If you don’t remember, Cheryl is our fabulous friend. She is also a writer and a bookseller at Barnes and Noble. She has been giving us insights into the bookseller world. Today’s post is on returns. So sad returns.
So it’s come to my attention that the way “returns” work between bookstores and vendors is sometimes misunderstood, even by professional writers. Keep in mind, this is just how things work in my particular store. Other stores might have different policies. Here’s how it usually goes:
A book is published. Yay! It’s returnable, it’s in our warehouses, it’s available to bookstores everywhere.
With some books, our buyer (a person who rarely, if ever, comes to our store or even our state) will order certain titles into the stores, predicting how many we’ll need based on what we’ve sold in the past of that genre or that author. With other books, we will read the description and look at the cover and decide on a case-by-case basis whether it will do well in our store.
Then the book comes in. We display it in our “New in _______ (Teen, Fiction, Non-Fiction, etc.)” section. In general, we keep it for 90 days to see if it sells.
After that, things can get difficult. If it doesn’t sell at all, we’ll return all copies to the vendor. If it sells slowly, like one a month, we’ll return all copies to the vendor. If it sells one every two weeks or so, we’ll probably keep one copy. If it sells twenty a week, we’ll give it its own display.
Pretty simple, right? Here’s where it gets tricky.
After the 90 days, the computer gets a say in what stays in the store and what goes, regardless, sometimes, of sales within the individual store. These are called “due outs.” The computer pulls up a list of books every month that are doing poorly on the national level, and requests that we return them to the vendor.
This is where I can sometimes step in. If a book does poorly on a national level but really well in our store, I can take those sales figures to the manager and request that we keep it. It’s not a guarantee, but it can help.
On the opposite end of the scale, we have what is called “modeling.” This is the best thing that can happen to a book. Modeling occurs after about 6 months, when the computer predicts how many copies of that book our specific store will sell every two weeks. Then, whenever we sell below that number, we are automatically sent more copies. With unmodeled books, we have to manually reorder when we run low…and it can be easy to forget those books sometimes.
Now, for the question every author asks: “Why isn’t my book on the shelf?”
Unfortunately, it is all about the money. It’s not personal. As with any other product, if it’s in the store, it is taking up the space that could be given to something that would sell. Yes, I do fight for my local authors. But I can’t keep a book in the store if there aren’t sales to back it up. So if you want your book on the shelf, don’t let your fans buy books online! Books purchased in a store will stay in stores, and books purchased online will stay online.
And at this rate, I am so getting my book shelf. This one is only 64$ so if I win, it will only put me back four dollars! Unless you enter of course. All you have to do is say why you want what you want from your MC’s POV. . . . ENTER the contest, kiddos!