Indigo’s four per-cent solution

December 17, 2010 by · 4 Comments 

Indigo Books and Music, the country’s largest bookstore chain, is planning to revamp their co-op program in the new year, in a way that is sure to ruffle some feathers in the publishing industry. Previously, publishers paid co-op money to the chain in exchange for premium placement on tables or endcaps. Under the new rules, which come into effect on January 1, all publishers will be charged a 4% fee on all titles that sell through at the chain. Unlike the old model, however, publishers won’t necessarily have the ability to dictate where the co-op money gets allocated, which gives Indigo more flexibility to promote titles it wants to sell.

Bahram Olfati, vice president of adult trade at Indigo, recently sent an e-mail to publishers and distributors informing them of the impending changes. Here is the relevant paragraph from the Quill & Quire story:

The question now is: will publishers continue to have a say in store placement? Or will placement be determined entirely by Indigo staffers? In his e-mail to vendors, Olfati stated only that “we will continue to work closely with the publishers to make sure that all new authors and titles needing special attention/promotions receive front of store placement,” and that “all titles of more than 800 units will receive table placement.”

Of course, this puts smaller publishers and mid-list or debut authors at a disadvantage, since Indigo rarely orders titles from these groups in volume numbers. Small publishers are much more likely to see Indigo stores stock one or two copies of their titles, spine out on the shelves.

Publishers in Canada have been understandably reluctant to go on the record about the revamped co-op program, not wanting to adversely affect their relationship with the largest bookseller in the country. However, it is easy to see how many publishers might be uncomfortable with the new scheme, which amounts to a tariff levied on all books sold. Once again, it will be the smaller and regional publisher that will bear the brunt of any pain that the new rules cause: it’s hard to imagine brand name authors from Random House or HarperCollins getting short shrift in terms of placement at Indigo, while it is very easy to imagine this happening to books from Breakwater or Turnstone.

If there is a silver lining to all this, it is that Indigo likely already accounts for fewer sales of small press titles than do independents and regional outlets that will hand sell them in a dedicated way. Still, the change could result in a decrease in the breadth of titles that receive exposure at Indigo locations, which is not heartening in today’s difficult bookselling environment.


4 Responses to “Indigo’s four per-cent solution”
  1. Panic says:

    I’m confused… so there’s no co-op anymore at all? Instead, Indigo will basically charge commission on all titles, including backlist?

  2. halli says:

    So we will all be charged 4% on books sold through the store, with no say in co-op placement? Tightrope’s number one account last year was Indigo, and even though we had co-op it was not honored at many locations. I will say that the Chapters at John and Richmond is doing a lot of placement this year for the 95 copies they ordered of Confessions of a Reluctant Cougar. BCP, not so much. I still think we need a dedicated online store for Independent Canadian publishers and some sort of Canadian content rule to get Canadian books by Canadian publishers on a level playing field here. It would be nice if some of the larger Canadian media outlets would offer some deals to indies to on advertising etc.

  3. Steven W. Beattie says:

    Panic: That’s the way I read it, but I confess that the entire thing seems a bit murky to me. I’m happy to receive any further information/clarification.

  4. Clare says:

    talked to my boss about it and the 4% doesn’t kick in unless they have ordered 800 copies, and also not until the the book is sold at the store. Since that never happens to us (the 800, not the sales) the new program doesn’t really affect us. But it still sucks.