Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Bookstore Restocking

Copies of Flank Hawk are on the shelves of various local and semi-local shops and bookstores. Every four to six weeks I either make a point of stopping in or I contact the stores to check on how sales have gone. Some staff and owners prefer calls, others prefer emails, but none mind a polite visit. Some sell signed copies on consignment, some ask me to bring copies they purchase at a discounted rate, and others order through Ingram/Baker & Taylor. For the latter, I go in and sign after the copies arrive. Yes, I keep a list, including numbers and rates and preferences.

Stating the obvious, placement does make a difference. Face out is superior to spine only (I thank the wonderful cover art from Christine Griffin for that). Height is important too. Eye level placement is best. I'm not sure if there is a difference between above or below eye level. The thing is, there are a lot of books out there competing. Not every one can be at eye level or face showing, or otherwise prominently displayed. Even luck has a place in this, especially as shelving is usually by alphabetical order.

Another observation is that each owner has a different strategy. Some place Flank Hawk in the YA section. Others in the adult science fiction/fantasy section. Some copies show up on the staff picks or are placed on the local author shelf. Some bookstores even place copies in two or more places. A few shops that don't focus on books carry Flank Hawk and place it next to gift cards or knick knacks.

No store or venue that I've approached has declined to carry Flank Hawk. And none has been shut out, but some do far better than others. Maybe there's a reason--certainly how hard they push it. Their regular customer base is certainly a strong factor. I'm sure there's a little luck in the mix as well.

Usually when I stop in, I plan ahead and do some shopping. There's always a card to send someone or a book to read or give, or even some candy to pick up for my daughters. Beyond being polite, I'm cognizant that the places that carry Flank Hawk are businesses. Sure, they're making a profit with each copy they sell, but it is taking up space on their shelf. Something else could be there. Besides, supporting a business that is supporting you only makes sense.

A few final observations to share. I've always given at least one copy to the owner or a staff member to read. When first approaching owners, I often suggest they read Flank Hawk and see if it's something they want to carry. Sometimes they've taken the copy I handed them and immediately looked it up and made sure that they could order it. When they're seeing if it's in the system, they're also looking to see the discount rate they can purchase it at, if it is a POD book, if it can be returned, and even if it's from a press they've not been impressed with in the past. Sometimes at that moment or upon my return (when they've had a chance to read Flank Hawk), the owner comments on how they've been burned with stocking really horrible self-published and vanity press novels. And some small presses haven't impressed them either. Beyond that, an author can learn more than a bit from a bookstore owner or a staff person who's been around a while.

I'm half way through my current round of checking. Flank Hawk is continuing to do slow but steady sales. As always: One sold here, two there, occasionally three, and sometimes none a place or two. Maybe it's not a NY Times Bestseller rate, but it means readers are giving my novel a try, which is why I write: I believe I have interesting stories to share.

It also makes me wonder what would happen if my publisher had strong marketing and a reach into bookstores across the country like major NY houses do--Would my writing sell, without that personal connection with bookstore owners and staff? Does the signed edition make a difference?

Maybe someday I'll know.


  1. No sure if I said this earlier, but I love your book's cover!

  2. That's good information. I believe I will be able to put it into practice someday. I'm glad your sales are steady. I feel like, for myself, my book (and now I have a sequel too) are just not NY Times Bestseller books, and that's okay. It's what I want to write and what I want to say. I just hope I can find a publisher who will give it a chance, because I don't want to try it myself. Thanks, Terry. Oh, and BTW, I love the cover art for Flank Hawk too. That's so nice. I've seen some come out from smaller presses whose covers are, well, not that great.

  3. J. Kaye and Angie, thanks for reaffiming my view on Flank Hawk's cover.

    Angie, your novel will do just fine I suspect. Very few ever become NY Times Bestsellers, but that doesn't mean an author's works, who isn't a bestseller, won't reach a decent-sized audience.