B&N Thoughts

I recently drove around to some of my local Barnes & Noble locations to sign stock and to advocate for Wraithbound. At time of writing, the book comes out in less than three weeks. Once upon a time, I could count on every B&N in the country to order a copy or two, but with the new distribution model, that is far from guaranteed. Lots of books get published, only to not get stocked on any shelves. It’s a big concern for midlist writers, like yours truly.

On this particular day, I made it to three stores. Back when I could track sales by region, Chicago was consistently my highest selling area, which makes sense considering that I’m local and the kind of guy to handsell. So if sales history was going to matter anywhere, it would matter in Chicago. Right?

Um, no. Of those three stores, only one location had ordered a copy of Wraithbound, and they only had a single copy coming in. With the powers of persuasion I was able to crank up those numbers, and now there will be a healthy stock of Wraithbound in Chicago come release day. But that trend, one in three in my highest selling region, doesn’t bode well for the national release.

People ask what’s the best thing a fan of a writer can do to help that writer’s career. The answer is simple and universal. Preorder the book from a local store. Advocate for that author with the booksellers, so that maybe they’ll stock it. Encourage your friends to buy the book from a local store, so that the beancounters will see that the title has sold through, and perhaps order a restock.

It’s getting rough in the midlist, folks. And it’s only going to get rougher as publishers adjust their publication schedules to match what bookstores are buying. Because no one can afford to keep publishing books that aren’t reaching shelves, not finding new readers, and not creating that long tail effect that comes from lifelong fans. It means fewer titles, less interesting books, and less choice on your local bookshelf.

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