DECEMBER 2014 ;e Costco Connection 31
also want to know whether authors blog, tweet
or engage in other social media to help spread
the word that their books can be found at
Costco. And, says Shana, the team members
all read trade publications, along with national
and local newspapers, to keep an eye out for
authors whose books should be at Costco.
Once the local authors make it into the warehouse, their books are marked with a “;;;;;
;;;;;;” sticker to let members know about
the regional connection.
And, speaking of location, Pennie and
all of the assistant buyers know exactly in
which warehouses what kind of books will
do best—whether historical fiction, literary
fiction, current events or spiritual titles.
One of the most fascinating aspects of
what Pennie and her group do is the creation
of proprietary books that make their way to
the table. Simply put, Costco often carries
books that members won’t find anywhere
else. I always thought that once a book is published, that’s it, the only big change in its
future being the transition from hardcover to
paperback. That’s just not so.
While meeting with publishers, Pennie
and Alex might ask for a cookbook to have a
few extra recipes, or a spiral binding for ease
of use. Gift books might have a built-in bookmark, gilded edges or fancy end papers.
“A good example of proprietary titles
includes the Illustrated reference books that are
one of this month’s picks [page 33],” says Alex.
“They were created just for us with padded
covers and a bonus poster. If you were to buy
the books elsewhere, you wouldn’t get a poster
and the covers wouldn’t have the padding.”
Colby Lawrence, director, proprietary
publishing and premium sales
for Houghton Mifflin Harcourt,
has worked with Pennie and
Lindsay on several products for
kids that feature licensed char-
acters, such as Curious George
and Little Blue Truck.
“We start with Costco’s
price point, and our goal is to
get as much as we can into the
box,” say Lawrence. She explains
that they look at how many
books they can get into the box, and, if there’s a
game board, if it can be double-sided. At the
same time, there are discussions about how it
will be packaged. Will its contents be explained
with a sticker or a sell sheet or be packaged
with a transparent cover? The process can take
several months or more to complete, with discussion between all parties involved.
While proprietary titles are most common among children’s books, cookbooks and
gift titles, Costco has carried several special
“Just last month we carried a version of
The Cinderella Murder that included an
extended version of the interview with Mary
Higgins Clark that ran in the November
Connection,” says Pennie. “And a few years
ago Brad Thor wrote an alternate ending that
was included in his book Hidden Order.”
Regarding proprietary titles, keep an eye
open for news about books being available
on Costco.com. Each will have something—
an additional chapter, recipes or supplemen-
tal materials—that won’t be available
Not to be overlooked is the magazine
rack next to the book table. Pennie and
Lindsay meet with magazine publishers a
couple of times a year to look at what’s coming out over the next six months.
“We take what we see and work with the
publishers to create added-value packs for our
members,” Lindsay explains. “For example, we
worked with Hearst to create two- and three-
packs of popular magazines to put on the rack.
These polybagged packs are usually a deeper
discount than the normal 30 percent off that
we offer for other magazines on the rack.”
The magazine titles available are also
curated so that no single subject is over-
represented. And, like the book table, the mag-
azine rack is a great place to find local-interest
publications. Regional titles include Arizona
Highways and Colorado Homes & Lifestyles.
Amazed by how many titles the book-buying department looks at, reads, dissects
and suggests changes to, I have a newfound
respect for my favorite area of the warehouse.
“The book table is a great place to experi-
ence Costco’s treasure-hunt philoso-
phy,” Pennie concludes. “From
signed copies to maps and audio-
books to local authors or local set-
tings, members are sure to find some
gems they hadn’t expected to find or that
they won’t find anywhere else.”
Having reached the end of my discus-
sion with Pennie, Shana, Alex and
Lindsay, I am at a point familiar to
most readers: I want to take a little
time to reflect on what I’ve learned.
But rest assured, before too long,
I’ll be visiting the book table at my
nearest warehouse, ready to find
the next great read. C
; Most new releases come out on Tuesdays.
; For book submission guidelines, call 1-866-678-9390
and follow the guidelines exactly.
; For a list of new book releases, a list of current
magazine releases and to see which warehouses are
hosting book signings, visit
click on “What’s New” and then “Entertainment.”
buyers: (From left
to right) Pennie
and Lindsay Bubitz.