Open Letter to Bookstores

Save Amanda Feral

Really because I do not think that raising a stink will have too much of an effect on the book stores, I am bringing my rant here. Mostly to give you all some options to counteract the insanity I was faced with last night. As you can tell by my shopping list that I posted, I had a few books to buy – five to be specific. I also had a shiny new Border’s gift card sitting in the wallet to take care of the cost of those books. Yeah, I bet you can see where this is headed.

So I show up to Borders and begin looking for the books in alphabetical order. I do find a copy of Amber Benson’s first book in the series (Death’s Daughter) but no copies of Cat’s Claw. I figured this was not a huge deal as I already ordered it from California so that she could sign it for me at her launch day book signing. Well worth the cost of shipping. So I continued on down the line.

Coming up on the H section in scifi/fantasy I found a couple copies of Happy Hour of the Damned in mass market, but no copies of Battle of the Network Zombies. Don’t get me wrong, I did win an ARC and have already read it, but this is the book series I wanted to support the most. Also, Mrs. Zombie wants to read the retail version once she heard there were edits to it post-ARC. So needless to say I was a bit miffed when I shifted over to the K shelf and found nothing there by Stacia Kane! For those keeping score at home that is 2 snubs for the League and 0 of 3 on the shopping list.

I skipped to the S section based on the layout of the shelves (trust me it was quicker) and found that there was another snub for the League. That’s right, Simon Canderous was not in attendance. It was not until making it over to the R’s that I was given the one bright star of the night. Blood of the Demon by Diana Rowland had 3 copies on the shelf. So the final score at Borders was 3 snubs for the League and 1 of 5 from the shopping list. Only one book out of the five I was looking for was in store.

I was then treated to the fact that the process to special order a book in was to have them go to and order it for me. Really? Is that where we are? So I simply said, “How is this different then if I was to order it from home?” Can any of y’all guess what the answer was? If you guessed there was no difference you are correct. The only helpful actions I was graced with the whole night was when they offered me a code for free shipping and the guy in the cafe that didn’t have a scowl on his face and presented generally strong customer service skills.

Allow me to repeat that – the best customer services skills in the store came from the guy making the lattes.

Based on that whole experience I did not buy Blood of the Demon there and I would give them a C- as a store. The cafe was a slight bit better as a place to write than the one at Barnes and Noble, but not even that could save them.

From there I went to Barnes and Noble as I knew they would have what I wanted. They were in the mall proper, so a bit more of a hassle to get to but worth it to get my books. From there I was able to track down 4 of the 5 I was looking for. Unfortunately the 1 that I could not come up with was not the one I ordered from California. Just take a guess at the karma involved to get an idea which they did not have. Had you chosen Battle of the Network Zombies, you would be correct.

Thinking it either sold out or was sitting there waiting to be fronted, I went up and asked. The response I was given kind of concerning. I was told that the book was not releasing until March 2nd. I asked them to check again as I was pretty sure it was due out the 23rd. I let her know not to worry about it and I would grab it the next week when it came in. Likely I will be placing an order for it online, but at that point I was just getting wore out.

But this was not the only Leaguer that was caught in a strangle-hold by my local Barnes and Noble. Nope. What did I find on the shelf in the New Science Fiction section? A couple of stacks of Roadkill by Rob Thurman. The Roadkill that is due out next week – and that will screw up numbers were I to have picked it up this week. Apparently the “no restriction” on the sale of a book is strictly followed, even when the early release of the book could do harm to the series and author.

So my end result was I have 3 of the 5 books in hand, 1 on its way post-signing, a copy of Accidentally Dead (I needed to use that gift card on something) and a rather defeated view of retail book stores. So here is my final bit for you all – if you cannot find these books at the book store, say something. New readers are more likely to come if a book is on the shelf instead of sitting in a warehouse waiting for someone to click a button. If you cannot get it and you want it, definitely order online, but say something to the manager of the store about getting the books you think are good in. And definitely say something to the manager as an employee likely has no say in the ordering and is probably overworked due to staffing issues.

Speak up! Save Amanda (or Cal, or Sabina…), Save the World!


6 thoughts on “Open Letter to Bookstores

  1. And that’s why I want to open my own brick & mortar store, b/c the chains are doing it all wrong.

    I will say that the B&N I went you yesterday had “Battle of the Network Zombies” out but finding “Dead Matter” was like finding a freaking needle in a haystack and the customer service made my head spin.

  2. You had a very similar experience to mine, but fortunately I started at B&N first, where the manager was treated to my rant about shelving books on release date. At some point his eyes glazed over. This particular B&N is cutting down on books. Instead of rows full of books, there are rows of front facing books, nicely spaced (ha!), and all under New Release signs. Some of these books are 2+ months old. One of the staff told me that all the B&N were cutting back, but when I went online later, every other B&N in the state had the missing books. Makes me wonder if this particular B&N is on the chopping block? Borders did not have BOTNZ (wouldn’t that be better abbreviated BONZ?) or Dead Matter though Dead Matter was listed as likely in store. Right. I’ll pick up Dead Matter at a signing in NYC on Saturday so not a big deal really. I’m going to order BONZ or pick it up in NYC also. Is it too much to ask to be able to buy a book on release day? I think not.

  3. Managers don’t (necessarily) have much say in the ordering either. More than a regular employee, mind, but not that much.

    I used to work for Waldenbooks, a subsidiary of Borders, before they closed the local store. We didn’t special order books from We probably could have, but we didn’t. Our special orders came from the distributors. I should know, I checked in most of them for the past three years.

    We often didn’t have books on release day. Big names, like Stephen King and James Patterson, sure. Others, not necessarily. Seemed to depend on the company buyers’ excitement over the title and/or author.

    Also, not all new releases were on our Street Date list. Anything that was on the list, got put out on the proper day (or when I found them in the back room a week later as happened occasionally). If it wasn’t on the list, it would get put out early. This happened a LOT with mass market paperbacks, and likely still does.

  4. This is the reason that I shop at the (some call them evil) Amazon. I can preorder. They have what I want. If it is out of print I can sometimes find it there.

    I know Rob said she would not get credit if it was done online, but I have seen other authors say pre-ordering online is GOOD. *shrug* Don’t know for sure.

  5. I’d wager to say that there are too many books that go on sale every Tuesday for the bookstores to keep track of which mass market is “officially” releasing (as mm books are the lowest category for them to worry about). If the publisher ships it early and there’s not a “do not sell before X” prohibition on the title (which they really only do for “important” books), I don’t think it’s the fault of the bookseller for placing it out early. Bookstores want to sell stock, not keep it in their back rooms (which are crowded with returns and sundry other back stock anyway).

    On all other counts, I agree with you — I do feel bad for the bookstores where the release date is listed incorrectly in their main computer system, because none of the individual stores can fix what the corporate offices get wrong. (That happened with B&N and Steven Brust’s last release as well, so I’m not entirely surprised that it happens to other titles — too bad BONZ is one of them!) I’ve also discovered that for anything other than a mass market, if it’s not on the shelf at my bricks and mortar B&N, it’s several dollars cheaper for me to order it through than it is for me to have them bring it into the store to me. I feel that that’s *really* silly.

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