William Kent Krueger writes mystery novels that sell. His last four books have hit the New York Times bestseller list and his new one, Tamarack County, would seem destined for the same success. (It’s the 13th installment of his Cork O’Connor series.) There’s just one problem: Krueger and Tamarack are caught in the middle of a battle between Simon & Schuster, his publisher, and Barnes & Noble over the cost of, among other things, in-store placement. (You didn’t think getting a stack of books placed on the big table up front was free, did you?) As a result of the current contretemps, Barnes & Noble isn’t pushing Simon & Schuster titles. And Mr. Krueger has been forbidden by his publisher to visit any Barnes & Noble store in support of his book.
So Krueger now finds himself hoping (like a some literary novelist from a small press) that independent bookstores will work their magic for Tamarack, hand-selling the book and teaching Barnes & Noble a lesson in humility in the process. That does happen sometimes, but historically Goliath has a pretty good record. Krueger recognizes these odds in a recent blog post, conceding that Tamarack will have a tough time without his former friends in high places: “That’s not because it isn’t good,” he writes, “it received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Booklist–but rather because it won’t be on that front table in every Barnes and Noble in the country. Nor can I appear in any Barnes and Noble stores to help with the promotion…When I tour with a new book, ninety-five percent of the stores I visit are independent booksellers. I love supporting the indies because they’ve always been very supportive of me. But the reality is that very few books reach the stratosphere in sales without a significant push from the big chain store.” Oh, the reality. But if anyone can solve this, it’s Cork O’Connor.