Barnes & Noble chairman Len Riggio's crusade to convince publishers to lower book prices is beginning to be heard by publishers, although some are confused exactly how they can please the head of the nation's largest bookselling company. "The mantra at Barnes & Noble this year is price control," the president of a medium-size publisher told PW, "and we hope to take advantage of that."
The advantage the executive was referring to is a promise by Riggio to reward books that he thinks are properly priced and punish titles whose prices he thinks are too high. At a Publishers Lunch Club address in early March, Riggio told attendees that books that are priced right would receive such benefits as favorable placement in stores, while books that are too expensive will receive less favorable positions, according to sources who attended the meeting.
"It's his [Riggio's] prerogative to promote the books he thinks he can sell," the head of a New York house said, "but the trick is to know what Len thinks is a fair price." The executive also wondered how the unofficial policy will affect things like co-op, especially if lower-priced books find their way to store windows.
Riggio has not been embarking on the price campaign by himself. Executives at a number of houses said that store buyers have been more explicit than ever in their attempts to persuade publishers to lower prices. "The word [at B&N] has come down from Len Riggio—knuckle publishers to lower price," said one publishing executive.
At the lunch meeting, Riggio reportedly held up a copy of the Overlook thriller The Company and said that the 900-page book, at $28.95, was priced a little high, but nevertheless provided a good value for consumers.