A Pay to Play Bookstore Scheme: The Reading Glass Books

From Writer Beware:

I’ve recently gotten several reports of phone solicitations from a New Jersey-based bookstore called The Reading Glass Books.

Why would a bookstore be calling authors out of the blue? Well in this case, to sell shelf space: $350 for six months. Authors can direct the store to sell the books at whatever price they like, and will get “100% of the royalties” (which of course makes no sense, since direct sales proceeds are not royalties). And if you’re thinking that the store will order the books…no, no, no, don’t be silly. Authors must provide their own copies.

Paid shelf space for self-published authors isn’t a new idea. Here’s one entrepreneur who set up a bookstore entirely on that model (the store closed in 2019). And a few years ago there was some media coverage of independent bookstores that were renting shelf space to self-pubbed and small press writers–in some cases for a good deal more than $350.

Whatever you may think of paying for shelf space, these were all real brick-and-mortar stores in the business of selling books to the public–not exploitative schemes aimed primarily at extracting money from writers. Based on its solicitation phone calls, sketchy website, and array of other paid services, my guess was that The Reading Glass Books fell into the latter category. I wanted to be sure, though, so I did some research.

Reading Glass claims a physical address–7 Wrightstown Cookstown Road (aka County Road 616) in Cookstown, New Jersey. To my surprise, there actually is a storefront. It’s located in a small strip mall on a relatively empty stretch of road. Here’s an image,, courtesy of Google (note the prime location, between Air Transport International and Domino’s Pizza).

. . . .

The mall’s roadside location is not exactly conducive to the foot traffic that real bookstores count on–though I guess it’s possible that Reading Glass gets some walk-ins from next-door Domino’s, or from the tattoo and barber shops that are also in this mall. However, those well-shaved and freshly inked book lovers won’t find the store’s inside much more prepossessing than its outside. Interior photos (a number of which are present on Reading Glass’s Facebook page and Google listing) show a small space with sparsely populated shelves. Here we are in December 2020:

Link to the rest at Writer Beware

9 thoughts on “A Pay to Play Bookstore Scheme: The Reading Glass Books”

  1. My heart stopped for a few long seconds: two books (or is it the same one, twice?) use the same color scheme as my trilogy’s first book – pink and purple.

    Except that I would never pay for a shelf in this ridiculous space. Phew.

    Nor would I buy a book from a ‘bookstore’ with such a paucity of book selections. Not even way back when.

  2. From a retailers perspective this makes sense, sort of. In many other sorts of stores suppliers have to pay for shelf space, especially grocery stores. Of course, the retail dynamics of groceries are very different from those of books. People buy groceries fairly regularly.

    • I’ve been under the (possibly false) impression that publishers have paid for some of the shelf space for quite some time? The front shelves as you walk in? Front cover out instead of spine shelving?

      (Okay, I know there are proper terms for those, but it’s been a long day here.)

      • Payola. 🙂
        NOUN
        NORTH AMERICAN
        the practice of bribing someone to use their influence or position to promote a particular product or interest.

        Shatzkin has repeatedly suggested tradpubs buy up entire sections of B&M stores for their books, to be managed by them, as an alternative to returns and as a way to keep the stores open.

        • Payola indeed. Just don’t get how it is that it is illegal for radio stations to charge a fee to air music (instead of paying a small fee), and yet it seems perfectly legal for bookstores to charge publishers rent for prime shelf and display space.

          • 1- Sony does it under tbe table and the BPHs atop the front door tables. (Not just music. Sony payola works for their games too.)

            2- People *care* about pop music.

    • I’ve been in that store. 46th & 5th. Years ago. I was checking if they had my big nonfic book, and they did. Very pleased.

      While I doubt they would do it, I can see another version of me wanting to impress my Midtown friends with my new Neanderthal Werewolf Billionaire novel. I’d slip the store manager five Benjamins to put two of them face out on one of those aisle spinners. My friends would be VERY impressed, and I’d think it was money well-spent.

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