by Judith Rosen)
On January 14, Barnes & Noble reissued a limited edition of John Green’s debut novel, Looking for Alaska, in hardcover. Although the book continues to sell well in paperback and signed first editions are available online for $90 and up, the country’s biggest bricks-and-mortar book chain is taking a different tack by reissuing the nine-year-old book through its B&N Exclusive Collector’s Edition program. The new edition has the same text as the original, but with extras, including endpaper art, a letter from the author, and answers to questions readers have asked him since the book came out.
Although B&N quietly launched the exclusives program several years ago, it is only in the past year that it has started to gain traction with the publication of another Green exclusive, The Fault in Our Stars. To date that title has been the most successful book in the program, according to B&N teen book buyer Brian Monahan, who added that it “catapulted the program into the next stratosphere” by selling so many more books than earlier selections.
B&N has published close to 50 teen and tween exclusives. Extra material is intended to extend the storyline, add insight by providing more details about the backstory, and answer earlier readers’ questions. What’s changed recently is not so much the packaging – the books often resemble the original publications, but with a sticker indicating that they are an “exclusive” – but the way they are published. B&N has begun giving them a full-fledged marketing and publicity campaign in addition to in-store signage and placement. “They’re in our press releases, marketed in stores and online, and in our best books lists. It’s a real curated approach by author or series,” said Mary Amicucci, v-p of children’s books. For example, B&N included its exclusive editions of The Fault in Our Stars and R.J. Palacio’s Wonder and as part of its picks for the Best New Books of 2013. The company also emails customers inviting them to pre-order upcoming exclusives.
“Our goal is to find books that deserve this kind of treatment,” said Monahan, who trades books with other children’s buyers at B&N to find paperbacks that deserve to be reissued in hardcover and series for which the next title would benefit from special attention, like Veronica Roth’s Divergent trilogy. When Allegiant came out last October, B&N published a simultaneous exclusive hardcover with extra content.
At present there is no set number of books per year or fixed ratio between teen and tween titles for the program. “It’s really based on the trend of the moment,” said Amicucci, adding that the idea of exclusives has resonated with publishers. In some instances, she said, B&N approaches publishers, but B&N is also fielding pitches for potential exclusives. “Everybody has seen it as an incremental opportunity. It’s not cannibalistic.”