I’ve been spending a lot of time in bookstores lately. No, I’ve been spending a lot of time in Barnes & Noble lately. Like many avid readers, I’d eschewed the brick and mortar stores for the pleasures of the Internet in general and Amazon in particular. That decision was less a function of laziness and more a function of distance. From 2005 to 2011 I lived in rural Maine where the closest bookstore was 60 miles away in the Presque Isle Mall. In 2011 I moved to Cudjoe Key, Florida at a time when bookstores were leaving the Keys, even Key West was without a bookstore for a while. So it was a matter of traveling one hundred and twenty miles or shopping online. From there we made the move to Hendry County, Florida. Bookstores were closer, 40 miles away, but not exactly convenient.
Suffice it to say that when I did an author event in Sarasota, FL at a Barnes & Noble, it had been a while since I’d walked the aisles of a bookstore in the flesh. Since then, it’s been a weekly trip. The smell of paper and ink became intoxicating and addicting. It’s a necessary evil.
Once I stopped sniffing the air and scooping up every book I ever thought I might like to read sometime in this lifetime from the front of the store, I took a look. Deeper. Into the bowels of Barnes & Noble. I let myself pass the enticing New Arrivals tables and the Save 20% on New Releases tables and the Bargain Books tables and moved to stacks in the back of the store. There I found Mystery, Romance, Fiction. One right after the other. And that’s where I discovered the secret. I’m not sure I should share it, but heck, we’re all friends here, right?
My books are published by Henery Press. The first books I sought out at “my” Barnes & Noble were Henery books. I wanted to see if they had Death by Blue Water or Death by Sunken Treasure. Nope. So I looked for every Henery author I could remember. Nope. No Henery and very few small press authors. Of course, I marched my little body up to the special orders desk and asked about that. The entire Henery Press catalogue is available for order, I was told. But they had none in the store. Because I am a local author, they assured me that if I scheduled a signing (and I was given a business card) it was possible that my books would be shelved in the mystery section. I pointed out some of the award winning writes who are published by Henery and it may have had some effect. Last time I was in the store (was it only Friday night?) I did see some Henery authors represented.
Most of the writers I read are what is considered “mid list” authors. Not huge sellers, but steady performers. Most, not all, of these authors were shelved in the Mystery section. I felt great satisfaction running my finger along the spines and thinking, read this, gotta get this, read this, know this author, she’s a sweetheart…” you get the picture. These authors had one thing in common. The size of the press that published them. All larger presses, Berkley, St. Martin, and that ilk. Still, the collection lacked depth. The shelves held one or two copies at most even of writers the likes of Patricia Cornwell, Catherine Coulter, and Tess Gerritsen. A few, Rita Mae Brown and Diane Mott Davidson, had entire collections (more or less) represented, but again, only one or two books. It seemed a sparse selection for the popularity of the authors.
I ventured further, back to fiction. Really I went more from curiosity than research. What was the difference between say fiction and mystery? How did Barnes & Noble distinguish between the two? That’s where the penny dropped and how I learned the secret. The big sellers, were shelved in both the mystery and the fiction area. Patricia Cornwell had several copies of several books, Same with Catherine Coulter and Tess Gerritsen. Other well-known and popular writers had the same double placement. Additionally, while their books on the Mystery shelves may be spine or face out, they were all face out in the Fiction section.
There’s a lesson there. Placement is everything in the book world. It’s a silent acknowledgement of status. If you want to be a best seller, you need to be multi-shelved!
Writers and readers, have you noticed this trend at your stores too? When you’re looking for a book, where do you go to find it?
Kait loves to hear from fans, check out her website at www.kaitcarson.com; follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/kaitcarsonauthor, on twitter at @kaitcarson, or e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.