules may have said that orders had to be in by the end of last week, but I'm a big believer that sometimes you have to break the rules…)
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