Tuesday, November 04, 2008

The Table at Costco

Costco sells books. Lots of books. And they sometimes have author signings in their stores. Now, those are three things every author likes to know.

Costco’s latest magazine has an article about their book department and how they choose books that you’ll want to read. To make it easy for you, I’m going to give you some snippets.

First off, every title is chosen by only four buyers, all avid readers. The head buyer, Pennie Clark, has been with Costco for almost 20 years.

Here’s some other interesting tidbits –
Costco is now one of the top five booksellers in the U.S. Costco moves tens of thousands of books every week.

Every book at Costco is sold with savings between 30 to 60 percent off the suggested retail cover price.

Book selection is limited to about 200 titles at a time.

Selections are skewed toward slightly more upscale readers.
Costco buyers don’t just order books, they have deep relationships with publishers. They have long meetings with the major houses and discuss not just the big names, but the regional and local authors. According to the article, it’s not unusual for Costco to purchase 20 to 25 percent of a new book’s first printing.

According to Jeff Rogart, HarperCollins vice president of sales,
“Costco is consistently one of our top retailers for total sales and frequently ranks number one or number two on individual titles.”
And a final note about the article…although they have authors come in for signings and they like to choose books by unknown authors as well as big name authors, the article mentions only big names when they talk about in-store signings – Presidents Clinton, Carter and Fox (Mexico), as well as Tony Curtis and Mike Huckabee.

I saw nothing in the article about how an author or small press could get into Costco, but if you’re with a major house, your chances, although slim without a big following already, seem better than if your small press published.


  1. Costco? Really? Hmm - once again a most interesting tidbite of info, Helen. Thanks.

  2. We have two super Walmarts here as well as a Sam's Club, but no Costco, unfortunately. Thanks for the good article, Helen.

  3. Another avenue to explore.

    Morgan Mandel

  4. It would be interesting to learn if an author can get an "in" with Costco, or if you would have to have your publisher do it for you.

    I suspect it has to be the publisher.

  5. Sam's Club does a lot of books, too, Jean. They're probably like Costco and work with publishers rather than authors.

  6. I won't swear to this, but I think a friend of mine, Andrew Peterson, has his book in Costco. He wrote "First to Kill" (a thriller) published by Dorchester. He can probably tell you more about how he got into Costco and what the experience has been like - unless I was hallucinating and he's only in Costco on Saturday mornings, pushing a big cart around.

  7. Gayle, I'd love to hear if you find out.

    Now I have this vision of him pushing his cart through Costco and selling his books as he moves down the aisles, surreptitiously checking for Costco employees.

  8. It never hurts to send a sales letter and a product sample.

  9. That's true LJ. You make a very good point.

  10. I asked Andy about Costco, and this is what he said:

    "Yes, FIRST TO KILL was carried in Costco, about 97 buildings in CA, AZ, CO, UT and NV. But it's been pulled to make room for its big Christmas push. The good news is that it nearly sold out. Of the 9,400 copies Costco purchased, only 723 were left when the pull order came through. It sold 92% of them. I would encourage Helen to follow Costco's submission guidelines. She should send an email to books@costco.com or call (866) 678-9390 It's a prerecorded message with the guidelines."

    Hope this helps.

  11. Gayle, that is really great news. I don't even know Andy and I'm excited for him.

    Thank you (and tell him thank you) for sharing.


  12. Thanks for the info about Costco Helen and Gayle. I just sent an e-mail to them to request guidelines. I'll let you know what I hear back.

  13. Interesting venues to try. We have those stores in our area. What one learns on blogs...


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