Toward the end of January, Barnes & Noble reorganized its departments and staff. In the process, it laid off approximately 50 employees, including the Director of Small Press & Vendor Relations, Marcella Smith. Many small presses and independent publishers viewed Smith as a champion of independent book publishing. Those holding that view are now left wondering just how seriously Barnes & Noble will view small press publications in the future, in light of this reorganization. Personally, I question how seriously Barnes & Noble ever viewed small press publications, but that’s a topic for another day.
I met Marcella several times during Colorado Independent Publishers Association conferences. At Outskirts Press, we also communicated with her and others in the Small Press Department from time to time on behalf of our authors. In spite of these efforts, our authors more often found success being stocked in local Barnes & Noble stores through specific personal contact with local store managers rather than direct contact with the national small press department in New York.
Marcella always had interesting stories to share about her experiences, including a now-well known author (who shall remain nameless), who boldly placed copies of his self-published book on the shelves of random Barnes & Noble stores himself since they refused to stock it. The result? When people started bringing the mysterious inventory up to the register in droves, they were forced to enter it into their system and start ordering it. Talk about reverse engineering a process! Naturally, Ms. Smith advised AGAINST this tactic, as it caused them great havoc.
While it’s always sad to see someone lose a job they’ve held for so long, I have a suspicion Marcella Smith is going to be just fine. With the self-publishing industry growing so fast, and Marcella possessing the experience she does, it wouldn’t surprise me to see her land squarely on her feet in the warm embracing arms of a self-publishing firm…