Looking for a Simon & Schuster title? Barnes & Noble might not be your best bet

Barnes &Noble has reportedly been ordering fewer Simon & Schuster titles than it normally does as the book retailer and the publisher wrangle over cost issues.

Author Jodi Picoult's literary agent said sales of Picoult's book 'The Storytellers' had been negatively affected by the debate between Barnes & Noble and Picoult's publisher, with B&N choosing to order fewer copies than expected.

Book retailer Barnes & Noble has reportedly reduced the amount of titles it stocks by Simon & Schuster authors and lowered the number of S&S books on display as it continues to be embroiled in a debate with the publisher.

Neither the chain nor Simon & Schuster would specify exactly what is being negotiated, but sources cited as “familiar with the disagreement” by The New York Times told the newspaper that Barnes & Noble wanted more funds for displaying S&S titles in coveted spots in the store and to pay lower costs for the books themselves. The bookstore chain also wants more money for events promoting Simon & Schuster titles, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Also on the table, according to the Journal, is the question of who will cover the costs of e-book discounting, a point now back in contention since Simon & Schuster and other publishers settled their price-fixing case with the Department of Justice.

A Wall Street Journal walk-through conducted in one of the book retailer’s locations found that while high-profile Simon & Schuster titles like “The Soundtrack of My Life” by Clive Davis were available, works like a S&S paperback version of “The Book of Lost Fragrances” by M.J. Rose were out of stock and a store search showed that “Fragrances” was also unavailable at three other Manhattan Barnes & Noble stores.

“As a matter of policy, we do not comment on relationships with individual publishers,” Barnes & Noble spokesperson Mary Ellen Keating said in a statement. “However, we do support publishers who support our digital and retail book businesses.”

Simon & Schuster chief executive Carolyn Reidy told the Times that a changing publishing industry means more questions for everyone.

“In this new world, it is just getting more complicated,” she said in a phone interview. “There are more factors involved. They get more fraught. Terms have to work for both sides, and obviously we have not agreed yet.”

However, Reidy said she was hopeful that everything would be resolved.

“We expect ultimately there will be an agreement,” she said.

Simon Lipskar, president of literary agency Writers House, said the focus should be on writers who are losing out in the dispute.

“Without pointing fingers, authors are being hurt by this, and I think it is despicable,” he told the Times.

One of Simon & Schuster’s biggest releases, “The Storyteller” by Jodi Picoult, was found in a Barnes & Noble store by the Journal, but Picoult’s literary agent, Laura Gross, said sales had been negatively affected by the fray.

“[Barnes & Noble has] taken limited orders, limited placement, and did not do the normal outreach to their customers online, which really hurt.... This must be hitting smaller authors hard,” Gross told the Times.

Writer Jamie Mason says that yes, it is. Her first novel, “Three Graves Full,” was supported by Barnes & Noble before publication, Mason told the Journal, but she says that she found out before its February release that store promotion she had been planning on wouldn't be happening. “It's frustrating," she said. "I'm a debut novelist. I don't have name recognition.”

Authors, including Picoult, have done their best to get word of the dispute out on the Internet. Picoult posted on her Facebook page, “There has been an ongoing dispute between B&N and Simon and Schuster that has really hurt some great authors. In some cases B&N hasn't even stocked their new books. Who loses out? Readers. Here is a list of some of the books you may have missed that were casualties in this dispute. Please consider supporting some of these writers!” 

Other Simon & Schuster authors posted a note which alerted readers to what was going on but they were careful not to blame either party.

“Have you seen these books?” the note reads, with cover images of Simon & Schuster titles. “If you've been browsing for books in B&N chances are you haven't seen these acclaimed books. Why? They're missing due to an ongoing negotiation between the publisher and the book store chain. Not pointing fingers here.... we all love our publisher and we love all bookstores including B&N!.... here are links where you can discover more about each of these books and buy them from any store of your choice (including BN.com).”

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