12.15.2005

Issuing Orders

I walked into my local BORDERS today, and asked a very nice clerk if I could talk to someone about ordering my book which is out very soon. She came back after a few minutes and handed me a Borders Brochure and said I could contact them and/or bring my book when it comes out to so-and-so at the store and she'll take a look. She also wanted to take my name.I politely thanked her, didn't give my name, and moved on

Jeez! Is this what corporate greysuits have done to bookstores? I've proably dropped a couple of grand at this one store in the last several years, but never mind. I suppose this is what becomes of PublishAmerica spitting out "Confederate Sonnets" and such and then these cranks walk off the street and badger Borders. My experience at Barnes and Noble was much better, ie, they ordered the book! Did I give up too soon? I guess I thought, well, my publisher is a big NY house, what the hell, they'll probably have a few copies on the shelf anyway. What are your thoughts on running into the corporate mentality at your "local bookstore", Miss Snark?

Wait a second here.
You think Borders is a local store? helloooo. Borders is a chain, with corporate headquarters in Ann Arbor Michigan. Unless you live in Ann Arbor, Borders ain't your local store.

If they haven't taken a national position on your book (ie it's in every store) the regional buyer or the local buyer can still order it if asked.

So, when the clerk gave you the info and asked for your name, you turned up your nose cause "she didn't know you who you were"?? Did you know her?

I must tell you that every single person who says "don't you know who I am" is a second rate phony. The people you DO know- like face famous folks- regularly introduce themselves as if you've never seen them before.

You may not be a second rate phony but you are acting like one. Stop it.

One of the absolute WORST things you can do as an author is act like a snot to any person who works in a bookstore. Not the custodial staff, not the cash wrap clerk, not the coffee server, no one.

These are the people who are going to sell your book, who are going to reorder it if it sells out (or NOT), host your author events (or not) and HANDSELL your book and put it on Staff Picks (OR NOT).

If a bookstore person does anything short of run you over with a Mack truck you suck it up, smile and say "thanks for stocking my book".

30 comments:

Existential Man said...

two feisty, spunky comments in a row! you go, Snark Queen, give 'em hell!

Alina said...

I know there are no such things as stupid questions, etc, etc, but when I read this complaint all I could think of was, "And the problem with what happened in Borders was?..." I actually still don't get what got the author of this question so riled up.

tremblor said...

I spent a few years running some large, high volume book stores for a national chain, and once a year we had a private convention with publishers (or rather, their marketing departments) and authors with new releases during the holiday season - once you're published, you're a walking billboard.

If someone turned their noses up at us, their books got spined on the shelves.

Authors memorable for being nice or interesting got faced out, or endcapped, or... in the instance of one particularly endearing author, placed at our registers and pandered to every customer.

AND.. most national bookstores have to really fight to order books just for stock. It's the buyers that determine stock, not the stores (in 9/10)

Anonymous said...

Back to this buyers/distributor question...how does a buyer determine stock? Why doesn't a bookstore have that final say? How does a buyer determine what a bookstore is supposed to order?

Kat said...

So, when the clerk gave you the info and asked for your name, you turned up your nose cause "she didn't know you who you were"?? Did you know her?

I have occasionally been surprised when someone didn't know who I am, but then, I live in a very small town. Everyone knows not just who I am and where I went to school and who I'm dating but that I'm not nearly good enough to that nice foreign boy I caught. They're a bit vague on which brand of foreigner he is. Small mercies.

The whole thing is not nearly as fun as you'd think.

It's true that PublishAmerica and a few other vanities have left a bad taste in the mouth of a lot of bookstores, and I wouldn't be surprised to hear that it was spilling over into legitimate but new authors. But this don't sound like PA's problem. This sounds like someone not quite understanding that publishing a book does not equal instant fame. I hope the inevitable letdown isn't too painful for this poster.

lecrown said...

"These are the people who are going to sell your book, who are going to reorder it if it sells out (or NOT), host your author events (or not) and HANDSELL your book and put it on Staff Picks (OR NOT)."

Yes, and all of that for $7 an hour. These people should be sainted, not shunned.

Marlo said...

anon: Buyers do determine stock. Absolutely. I am all around book-pusher, and I once worked for a very large national chain. It's computer system could do some pretty neat things, including tracking what was selling anywhere in the country and how well, and enforcing min standards of what titles to stock at any location, and how many, to keep up with projected demand. Like any product, it's all about demand.

But that's only part of it, any time a customer requested a title that wasn't stocked, staff was to note it. (I always had a running notebook in my pocket anyway, of who wanted what, so I could place a call if I spotted it come in. I loved making those calls :) ) Anyway, if we noted multiple requests, we were to inform the ordering manager, to consider manually ordering the titles for stock.

Understand, anyone could special order, online in store, with staff aid or not. But most people don't want to bother. Yet, at a good store, just *mentioning* a title has a chance of getting it permanently stocked.

Politely. Warmly. No 'I demand fresh rose petals crushed by nubile young virgins tossed before my feet'.

Oh, and regarding the original snark-o-post, it's possible the dismissed 'so-and-so' was the ordering manager, but they were certainly a manager, who might have been very eager to host a local author signing or reading. Regular staff cannot 'stock' books, only order single copies (and push available titles as they see fit).

Marlo said...

lecrown: $7 an hour? I so wish! Not that writing the books pays better, but I don't have to wear a uniform. Except those special times...

Bookseller Chick said...

I agree with Tremblor, it all depends on how the author treats my booksellers. A good author/bookseller meeting has resulted in my coworkers and I handselling or facing out the title.

Anonymous--the stock of the bookstore is determined by floorspace, population ratios, and other factors. In the case of my bookstore, these factors misrepresent the buying habits of my customers, so we do have to order in the majority of the books we sell. We're the exception to the rule and really should be reclassified as an airport store. In most cases the buyer is pretty dead on, and that's why most stores only do ten percent of their own ordering.

From what I understand the Borders employee was just following company policy, that the B&N folks went ahead and ordered the book really is a sign of the bookseller going beyond the necessary.

Deran Ludd said...

I worked in an indie bookstore for half-a-dozen years, and I'm a published author. So, when I had a novel coming out, or just come out, and I went in to bookstores, politeness is my watchword. When you work in a sales/service industry you get a lot of cranky customers, you can't do a lot abt them, and you need to pleasse them, they are your bread and butter. But, when you work in a bookstore, and an author comes in (that is currently not being sold in the shop, and is not oprah or kofi anan) and that author acts like the shah of iran, we are not pleased. And believe eit or not, those slips of paper that the clerk, or whatever, asked you to fill out, really DO get to someone with the power to order your book.

People remember rudeness (in advertent, accidental or whatever), and they remember kindness and graciousness. And the former is why Hachette will never publish another of my novels...sigh...

Bernita said...

Geesus.

Anonymous said...

I guess I thought, well, my publisher is a big NY house

Did you, by any chance, think to mention this little tidbit to the person you spoke with? "Hi, my name is Friendly Author and my book, Greatest Title Ever, is being published by Publishing House You've Heard Of next month. I'm a local, and I was wondering...." can get you a different reception than, "My book is coming out next month and I want you to stock some copies, flunky."

Anonymous said...

Pardon me, Miss Snark, but I believe I said this already: I WAS PERFECTLY POLITE TO THE CLERK I SPOKE TO, AND WOULD NEVER DO OTHERWISE.

Anonymous said...

Miss Snark: again, where the HELL did I "turn up my nose"? Gimme me a break--in NO way did I act like a "snot".

I deserve an apology.

bordermoon said...

ALWAYS be nice to the clerical staff and others who aren't "important people". I as a secretary onnce ... do you have any idea how long a pissed-off secretary or receptionist can manage to lose your messages?

In bookstores, do you know how long a pissed-off clerk can keep your book in its box, or behind another book? And trust me, unless your last name is King, Steel, Grisham, or Clancy, few bosses will ever notice.

It would have killed the original poster to give his name to the nice clerk?

Anonymous said...

Hey People: I didn't say I was upset that the clerk "didn't know me", and I am not upset that I am not "famous". For God's sake, I am a totally nobody in regard to fame, and I realize it will probably stay that way. Fine with me.

I simply noted the impersonal manner of the transaction and looked for causes in the business of publishing and selling books, which I thought was the ostensible purpose of this blog, not flaming other people you don't know.

Ya'll need a life.

harridan said...

Another stunned moment for me.

The poster left without giving her personal contact information? If anything, said person should have had his/her own press packet in hand containing book blurb, personal info, endorsements, publisher info, writing credits, yada yada yada.

I'm sure the clerk had a wonderful time telling the manager how the author couldn't be bothered to fill out a simple slip of paper.

Gads.

Sonarbabe said...

To be honest, I don't think I would want people immediately knowing who I am when I walked into a book store. My idea of self-gratification would be to 1) see my book on the shelf and 2) say I needed to purchase a copy for a friend who lives across the country, seeing the surprise on the cashier's face when she rings up my book and sees my name matching the cover when she takes my debit card. That's all the recognition this girl would need. :) Anything else seems--er, arrogant and the last thing I would want is to have booksellers thinking, Wow, that Sonarbabe chick is a total b***h.

lady t said...

Thank you,Miss Snark,for putting this nitwit in check-I've never worked at a chain bookstore but it sounds to me like
they were being rather courteous to this author at Borders. Like Deran Ludd said,when you act rude and snotty the staff remembers you all too well and goes on red alert when you come waltzing back in to demand that your precious
book be placed up front and that the staff should be reading it(yes,this happens).

Delusions of grandeur are not pretty,people.

harridan said...

I'm sorry anonymous poster.

But you have to understand that your actions spoke louder than words to that store clerk and the mysterious, behind the scenes manager. Volumes, in fact.

You really did give the implication to your local Borders staff that if you couldn't speak to someone in charge, then you couldn't be bothered with filling out your contact info.

This, I'm sure by your responses, was not your intent, but it came off that way anyhoo.

What you may be failing to comprehend is the true aspect of "personal touch" in this situation. The book store owes you nothing. You are the one that should be going in with bells on. YOU are the one that should be doing the wooing.

You are not a customer in this instance, but a traveling salesman.

bordermoon said...

Apologies -- I can't believe I was silly enough to send my post without checking the spleling... cpelling...splng....

Anonymous said...

Lady-t: I suggest you learn how to read--I was never rude to anyone at any bookstore--ever. Said as much in the post.

Anonymous said...

<< seeing the surprise on the cashier's face when she rings up my book and sees my name matching the cover when she takes my debit card.>>

You might be disappointed. I've ordered fifty copies of one of my books from a local bookstore and the perfectly nice cashier didn't match my name and the title. I have no idea why she thought I was buying fifty copies of the same book, but I suspect my reasons weren't a priority for her.

Best to just focus on the warm, fuzzy feeling of doing a job you enjoy. If you hope to get any kind of ego stroke from this business--however small--you're setting yourself up for disappointment.

I'm not trying to be a downer. Really, I'm not. Just focus on the work. Published or unpublished, it's the only thing that matters. And the only thing you can control.

tremblor said...

Anon:
No, but here's the reality: bookstore employees don't give a damn who you are. Frankly, the amount of small or beginning authors that want to sign in the stores can get overwhelming, and frankly, unless you're someone BIG, you're not going to move much product at a signing, and are therefore, money/time wise, more of a public service than a marketing/business move.

And that's if you're gonig to come in and sell the book yourself.

Booksellers deal with a lot of small/first time authors who will raise a large fuss about their books either not being stocked, or not to the levels they thing it should be (entire shelves)... getting in a particular book for which you don't have extremely solid sales data to support your request is a major hassle, and after dealing with so many authors, the booksellers get pretty jaded.

And to the other anon: the buyers do determine stock based on your sales trend and you get your initial shot of merch based on overall store sales volume.

For the inital order of books from the ditributors (I also got to work with the largest distributor of books in the country), there are formulas, etc to help with placing orders, but it really all comes down to gut: the buyers decide if they think the book is going to be hot or not. They can re-inforce that decision with sales trends from the book's category (chick lit, political nonfiction, etc) or previous sales by that author, but it's really a judgement call based upon their years of experience in the business.

And drugs, lots of drugs.

Anonymous said...

Harridan--the "contact info" was a blank scrap of paper.

FYI.

Anonymous said...

Why order 50 copies of your own novel?

Anonymous said...

I needed more copies for giveaways, contests, that type of thing.

I get a certain number as part of my contract. If I want more, I can buy them at discount through the publisher or order them through a store. My local store gives me a lesser discount, but I get the warm feeling of supporting my local independent bookseller and adding to my sales numbers ever so slightly.

lady t said...

Dear Anonymous Poster,

You may not think you were rude but I'll bet dollars to doughnuts that if the clerk was able to give us her side of the story,the truth would come out. How do I know? I can tell by your subtext-the mere fact that you were offended
because the store didn't jump for joy at the chance to order your book(which may have already been ordered,particularly if your publisher is a big NY house)and treated you like a regular person in a reasonable manner
speaks volumes. See,that's what a reader does-looks beyond the actual words and sees the bigger picture. Oh,they wanted you to write your name on scrap paper and not a special form for Big Important Writers? Boo to the hoo,hon.
Many happy returns for your grand opus:)

Gabriele C. said...

Dear Anonymous,

statments like Ya'll, get a life ooze conceit and haughtiness that makes the floor sticky. If you act like that in a bookstore, you can be sure even if the publisher sends them some books, they'll happen to never be unpacked by the staff and will be returned a month later as unsold. Which is very bad for your sell-through.

Anonymous said...

anonymous said: I was never rude to anyone at any bookstore--ever. Said as much in the post.

Yes, so you said. Yet what you did (and thought, but we'll skip that) was rude, and nice words don't make a rude action polite.

In addition, I frankly doubt your account of events at the bookstore, given that when you got responses you didn't like here, your reaction was to be rude and condescending.