Friday, March 10, 2006

Doing My Homework # 5: New Books and Press Releases

On "Are You Pondering What I'm Pondering Pinky" (which is still open for questions), Bethany K. Warner asked:

How do you sell books by new authors? Is it reviews? Cover art? Blurbs on the cover by other authors you like? Do all new books get the same kind of placement/treatment?

I guess I should start with the last question first. No, all new books do not get the same level of treatment or placement. There are no hard and fast rules because there is an element of luck to any book choice. Say the company calls for two bays of books when I only have one available. When that happens we usually build the bay out of the best of both bays or with whatever we have in stock in quantity. I usually have to have three copies of a title before I’ll display it on a table, face it out in section, or place it in a bay. Anything less number-wise ends up spined (there are, of course, exceptions to every rule).

I do a lot of research before books come out. The Boss and I read PW, the NYT Book Review, various magazines, etc for information on upcoming authors, reviews, and cover designs. If the cover is intriguing and we think it will appeal to our customer base, we order it in. If the review makes it sound like something that our customers would be interested in, we order it in. Same goes for books that are getting heavy viral marketing on the internet or lighting up the review sites. If the book is something that we specifically order in (as opposed to just having it show up), it is pretty much guaranteed a place of prominence at the front of store or an appropriately themed endcap.

But what happens if your book just shows up in mass quantities with (or without) a street date and I missed all the buzz? I’m not perfect, I admit it. Take Rob Thurman’s Nightlife, for example (who, as far as I can tell, is a first time writer). Last week I received about fourteen copies of this book that I didn’t know anything about. It doesn’t help that I’m between SciFi/Fantasy booksellers at the moment so I couldn’t even ask anyone about it. What the book did have going for it was the blurb from Simon R. Green, the author of the Nightside series. Green’s newest novel, Sharper than a Serpent’s Tooth, had hit the shelves the week before and was selling well, so placing the books together in the display bay gave us the Green novel and a convenient handsell in one place. “Hey, Simon Green loved it, so will you.”

Customers trust in blurbs or at least they have the power to make the buying public take a second look. If you have all these elements or just some them does it guarantee you book’s success? No, but they can help.

Nalini Singh asked:

Everything that Bethany said and one more: What impact do press-releases about upcoming books have on you as a bookseller?

Press releases give me a heads up. I can’t read every review, catch all the internet buzz, or find out about the newest in tie-ins without help. I’ll get help from customers, readers, and coworkers, but a well written press release may make you stick out in my mind. Or it may not. Will your press release make me put you some place up front? Depends on the press release (there are a lot of really bad press releases out there), the quantity of the title, and the alignment of Venus in the Age of Aquarius. I would have to really fall in love with a book to order it in by the recommendation of the press release alone.

It should be stated that in my store the press releases are given directly to the person involved in a certain section, and not passed around.

1 comment:

Nalini Singh said...

Thanks for the answers!