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The Basics of Marketing to Borders

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and Cynthia Frank, President, Cypress House

There’s a place for titles from small and independent publishers in the big bookstore chains, and marketing your title to them may be easier than you think. The larger chains (Borders, Barnes & Noble, and Books-a-Million) represent well over one-quarter of retail bookstore sales in the United States. In some cases, a strong regional title can generate enough sales and interest to be appropriate for national chain store placement.

From Borders’ point of view, if your book is for the general trade market, you should consider working with them as well as the independent stores. Proceed on the grounds that they might give your book nationwide exposure and the opportunity for higher sales. Currently Borders Group consists of more than 370 Borders Books and Music stores, 820 Waldenbooks stores, and 23 international stores.


First Moves

When preparing your manuscript or book for review by any retailer, it pays to investigate the company and its value in your overall marketing and promotional plans. Make sure to allow enough time for product review and personal follow-up with your contact before expecting placement. In addition, when submitting to the chains, you should plan ongoing follow-up and account maintenance, just as you do with each of your general wholesalers and top accounts.


You must also be ready for significant returns. Borders is currently advising publishers to prepare for a 25% return rate. If your bottom line or schedule can’t handle this, you may want to rethink submitting your title(s) for consideration.

Cover design and interior text should be of competitive quality. Because both are crucial considerations for stocking a title, Cypress House regularly requests feedback during the early design phase from booksellers, subrights agents, and librarians. Unprofessional-looking covers and poor interior layout can mean immediate rejection. Spiral-bound books are strongly discouraged. You can usually find a savvy, generous-minded bookseller in your area who will give you valuable feedback.

Borders highly recommends that you use wholesalers or an exclusive master distributor. Do not expect the company to be interested in buying your book directly. They already keep track of thousands of accounts, and it’s much more efficient for them to work with a wholesaler or exclusive distributor who carries thousands of titles, rather than an individual press with only a handful.

With every submission, you should include a complete list of all your distribution channels, plus a detailed description of your marketing plan. Without a marketing plan, the book will not meet Borders’ requirements for sales potential, and this will lessen the likelihood of their purchasing it on a chain level.

On Returns & Rejections

To insure fewer damaged returns, inspect each book carefully and don’t send those with dents and dings in the case covers. During the design process, consider vulnerability to wear and tear. For example, when designing the cover of a paperback with potential for chain store placement, stay away from large areas of matte black. Black shows fingerprints and titles can come back fast as shopworn returns with no chance of a cover rejuvenation. If your book is casebound, it will help to have extra dust jackets, so that when books are returned you can re-jacket and redistribute them.

If your book is declined because it didn’t meet Borders/Waldenbooks standards, you can address those concerns and resubmit it after six months. Common new publisher errors include missing barcodes or inadequate binding. For example, Borders will reject all saddle-stitched books unless they’re intended for the children’s market. Good reviews, interviews, sales, or awards you’ve received since you first submitted your book should be included with the resubmission. Also, be sure to include any marketing plan that was not present the first time.

Border’s New Vendor Acquisitions people pass each submission on to the appropriate buyer. Borders/Waldenbooks will not give out buyers’ names and contact information unless they have decided to set up your company as a direct vendor. However, they may assign your book a Borders, Inc. identifying number (BINC) to facilitate quantity placement and orders through your wholesaler or exclusive distributor. The BINC helps in-store staff locate information on your title.

Related Promotion

Once your title has been chosen and you have shipped the first orders, you can begin working on book-signings. Area Marketing Managers and Field National Event Specialists in each market help facilitate author appearances at Borders locations. Call your local Borders store to make contact. In due course, the Area Marketing Manager can advise you as to when your book is ready to move on to a national level.


Cynthia Frank, President of QED Press, Cypress House, and Lost Coast Press has 20 years experience in writing, publishing, editing, and teaching. Cypress House is a full-service book production and promotion company as well as royalty house that has won national and international awards and grants. In her “spare” time, Frank conducts the Mendocino Women’s Choir.

Laurie McBride has worked for Borders for four years.

She is involved with New Vendor Acquisitions for Borders Group, Inc.



To Submit Your Book to Borders/Waldenbooks

Send two sample copies (the Borders and Waldenbooks staff will share them), a cover letter (including company address and contact information), and your proposed terms and marketing plan to the following address:

New Vendor Acquisitions

Borders Group, Inc.

100 Phoenix Drive

Ann Arbor, MI 48108

Your submission materials will not be returned.

For non-book products, send your submission package to:

New Vendors Acquisitions

Borders Group Inc.

Multimedia (or Periodicals, Sidelines, or Café, as appropriate)

100 Phoenix Drive

Ann Arbor, MI 48108

You may also call Borders’ New Vendor Acquisitions number–734/477-1333–for instructions on submission. This is a repeating, recorded message.

Borders will acknowledge your submission within 90 days of receipt. The postcard will note the buyer’s decision via these check-boxes:

We are interested in adding your title(s) to our inventory; please send us…

your retail distribution center terms (terms of sale)

information about your distributors. If you currently do not have a relationship with a distributor, we would like to suggest that you contact the following: ____________________________________ (The buyer may fill this in.)

We are adding your title(s) to our inventory through ________________ (The buyer will fill in this line with one of the wholesalers on your list, such as Partners/West.)

We will not add your title(s) to our inventory at this time. Buyer has declined submission.



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