Publishers in the bookselling business

I can’t think of any mainstream publishers in the bookselling business currently, and I’m not well-versed enough with publishing history to know if that was ever the case, so it seems to me like the case of Deseret Book vs. Seagull Book is a unique example of why publishers shouldn’t be booksellers too.
Deseret Book is a religious press owned by the LDS Church. Covenant Communications is an independent publisher. Deseret Book also runs a B&N/Borders-type chain of bookstores that dot the Intermountain West, and Covenant has a sister company called Seagull Book and Tape, a discount book chain that has almost the same number of stores as DB across the West.
Both DB and SB have sold Deseret Book and Covenant books up until the recent past. A little friendly competition has kept prices low, which satisfies the (often cheap) LDS book-buying public. DB often also sells a select
number of mainstream titles. Both bookstores are also like a B&N or Borders in that they usually have a large selection of LDS music and other paraphernalia, much like a Christian bookstore would have multimedia items for its patrons.
Okay, that’s the background. Here’s the story.
Deseret Book recently announced that it would no longer be distributing its books through Seagull Bookstores. Why? Because, says executive VP at Deseret Book, “We have a difference in view in how we market, merchandise and promote the Deseret Book product. . . . As a premier brand, we provide all sorts of merchandising and marketing opportunities, such as posters and displays. They don’t and haven’t taken advantage of those (opportunities).”
Okay, now, what mainstream publisher in their right mind would make bookmarks, posters, floor displays, etc. (what’s the term for this stuff? It’s floated away from the top of my head)–and then tell B&N that if they didn’t use every floor display, poster, bookmark, toy giveaway, etc., that they were going to pull their account from the chain? And not as a negotiating tactic either (which I can’t imagine would be very successful), just as a business decision.
B&N would laugh in their faces. So long, see ya, good luck to ya. Hope your sales in other channels will mak
e up for what you sold through us.
(This is actually a viable option for many presses that don’t get lots of attention in the larger chains, so it’s not a completely wacked-out idea, but think of this example being a huge house that sells a lot through these channels.)
Publishers know that making marketing materials–ah! chotschky or something like that, is the word)–making chotschky is a gamble. Some bookstores will use it, some won’t. Some libraries, the same. You hand it out at trade shows, send it direct mail, etc. to get attention, not necessarily expecting bookstores to use it.
This is because publishers are independent of each other in the mainstream. In LDS publishing, the main retail outlets are connected to the two main publishers, and to get an advantage in the marketplace, Deseret Book appears to be shooting itself in the foot with a major distributor.
They do say they’re staying with other channels like B&N and Borders (in largely LDS-populated areas, I’m assuming), Amazon, and independent bookstores, none of which I think will be marketing DB’s books any more aggressively than Seagull did, so there seem to be some factors at work here that the public isn’t privy to.
However, for me, this just highlights that it’s really a good thing that publishers and booksellers are independent of each other as a general rule. It’s just plain a conf
lict of interest.
For more information on the issue, see:
Deseret News
Salt Lake Tribune