September 2, 2005

Humble Bumble

One of my regular blog-and-coffee morning reads, Fresh Eyes , is talking about bookstores and humility in response to NYT best-selling novelist Tess Gerritsen's 8/24/05 (scroll down) blog entry about her spiritual slaughter at the hands of Hawaiian booksellers. OH MY FRIENDS. Let me tell you, you don't have to go Maui to get thoroughly belittled! If you want to understand the smallness of your space in the universe, all you have to do is drive down the STREET. People in your home town will quite often be happy to oblige, because, hey, nothing good can come out of Nazareth! Of course, given my druthers, if one HAS to be humiliated, I say, better to do it in Maui and then comfort yourself with a GIANT hollow pineapple filled with rum and melon liqueur and juices and plastic mermaids and teeny tiny umbrellas.

Mine for Summer: I heard from no less than three people that a local store was out of my book. This store is the CLOSEST bookstore to my house that exists (if you do not count a beloved small independent children's bookstore). These three people ALL went in to PURCHASE gods in Alabama and couldn't. I heard this from these people over the course of two weeks, so the store had apparently been out for quite some time.

I went by near the beginning of August. I snagged a bookseller who was near fiction, introduced myself, explained that I was local, asked him if he had read it, asked him what kind of books he liked, he listed some authors that led me to think he would probably like my book, so I told him so. I asked him to read it, asked him to help readers find it, told him why he might like it ETC. ETC., just talked about it with him and made sure he knew people had come to the store wanting to buy in the last two weeks and did they have any on order and I would be happy to sign their stock when it came in and ETC. ETC. ETC.

I left feeling better. He seemed like a good guy, a READER you know? I am always disheartened by booksellers who say "Oh well, I don't read very much," when I ask them what authors they like. This has happened more times than you would imagine! It's like a devoted environmentalist selling cars..."Oh well I wouldn't drive one of these air poisoning death machines for a million dollars and think that anyone who does is going to spend eternity on a spit being slow-basted by the hounds of The Arch Deamon Mechasadaic, but if you have 20 thousand bucks and don't mind destroying the earth and all, I would be happy to fill out the paperwork that will charge you exorbitant interest AND damn your immortal soul...Want some organic soy gum?"


On the way out I see they have a HUGE DISPLAY SHELF up of Local Authors. RIGHT at the front of fiction. Seriously, except for NEW RELEASES and BEST SELLERS, it's probably the nicest placement in the store. They have put EVERYONE who lives in Georgia up there---even people who I KNOW live in ATHENS and SAVANNAH. And all the books have big LOCAL AUTHOR stickers on. Pretty much every Georgia author who comes out in hardback from a NYC house is up there. Except um ... one. That would be the one who lives 7 miles away. If you are this store, you cannot GET a more local than me. BUT OKAY THEN!

Honestly? My feelings were a little hurt. I'd been in the store before when gods came and had introduced myself to other booksellers there. BUT I thought, well, maybe it WAS up there and they sold out? But I can't help but notice there is no HOLE where another book could go...The shelf is full.

A week later, I go back to follow up. Still no copies. Not on the local author display. Not anywhere. I go and talk to one of the booksellers there again, the fiction section manager this time, intro, ask about book. OH yea, she says, people come in here and ask for that book a lot. Let me see. I will go ahead and order some right now!

I watch her order five copies, rush job.

I mention the local authors table and she says, But your book says it's in Alabama.
Me: Yes, the book is set in Alabama, but those books aren't all set in Georgia. They are just written by Georgia authors.
Her: But your book says Alabama on the cover.
Me: But....yes but. I know the book is set in Alabama, but... I live 7 miles away.
We look at each other for a minute.
Her: Okay, I guess we can put you up there.

Went back yesterday. No on the display. No copies in the store.

Hypothesis one: In the grand scheme of things, I am simply not that important. These book sellers have a lot of other things to do, and fixing my stupid little personal problem of hurt feelings fell off the radar. Perhaps I should get over myself.

Note: I don't much LIKE that hypothesis. Let's move on.

Hypothesis Two: One day, all the employees of this bookstore were in a van heading out to get coffee together and talk obsessively about their favorite local authors who live in Savannah, and I was not paying attention and I CUT THEM OFF in traffic and one of them took a picture of me with her cell phone camera and then took the picture to her FBI agent boyfriend who ran it through some database and I came up because I had to get fingerprinted and SCREENED before I was allowed to work in my church nursery and he sent her the info back and they realized I was a local writer and they said, OKAY WHENEVER SHE COMES IN JUST BE POLITE AND THEN DON'T ORDER HER BOOK. OR ORDER IT IN FRONT OF HER AND THEN IMMEDIATELY CANCEL THE SECOND SHE WALKS OUT. AND THEN WE CAN GO IN THE BACK AND LAUGH AND LAUGH AND THROW MORE DARTS AT HER PICTURE! Because OBVIOUSLY their lives revolve entirely around THE HOPE THAT THEY WILL BE GIVEN THE A CHANCE TO RUIN MY DAY.

Yes, hypothesis 2 seems much more reasonable.

SO in the hopes of fostering peace between me and this cult of book sellers who clearly spend WAY too much time thinking about me, allow me to FORMALLY SAY:

Dear alla ya'll at the bookstore,

I am so sorry I cut you off in traffic. Let's be friends! PLEASE STOCK MY BOOK AND PS I AM LOCAL. I AM SO LOCAL YOU COULD SPIT AND HIT MY HOUSE FROM YOUR JOB, and in fact, you probably do. Please stop, that's gross. Please put me on the local authors shelf! I love you!


I am leaving for England tomorrow and I will be doing quite a bit of drop in stock signings. I am sure to run into book sellers who don't know me from Adam's Housecat, and I am certain to be humbled again but, I have two BIG comforts:

1) There is no London bookseller who can POSSIBLY spit far enough to hit my house and
2) If THEY will make me feel 3 inches tall, they will at least do it using a RAWWWWWWther sexy accent.

Between these comforts and the actual getting of a TRIP TO LONDON, well. Never shall I say this job don't got no perks!

Posted by joshilyn at September 2, 2005 11:31 AM

Be happy to know that bookstores 2600 miles away were all to happy to not only order your book, but put it on the shelf, and read the copy they bought for themselves. They then ranted about what a great read it was. 2600 miles away.

Now you get to go 5000 miles and find out the same thing in charming and sexy accents. 5000 miles.

Don't worry those (apparently non readers who know the names of some authors - but don't read themselves) will get a clue and buy you. Note they are not as smart as they think. They have all those authors on their local rack and not a one of them was selling - there were no holes. See they're not smart because they missed the one that sells, and sells, and sells.

Ohhh, London, I am envious. It's been awhile and I've never, never, ever been on a sea cruise - fishing between Dana Point and Catalina doesn't count, of course I spent much of the morning bent over the port rail making hideous sounds and not fishing at all until after 11 - nope I've never, ever, never been on a cruise. drats.


Posted by: Cele at September 2, 2005 11:47 AM

Not only did I find your book on the MOST FRONT SHELF in the big-ass book chain store, I went to another location and INSISTED that it should be there when it was not.

And I have, in the past - MOVED BOOKS MYSELF. If I found four copies then I left two in the fiction section and move two to the MOST FRONT SHELF.

I am very proud of myself, yes.

Posted by: Heather McCutcheon at September 2, 2005 12:52 PM

OK, I can expand on the story of the large chain bookstore which my wife mentioned. There are two near us in opposite directions. My wife's experience was at Store L.

(I pick "L" because no one every uses that as a label. It's always A, B, C, or X, Y, Z. Why should those letters have all the fun?)

I went to Store M of the same chain (about 9 miles away) to buy a copy for a coworker. I couldn't find the darn thing anywhere. I asked at the desk and they said they had two copies. The clerk came with me to fiction to help locate them. He stood there for some time looking, fruitlessly. I sighed and rolled my eyes which happen to scan the books up on top of the bookshelf. You know, the extra ones they use to restock with when they run low?

Yep, the only two copies they had in the store were up there where no one would ever find them. Their computer said they had two in stock so they never ordered more. The level of incompetence at this chain just boggles my mind. Unless you're Dan Brown or have "Chicken Soup" in the title of your book you're just doomed.

God bless the handsellers, who actually read and care about what they sell. And by hand sellers I don't just mean the many fine Booksense independents. I also include any large chain that hires book people. There are some fabulous B&N's and Books-A-Million stores out there.

Mr. Irritated Husband

Posted by: Mr. Husband at September 2, 2005 1:30 PM

Heck, if I lived 7 miles from you I would post a sign to tell people to buy your book. I promise it would be tasteful, you known, not graced by one of those yard flamingos or gnome statues. But maybe some blinking Christmas lights, you know, for sparkly effect.

Posted by: Angel at September 2, 2005 1:30 PM

Heather, I have in fact assisted Joss in making copies of gods more prominent at, um, a large bookstore chain that apparently didn't understand how pretty she is. And I vowed right then and there that I shall someday publish a book just so that I can have the thrill of sneaking around a gigantic store rearranging things. Yes.

Beautiful Tulip, I am sorry that your local bookstore staff is being weenie-riffic. Hypothesis 3 is that they are lazy fools with ugly shoes and do not deserve another second of your time (and I tend to go with this one based on the Alabama comment).

But you are going to London on a really big ship and they are stuck in a dumb store. So be gracious, because you can afford to be (where have I heard that lately?). Smooches.

Posted by: Mir at September 2, 2005 1:32 PM

Anyone who cannot grasp the meaning of "local authors" obviously doesn't have two brain cells to rub together and deserves our collective pity (and scorn). The Peter principle is no doubt the reason this person has a position of responsibility in what otherwise would be a fine establishment. Maybe this person's supervisor should be informed of this besmirchment of their reputation within the community.

Posted by: Bob at September 2, 2005 3:01 PM

Idiots, idiots, idiots. Are bookstores businesses? Don't they want to make money? Did I miss something?

Have a great time in London. Jealous here.

Posted by: Edgy Mama at September 2, 2005 3:16 PM

Out here in KC they are flying off the shelves - I physically dragged an acquaintance into a very large chain store to show her gods (and your picture! So I could brag about knowing you! YES, I did!) And there was only one left on the shelf! With a good bit of empty space next to it! Where other copies used to be! So fear not, tulip. As you mentioned, even Jesus was just a carpenter in his hometown.

p.s. the new name was Mir's idea. There's just too many Amys crawling around out here on the net!

Posted by: Amy-GO at September 2, 2005 9:34 PM

Can't wait to start my job. I will be selling Gods like hotcakes, Joss.

Posted by: Heather at September 3, 2005 11:44 PM

Whew. Lemme tell you that these horrible stories are making me ask myself, "Why is it again that you thought 'writer' was the job title for you?"

MAN!!! I think I'd have a had a bit of a hard time holding my tongue in that situation--I'm a bit of a hot head, I'm blushed to confess. *Sigh* I will never make it in the publishing world b/c I would've grabbed the intercom in the store and announced the idiocy of the fools working there and begged someone else to come up and explain LOCAL to the clerks.

Then... security would've escorted me out... My book would've been banned. [Which actually... might increase sales ;-)] Then I wouldn't be able to show my face in the local Kroger anymore... Yeah, it would've been ugly.

See... the universe knows what it's doing when it thwarts my efforts to finish my manu with plot problems. [Plot? You need one those in a book? Really? :-)] I'd ruin myself in short order in bookstores.

Hmmm... maybe I can play the reclusive author angle? [Bet that only works if you're already famous? ;-)]

Either way... A pox on their house! You're off to England! Tally ho!


Posted by: Alicia at September 4, 2005 10:28 AM