Thursday, April 12, 2007

Book Availability

Mark your calendars! The Christian Science Fiction and Fantasy Blog tour featuring Return of the Guardian-King is coming up NEXT Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, April 16, 17 and 18. There'll be reviews, book giveaways, commentary and at least a couple of interviews. Should be fun.

On to today's subject. I've been hearing from a few readers who've gone to various bookstores in their area looking for Return of the Guardian King only to leave empty-handed. I'm not sure if they asked the sales staff for the book/s or not, but if you do go to a store and don't find it, please do ask.

Some readers have reported that after asking, the sales person goes looking and finds the books arrived but still in a box in the back. Or on a book truck waiting to be shelved. Asking will also let you know if the store has the books on order and when they might be coming. At the least you can order one if they don't have any coming. All the Guardian King books are still in print, and should be available at the least by special order from any of your local bookstores. And if not that, there's always Amazon!

It's only with the huge sellers that publishers announce a release date, then force every bookstore who gets a shipment to wait until that date to make the books available for sale. They also make sure that all the stores have the books, sometimes for days in advance, and of course there is a great deal of publicity and hooplah to let everyone know when the books will be available. Then all the fans line up for hours to buy their books and maybe even get them signed by the author.

For lesser selling titles, this doesn't happen. The books don't burst out on the scene, they trickle. I've had experiences here in Tucson where one of my books was supposed to release August 1 and a friend went in to the local Christian bookstore to order it. First she was told they couldn't order it and to come back later. She did, and was able to order it then, but then the books didn't come and didn't come and finally she went to Barnes and Noble sometime toward the end of August and found a copy there. Two weeks later the Christian bookstore's copies had arrived. Their loss, I guess. (I'm sure they're crushed.)

I was in the store one day talking to the woman who does the ordering and she tried to explain their rather bizarre system. They all work through distributors. The distributors order a certain number of copies from the publisher. When they get the books into their warehouse then the smaller bookstores who do business with them can order the books. The distributor for our local store had four regions it serviced. Even though the other three regions had listings of my books available, the region that serviced Arizona did not. She had to wait until that region had books before she could order anything.

It seems very inefficient to me, but what do I know about running a bookstore? I know it is a difficult business. Also, they have only a limited amount of shelf space. And I've heard that publishers even pay for a certain amount of guaranteed space. I don't know how widespread this is, if all publishers do it, if they only do it for certain titles, or what, but the fact remains shelf space is a valued commodity. There are always new books coming out, so if the old books haven't yet sold, they will be pushed away to make way for the new. This is at the publisher's request, I'm told (I believe I've written about that here before.

Since my last release was in November of 2005, it's no surprise there might not be any copies of my books on the shelves in late March or even early April 2007. (One reason why publishers want writers to hurry up and turn out their successive series books swiftly; though I'm also told series books, once in demand, no longer are so desirable.)

Finally, there might be one other explanation for some of the difficulty readers have expressed in finding my books and that's because they've been sold out. I've heard from at least one bookstore manager where this was indeed the case, and they are ordering more. That was happy news!

But the biggest most helpful thing you can do as a reader in search of the book is to ask the salespeople about it. Do they have it somewhere? Have they ordered it? Have they sold out? Have they ordered any of the preceding volumes? Even if you don't end up buying the book there, you will have let the bookstore know that there is some interest in it. If they get enough requests, they might even start carrying it.