Retailer response has been muted to Bookspan's plan to offer James Patterson's next book to its club members a month before the title will available to stores. Bookspan will offer Honeymoon to its membership as part of parent company Bertelsmann direct group's worldwide program, which will publish the title simultaneously in 16 countries in January. Little, Brown will ship the book to stores in February.

A spokesperson for Borders said that while book clubs can sometimes impact sales, any promotion that draws more consumer attention to books is a good for the industry. In addition, the spokesperson said, Borders "can't dictate" how Bookspan operates its business. Booksellers at several mystery bookstores said that while the marketing approach was annoying, they doubted it would hurt sales at their stores, primarily because most of Patterson's sales are now made through the chains and mass merchants.

"It doesn't gladden my heart, but it's not that big of a deal," said Richard Goldman, owner of Mystery Lovers Bookshop in Oakmont, Pa. Goldman said he doesn't consider book club purchases lost sales. "They're not my competition like chains and mass merchants are," Goldman said. Sally Owen, manager of Mysterious Bookshop in New York City, said the Bookspan offer "is not going to make a ripple for small bookstores. We aren't getting mad because the chains sell more of James Patterson than we do." Owen noted there could be some confusion among collectors about which is the true first edition. Mystery Loves Company owner Kathy Harig, called the move "a bummer," and said it was typical of some of the strange decisions being made in mystery publishing. "The more publishers don't stay in touch with stores, the more it makes for a befuddled bookseller," Harig said.

LB publisher Michael Pietsch said that while the Bookspan attention (the club also proclaimed Honeymoon "international thriller of the year") should mean more publicity, he regretted that LB didn't talk to accounts before agreeing to the early release. "In the future, we will make sure that we take care of our retailers first," he said. LB is owned by Time Warner, which is the co-owner, along with Bertelsmann, of Bookspan.