Sunday, January 29, 2006

Doing My Homework: Question #1

On the post where I solicited your questions (which is still open so you should go ask some already, sheesh), several people responded. Thanks to those who asked their questions, y’all rock. To those who didn’t ask questions, you rock too, but in a quiet way that does not require typing. I’m going to cover the longer questions as their own posts or use them as jumping off points (to the shorter questions I just responded on the thread). Today’s question was brought to us by the letter R, Kate R that is, and she asked:

What do you do to authors who turn their books cover out if you catch them? what do you do to their books once they leave? do you mind driveby signings or do they make you crazy? do you feel used or appreciated when authors stop by with chocolate to try to bribe you to push their books? Is Hersheys enough or do
you only pimp books for Godiva? just wondering.

What do we do if we catch them? Why boil them in oil, of course, and that’s after we make them wash the windows.

Just kidding.

I’ve never actually had anyone turn their books face out so blatantly that I caught them in the act. I’ve found out after the fact, but never during the actual re-shelving. If the face-out is a legitimate one (one where there were multiple copies on the shelf and the person simply turned them outwards without affecting the books on either side), then I probably wouldn’t do anything.

This does not seem to be a trend, however, from what I’ve viewed on the internet where people have posted about turning a friend’s book cover out. What appears to happen (and what has happened in my store) is that friends and authors turn their books out over other books. It’s my job to find books for customers and when someone has put one title in front of another it makes my job harder. Not only do most customers not look behind faced-out books (why would they), but people can be weird about asking for help, so I might end up losing a sale because the book my customer wanted was behind yours. I might even miss the book because the face-out looks legitimate. This type of face-out gets fixed immediately if I notice it, and makes me an unhappy bookseller due to the possibility of missed sales. There’s nothing like the feeling of kicking your own ass when you realize that the book the customer asked you for—the one you couldn’t find after several minutes of fruitless searching—was actually behind another book.

Don’t bother trying to face-out your title if we only have one copy because single copy face-outs not only look sloppy, but they lose their visual impact.

If you come into my store on a drive-by signing, and if we have a quantity of your books (always call ahead to see), chances are I’ll make the face-out myself either in section or in the new release area. Autographed books appeal to a certain section of the book buying population and it’s to our best interests to make sure that the customer can find that display.

I love drive-by signings, but only if the author actually shows up. We have a very nice publicist in town who always calls when she’s driving around an author. She always calls to have us pull the authors books for a signing, but then rarely shows up. To further make us crazy she never calls to let us know she won’t be showing up, so we sit on these books all day. I don’t know if it’s the fact that we’re on the end of her route and the author gets tired, or that we never have a large quantity of any of the authors, but it’s put a strain on our relationship with her.

I suggest you always call ahead to the bookstores you are thinking of visiting, giving them a couple of days notice. Find out if they have any of your books in stock, or if they would be interested in ordering some (don’t phrase it like that, but just let them know you’d be willing to drop by if they get some stock in). If you don’t call ahead, or if you arrive and they can’t find them/don’t have them, don’t throw a fit; the book business—and especially the book delivery business—is fickle. Instead smile, tell them how much you appreciate that they tried to get the title in (this is guaranteed to make them feel guilty if they haven’t tried for any reason), and leave them with some candy or something. This guarantees that you a.) sound like an understanding individual, b.) that you will stay in their minds as an understanding individual, c.) that they will remember that you drop by when you say you are going to, and d.) that you bring food-stuffs.

Food-stuffs are important. Bookselling doesn’t exactly pay the big bucks and trying to keep up the happy face for the general public requires calories, lots of calories. What you choose as your bribe doesn’t have to be expensive though. Chocolate works for the most part—Hershey’s is fine, I love the mini Hershey’s kisses—but you have to remember that this cuts out the people who are allergic or on a diet. One of the best little gifts an author ever left behind was a bag of Italian fruit candies. There weren’t a lot of them (there doesn’t have to be, just leave enough for the people you interact with), but they were lovely. Flavored as orange, mandarin, and lemon, we fought over who got to have them.

Did that guarantee that author front of store treatment?

No, her status as a NY Times Bestselling author did.

But did it keep her in our minds and guarantee some slightly preferential treatment in section, with handselling and reordering?

I think it did. I know that seeing her books make me smile and if I have a quantity I use it as a face-out instead of just overstocking most of the copies.

Candy isn’t a requirement; neither are ARCs (although I love them if I’m interesting in your writing or genre), bookmarks (Dear God No!), or magnets. And they won’t cancel out any bad treatment to the bookseller, which is the fastest way to get your book stripped, returned, or backstocked away from customer eyes.

If you really want to guarantee that your book will get some face time, and hand-sell love, it’s simple. Walk into the bookstore with a smile on your face and treat us like human beings. You’d be surprised at how rarely that happens: the treatment like a human being. I’m a cashier, detective, event planner, restaurant guide and mall map, but I’m rarely a person worthy of conversation. So if you want face time, give me some face time; open, honest and with a smile.

And I guarantee you’ll end up at the front of that store or faced-out in section.


lady t said...

You're right about authors treating the
book sellers nicely but candy is dandy:)
In all my years as a bookseller,we've
never had an author bring us any treats,
edible or otherwise(it would've been fun
not to mention that we would tell any
potential customers about what a great
person she/he was!).

Bookseller Chick said...

You've never received treats? Never? Oh dear, that's just not right. I ask, nay, demand that the next author that wonders into your store bears gifts of goodness. And it doesn't even have to be expensive treats. I mean, a little bag of popcorn and I'm your girl. No treats? Sheesh. It's like fifty cents for a bag of sugarless lollypops.

Fifty cents and they'd own your loyalty.


Anonymous said...

I love doing drive-by signings, and I try to be friendly and chatty when I do them. I did joke a while back that I should start signing all those books "This Book is Now Non-Returnable..." (with my name, of course.)