Steve Riggio, vice-chairman of Barnes & Noble.com, had great news for the more than 7,000 authors who have paid print-on-demand publisher iUniverse to issue their books. In an open e-mail notification to iUniverse authors on June 18, Riggio effectively threw open the doors to the national chain's 568 superstores by offering in-store events to any iUniverse writer who can convince his or her local B&N community relations manager to host such an event.
The chain, which holds a 29% stake in iUniverse (www. iuniverse.com), is launching New Writers Nights, and iUniverse authors are encouraged to contact their local community relations managers (CRMs) to schedule an evening of readings, signings and, everyone hopes, book sales. "I'm pleased to announce a new program designed to showcase books from authors who choose to self-publish," said Riggio in the announcement letter. "We want you to know we are committed to finding ever more creative and innovative ways to connect writers and readers," Riggio concluded.
According to Riggio, these events will be held once "every three months or so," except during the October through December pre-holiday period. If the book meets approval, events must be scheduled 60 days in advance. Since B&N stores do not stock iUniverse titles, authors must pre-order books to sell and remove them at the end of the event. The author receives 80% of the retail price; the store gets the rest.
Karen McNulty, a spokesperson for iUniverse.com, said the firm's database lists more than 10,000 titles by 7,000 authors. She said, "Any writer can do it. We're not concerned about overwhelming the CRMs."
Deb Williams, a spokesperson for B&N, was also unconcerned about the possibility of hordes of self-published authors descending on beleaguered store managers. She told PW that booking events "is part of the CRMs regular routine." She said writers can "call the CRMs directly," and their books will be "held to the same review criteria as any author. CRMs and store managers will review the books and judge the worthiness." Williams said that stores will hold one event a quarter, probably presenting several writers to get a wider audience.
"We've received numerous calls from authors who want to read in our stores," Williams said. "By setting up these readings, we're accommodating a growing need in the market."