Thursday, October 08, 2009

You've Got to Want It

I headed to Barnes & Noble today to pick up two new releases I've been waiting for, Meljean Brook's Demon Forged and Lynn Viehl's Shadowlight. I've ranted before about my feelings on B&N of late, but I have a membership that gives me 10% off all purchases. That pays for my tax plus a little bit more, so I'm financially motivated to deal with my issues.

Anyway, I headed to B&N thinking that it now being Thursday, for absolute sure the employees would have unpacked the Tuesday releases boxes, so the books should be on the shelves.
I park with little angst (oh, happy day) and head toward the up escalator since Fiction is housed on the second level. I pass by a two-sided display kiosk with new mass market paperback releases and spot J.R. Ward's new Covet. I'm a bit ambivalent about this book. I find Ward highly addictive, but she also frustrates the heck out of me. And this review over at Dear Author puts me directly on the middle of the fence. But since I'm going to be getting the other two books, I grab Covet thinking, what the heck. Just in case, I check the kiosk for Demon Forged and/or Shadowlight but didn't find either one.

Once upstairs I hit the Romance aisle, start at the As and stop when I hit "Brockmann". Okay, Meljean's books should be coming up pretty soon. But then I'm at "Brooks" and I know I haven't skipped it, so I begin to scratch my head. Maybe Meljean's series is shelved in Fantasy instead of Romance although I clearly recall finding the other titles in Romance. I mosey on down to the end of the Romance aisle looking for the Vs. Sure enough, there are Lynn Viehl's Darkyn books, but no Shadowlight. Again, I'm thinking I'm just in the wrong section according to the B&N shelving gurus.

As much as I don't like the new B&N's parking setup, they do offer handy self-help computers for people like me who want to find things on their own, without the help of a store employee. I click my way to both books, find that both books are in-stock, and that both books are, supposedly, shelved in Romance not Fantasy. Hmmmm.

I go back to the Romance aisle. I look again in the Bs. I check the Vs carefully. I check the "New Romance Releases" wall. Nothing. Nada. Zip. Zilch.

I start to get annoyed. I'm ready to put back my copy of Covet and head over to Borders. Once back on the main floor, I spot a number of New Release displays scattered about. One by one, I inspect each and every slot. Lo and behold, there I found Demon Forged. Now I'm in a quandry. Do I settle for 2/3? Do I put two back, head to Borders and gamble on finding all 3? Do I bang my head against the wall and cry?

Wouldn't you know, a few displays later I bumped into Shadowlight.

So, I had to work for these books. And while leaving the store, I pondered what I would want if I were an author with a new release. Sure, I'd love - LOVE - to have my books displayed on a special stand that calls attention to them, hopefully catching one or two casual browsers who might otherwise walk right on by. But how frustrating for others who come looking for the book specifically to not find it where they expected it to be. Or where even the store's computer believes it to be.

I know from my days working at a B&N that displays are constantly changing, books are always on the move, and it's near impossible to keep up with the exact location of a title at any given moment. I learned never to promise a customer we had a specific book until I held it in my hands because even though the computer might say we had it on the shelf didn't mean I'd actually be able to locate it.

Ideally, bookstores would put a couple copies on the "correct" shelf and have plenty more to create a display or fill a kiosk slot. But even if they attempt this good faith exercise to satisfy looky-loos and specific shoppers, within hours their efforts may be undone by the sale of just one or two copies. Too, I get the impression that unless you're Dan Brown, Stephenie Meyer or J.K. Rowling, chances are stores don't get shipped box upon box of your titles to create magnificent, showy displays. If they get a dozen copies, good luck keeping track of them.

Anyway, I've got my books. All's right in the world. I still hate B&N's new location, though.


meljean brook said...

I had to search for my books at the local Borders, and I thought the same thing: would a reader just give up if they didn't find it where they expected it to be?

So I'm torn. On one hand, I really love that they are featured in the New Release section. But I would love it more if even one or two copies made it into the B's.

(And thank you!)

Lynn M said...

Well, most determined people aren't stubborn like me and would hunt down a store clerk to find the books for them. Too, I think if a loyal fan couldn't find a book on the shelf they expected, they'd be motivated enough to either go to another store or order on-line or something. The sale of that particular book won't be lost. For example, I knew if B&N let me down, I could just drive the .25 miles to Borders and find it there.

It's more maybe the casual "I read a good review and think maybe I'll give that book a try" readers that might give up with a shrug if finding the book was too hard.

Jean said...

I walked into B&N in Lancaster, PA, and there was a huge Shadowlight display right inside the front door.

I do find shopping in a brick and mortal store particularly frustrating when I am looking for a particular title. I prefer on-line for that.

For purse browsing pleasure, I like both, but brick and mortar is usually excellent for that.

Lynn M said...

I'm with you, Jean. When I'm after a very specific book, I'd just as soon go to and get it directly without having to hunt it down. But when I'm in the mood to browse, I could spend hours in a brick and mortal store. In fact, when my husband and I were first married and lived in the city, we would go out to dinner and then head to the neighborhood B&N for our weekend entertainment.