Starbucks and Books
Some of my writer friends are huge Starbucks’ fans. It’s like their daily (or several times a day) habit. I don’t get to Starbucks often but about a week ago I landed in one in Tucson, working with one of my co-authors on a book proposal project. (If you are wondering, I have to write book proposals to pitch my book ideas as well.)
If you drink Starbucks, you’ve probably noticed they are selling an occasional book. I picked up a short reading guide to Mitch Albom’s new novel, For One More Day. Inside this pocket-sized pamphlet is a series of questions “to encourage reflection and conversation about this inspiring book.” It includes a short summary of the book along with 13 questions. The back of the pamphlet gave eight locations and dates where Albom would be signing the book at Starbucks. A recent issue of Publishers Weekly gave some numbers on Starbucks. The decision to sell these books is a corporate one or something that affects every single Starbucks. Now that is a lot of fresh venues to sell books—and only the selected books. Among retailers and publishing insiders, this venue has raised some eyebrows. A number of Starbucks are located inside bookstores—and now the coffee shop is entering the competition. Naturally not everyone is happy with this trend.
How has it worked? According to another Publishers Weekly article, it has worked well: “Starbucks has sold 45,000 copies of Mitch Albom’s novel For One More Day (Hyperion) since it went on sale at the chain October 3, a week after the book reached bookstores. The figure accounts for roughly 12% of a total of 391,000 copies sold, as tabulated by Nielsen BookScan. (BookScan, which added Starbucks to its file the week it began selling For One More Day, represents about 70% of total book sales).”
And will it continue? This same article says, “PW has also learned that Starbucks is on the verge of signing a deal to sell a second title in their stores. The next book is expected to be a novel by a first-time novelist. William Morris Agency, which scouts books for Starbucks and negotiates terms on its behalf, is said to be in discussion with a variety of publishers, though Farrar, Straus & Giroux has been mentioned several times as the likely publisher.” I suspect some first-time novelist is going to climb into a much higher visible situation from this deal—so you can imagine the fierce competition among publishers for this agreement.
Earlier this year, I saw Starbucks selling a children’s book, Little Engine That Could which touted new artwork for this children’s classic.
OK, why should you care about this limited (yet large) place where books are selling? It shows the ongoing diversity in the marketplace. Smart publishers (and authors) are constantly looking for new ways to forge special arrangements with name brands—whether they are currently selling books or not. Can you dream big? As you put together your book proposal and the marketing plans within that proposal, can you envision something which currently isn’t happening, then boldly take steps to see if you can open that door of opportunity? It’s part of your challenge as an author who wants to partner with your publisher and sell more books. I admit that I don’t have the answers to these questions but I’m constantly looking for ways to reach more people, partner with other venues and distribute more books. It’s the stance of a pro-active author—which is an attractive author to publishers. Find the courage to dream big and at the same time keep your eyes on these types of new venues in the marketplace.