It’s so hard to get the books these days

Yesterday I heard the tale about two children’s authors who did an event recently. The chain bookshop in the area had been aware of the books needed for the last three months. But it was so hard to get them, that in the end there were no books for sale at this particular event.

That seems such a shame, because not only do authors hope for sales on the day to help pay the bills, but I imagine they had a roomful of children who got all fired up about their books, and then were unable to buy any.

What appears to have happened is they went home and ordered them on amazon (authors can see their books shoot up in the sales ranks), so they will eventually get their books. No opportunity to get them signed, but hopefully children can rise above this signing nonsense and concentrate on the reading. And a fraction of two authors’ gas bills can now be paid.

The whole story made for animated discussion on the well known social media site where many of us hang out. I suggested taking a suitcase full of books round to events, to be safe. Some people do. Several people in the discussion had tried it, but apart from the hard work, it means the sales are not recorded on Nielsen, which makes it less good. (I think perhaps there should be a way of having author sales recorded. Don’t know how, but it would make sense.)

An indie bookseller joined in, and said indies are the solution. They are, in the places where they exist. Not all are perfect, or even good, but most are. Presumably most booksellers have not been to bookless events, because if they are there, then so are the books. So it can be hard to gauge the level of the problem.

I’ve been to a fair number of book events where no books have been available for sale, or where certain titles have been notably absent. Especially annoying if it’s the most relevant title from the author’s talk. (And it often is.)

If it really is that hard for bookshops to order in books; how come they agree to do the job? Why are they in the bookselling business? One author mentioned an event she’d done for a bookshop, where she was asked to provide the books herself. That sounds even more absurd.

Someone else told of how she had sold two books while waiting for service in a chain bookshop, which reminded me of my fellow Stopfordian blogger who works in a bookshop, but who came to a signing at another shop and ended up advising their customers and finding what they asked for. Clearly customers can sense who will know, and she did.

I’m the first person to want to prevent the death of bookshops. Any bookshop, indie or chain. But it’s not enough that customers continue to walk through their doors. They need to have what the customers want. The customers should not need to want what the shop wants them to buy. Those doors will lead people in the opposite direction too.

3 responses to “It’s so hard to get the books these days

  1. to be fair, it’s not always the booksellers’ fault. I’ve had this problem too; the last time the bookseller had really tried to get copies for the event, only for the publisher to fail to deliver (or at least, that’s what they told me!)

  2. On some rare occasions that will be a valid explanation. Mostly I’d feel it was a bit feeble, though. And if staff only started asking the supplier for books the ‘day before’ it’s not surprising if they fail.
    Publishers are falling over themselves to pick books, and covers, and so on, that will appeal to the buyer for the big chain(s). Don’t tell me they have no power.
    I do gather that ordering procedures have been altered recently, and not for the better. But I doubt it’s got to do with there being no books to order. More that they are not the 3 for 2 type books the shops like.
    And if Author X’s books can be obtained by one branch; why not by others?

  3. I don’t do the events for our store, and am thankful that I don’t, because it is a very fraught thing, almost always. I don’t know why the chain store didn’t have the books, but I do know that there are a variety of things that can go wrong, as in any situation that entails a sequence of events in which there are a lot of human beings involved. The whole thing requires more babysitting than you might think.

    You’d think that just ordering the books would be enough, but often it isn’t. In fact, I sometimes think it’s a miracle that bookstores have any books at all.

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