How Bookstores Work

Authors Tess Gerritsen and Lynn Viehl both take us behind-the-scenes at bookstores today and tell us a little bit about how they work.  It’s fascinating stuff and, as I can attest from personal experience, painfully accurate. Here’s a taste, first from Tess:

For those of you who aren’t in the pub business, you may not realize that the
front octagonal table in B&N is actually PAID display space. (Otherwise
known as paying for "co-op".) Publishers pay for that bit of real estate so that
their new titles can be seen. I don’t know how much it costs them. (If anyone
happens to know the answer to that, I’d love to hear from you privately!)
Ballantine paid for, and expected, VANISH to be displayed on B&N’s front
tables for its first week of sale, yet in up to 40% of B&N stores, my
readers found that the books were shelved at the back of the stores, with no
discount stickers.

Lynn knows why that happens. She’s been a bookseller and says that the "co-op books" are too much work.

From a bookseller’s perspective, shelving is always easier than displaying or
tabling. You can shove books on the store shelves aside to make room for new
arrivals. This opposed to removing last week’s books from the front table,
carting them, and reshelving or store-rooming them before you can haul out and
table the new books. Purchased-space books are double the work.

If a purchased-space book shipment is late? Those books never touch a tabletop.
If the book is overshipped, a manager might get creative with stacking, but
generally they shove the excess copies back in the store room. Jackie Collins
does not want to know how many times a hundred copies of her novel sat showing
their pretty leopard-skin patterned book jackets to nothing more than the
employee coffee maker and concrete walls.

For an author, understanding the business of writing — publishing, promotion and sales — is as important as writing a good book if you want to succeed. Like Lynn, I also worked in a bookstore for a few years and the things I learned are still serving me well today.

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