One assumption I think most aspiring authors make is that when their book is published, bookstores will carry it. That’s the whole point, right? Writing the manuscript, landing an agent, signing a contract with a publisher…all milestones on the road that lead to an actual book in an actual bookstore which a real, live, actual reader (or ten thousand) will pick up, fall in love with, and buy.
Fadeout to unicorn puppy heart rainbows.
Reality hits when you, Newly Published Author, walk into your local bookstore (trying to look casual—will the booksellers recognize you from your jacket photo?) and saunter to the shelf where your book will be. You know where your book will be, of course, because you’ve pictured it a thousand times in the months leading up to this day. You scan the titles, and…hm. Scan again, this time looking for your name.
Wait a minute. Where is it? You ask the clerk, who looks it up on her computer. “We’re not carrying it,” she tells you, “but we’ll be happy to order it for you.”
“Um, no, thanks,” you say, and you flee.* And then you email your agent in a panic. “What happened?” you electronically wail.
What happened, O Best Beloved,** is that bookstores can’t carry every book that’s published. They simply don’t have room. Shelf space is limited, and the number of books vying for that space is huge.
Huge? you say. C’mon, now. You’re a novelist. You exaggerate for a living.
OK, smartypants, get this. On the day Ten Cents a Dance was released, thirty-four other young adult titles were also published. Thirty-four. Not in the same month, or even the same week. The same day. And we’re talking only young adult titles. That’s not counting adult mainstream, mystery, romance, sci-fi, or any variation of non-fiction.
You see the problem.
If you’re an aspiring author, know that your publisher’s sales reps and your editor will go to bat for you. But if a big national chain declines to carry your book, what then? Weep copious tears, rend your garments? Gnash teeth? Curse the universe?
Please. Get over it. And get busy. That goes for you, too, Miss My-Book-Is-Being-Carried-In-Every-Bookstore-In-The-Country. You don’t get a pass; in fact, your work may be even harder.
Next post: Authors and Booksellers, or, What Have You Done For Me Lately? (Hint: I’m not talking about the booksellers.)
*Not that this ever happened to me. Well, OK, yes. It did. Pretty much just like that, except I was too embarrassed to ask the clerk, so my sweetie had to do it.
**Apologies to Rudyard Kipling. If you haven’t read the Just So Stories, then do. Kipling plays with the English language like a puppy with a ball, and the result is whimsical, magical fun. But gee, where's the best place to get a copy? If you're an aspiring author, and you can't guess the answer to that one, you most definitely MUST read the next post. There may just be a pop quiz.