Monday, April 30, 2007

How I Got to Third Base with Barnes & Noble

Yesterday, I posted in my book promotion blog about going to Barnes & Noble to see about getting The Search for the Million $$$ Ghost into their system. The book is in their online store and not doing too bad, but it's not in their bricks and mortar store and I wanted to test something out. I wanted to see if I could walk in and get it on their shelves, not knowing what in the heck I was doing or how I was going to go about doing this.

Well, today I made that trip.

For those who have never tried to get a book that isn't published by a NY publisher into a chain bookstore as big as Barnes & Noble, it's not exactly, "Here's my book. Now you can stock it."

There's a lot involved and the main thing is its returnability. Why that is is because if your book can't be returned, it's never coming close to getting on their shelves. So, that's a strike against you that equals three strikes actually because you're not even in the game anymore.

Another thing involved is whether they can order your book from their distributor which is Ingrams. Romancing the Soul, my previous book, was not in the Ingram system.

I was quite green when Romancing the Soul came out, and I knew it would be an uphill battle to get the book on B&N's bookshelves. Of course, that didn't stop me from trying.

I walked into the Barnes & Noble in Williamsburg, Virginia, a few years ago when I was over there on vacation. I thought, what the heck, let's just see if it comes up on their computer at least. The woman behind the desk said, "No, it doesn't seem to be in our system at all." I walked out and vowed that was the last I'd ever try to get the book into a bricks and mortar bookstore again. It was quite depressing.

Since then, my publisher has signed up with Ingram and is getting all our books into the system a few at a time, but it may be quite a while before Romancing the Soul gets in because they're starting with recent published books first. So, time will tell.

However, The Search for the Million $$$ Ghost IS in Ingram's system, so I thought I'd try it one more time and see what happens.

Before I got to the desk, I spotted a book by Jodi Picoult and it reminded me of the latest book by her, Nineteen Minutes, that I wanted to buy. I had found a hardback copy of The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold that I'd heard good things about that was on the bargain table for $5.98, so I snatched that up while making my way to the desk to ask about Jodi Picault's new book.

I got to the desk and I told her I had a couple questions for her and proceeded to ask her about Jodi Pocault's new book first. She looked it up on the computer and said, yes, she had it in stock. Before she walked away, I said, "Can you do me a favor while you're on the computer and look up a book called The Search for the Million $$$ Ghost?" apologizing for the fact I didn't have the ISBN with me. She ran her fingers over the keys and the page popped up. I recognized the book cover at the bottom as mine.

I cleared first base!

"I'm sorry but we don't have it in stock," she said, "but we can order it for you."

Ahhh...second base...she can order it for me.

"Would you like me to do that for you?" she asked.

"Well, the thing is," I said, "I'm one of the co-authors of the book. I really am. I just wanted to see if you had it in the system. By the way, what's the chances of stocking it in your local author's section?"

"Well," she said, "she's the one you should talk to about that" and pointed to the other sales clerk.

The other sales clerk was very polite and to the point. "You see, the thing is, it has to sell."

I nodded, with images of me outside running around and telling everyone to go inside and buy my book.

"We could at least try," she smiled.


"But," she adds, pointing at a number on the screen, "this number is a generic number (it said 100). We're not sure how many we can order so we'll just have to play it by ear."

"I have another question," I asked. "Do you hold booksignings?"

"We don't do the single author booksigning anymore," she replied. "What we do is hold events with many authors at one time."

Now, that was music to my ears being as I hate doing booksignings alone anyway.

Then, she handed me a card with a number on the back. "What I would recommend you to do is call this woman. She handles events for Barnes & Noble and perhaps you might want to be included in that."

I took the card and put it in my pocket, paid for my The Lovely Bones, and walked out.

Not a home run, but third base isn't too bad for a newbie novelist who doesn't know beans about getting books into bricks and mortar stores. I have no idea if I should have done anything differently, but that's the way I did it anyway. I'll keep you informed as to whether they get stocked.

Oh, I ordered one of my books to stay on the safe side. Now, they have actual record of my book being bought at their store and when the book comes in and I go back to get it, I'll check to see if they really did try to order it. Meanwhile, I'll be giving this woman a call and get things rolling.
So, that's the story of how I made it to third base with Barnes & Noble. Now...if I can just make it to that home plate.

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  1. congratulations Dorothy! Any forward movement is a step in the right direction I think.

  2. Thanks, Karen, I guess so. Now let's just see if they actually stock it. When I go back in to pick up my book, I'll see...meanwhile, I'll be giving this events coordinator a call and see if she has any author events coming up that I could that would be fun. ;o)

  3. I think this is amazing, and I think you did everything just right! AND I think they're going to stock your book, particularly if you can get a few people to just go in and buy it. I tell you, Dorothy, Barnes and Nobles are often so good to local authors. I'll bet they have you reading there in no time! Hooray for you for doing this. It's so hard to go into a bookstore and look around for your book. It always gives me hives! :-)

  4. Well, LOL, don't know why the site decided I was anonymous! Guess I shouldn't post comments late at night without my reading glasses, huh?
    Just wanted you to know it was me!


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