Part two in this week's Publishing Gloom Series involves my long-time nemesis, the local Barnes and Noble. Full disclosure: my frustration with my local B&N began a few years ago when my novel Inventing Memory was released. They stocked it, sold out of it pretty quickly but did not reorder until I asked them to. We went a few rounds like that, with the copies consistently selling out, but never being reordered unless I personally went in and requested it. Realizing that if this was happening at my local store, it was also likely happening at other B&Ns across the country, where I could not go in every couple of weeks and play surrogate book buyer, I became demoralized, and eventually gave up. Sales on that book are the reason I don't write under my own name any more.
So, anyway, not one to hold a grudge, I was delighted to have the opportunity to go into my local B&N last week and buy an m/m romance novel in the romance section. I was really chuffed that B&N had agreed to stock the Running Press books where they are likely to sell the most copies, but when I got there, I couldn't find them on any of the New In Paperback tables at the front of the store, nor in any of the New in Romance tables or displays (four all together) on the second floor, where the bulk of the fiction is stocked. Hmm.
After a thorough search, I finally found one copy of Transgressions, face in in the romance section. One copy? Surely that wasn't all they'd ordered? And what about Alex's book, False Colors? On a hunch, I checked the gay studies section, where lo and behold, each book was prominently displayed on the New In shelf.
I talked to a manager about the importance of stocking the books where the publisher intended them to be, where the audience they were being marketed to would find them, and most importantly of all, where they would actually sell. See, the only problem with shelving them in gay studies is that people are not generally shopping for fiction in that section, and romance novels have a tendency to sit there, untouched, which, as it turns out, is the reason why they were so easy to find there. No one was buying them.
An assistant manager informed me that the staff had a meeting about the Running Press books, and in contradiction with the agreement B&N made with Running Press, decided to cross shelve the books. Two in romance and two in gay studies. Only, by the looks of things, the ones slated for romance got shelved face in, with no fanfare. Despite this, three of the four Running Press m/m titles that were shelved in romance were no longer there. I couldn't confirm that they had sold but they were definitely getting circulation.
Unfortunately, no matter how well Alex and Erastes' books sell in the romance section, if the store continues to hold two copies of each in gay studies, instead of restocking them where they're selling, then they won't get reordered, because as long as those two copies are sitting there, the inventory system will show them as beng in stock.
After a long conversation in which I elaborated on the theme of m/m selling better in romance, and the assistant manager did her best to impress upon me the irrelevance of my viewpoint to internal decisions about where books get stocked, I finally got her agreement to let my concerns be known to the rest of the staff, and I left my information with a request for the general manager to call me. Haven't heard from him, natch.
Alex and Erastes have blogged that other B&Ns are doing much better by them than mine is. I can only hope that my experience is an isolated one. Just the same, it might not be a bad idea to check with your local B&N, and let them know that as a customer, you support the publisher's decision to market them as romance novels.
BTW, this all took place last week, but I've been too upset about it to post anything until now, when the overwhelming avalanche of publishing biz injustice has deadened me to all but the most acute sensations. Honestly, it really is getting to the point that I don't know where to turn any more. I haven't been fucked by any epublishers yet, and All Romance eBooks and Fictionwise and Powell's seem to be okay. And there's Book View Cafe, which will hopefully grow into something wonderful. And yet, these days, I find myself tensing for the next blow.
I feel like I should apologize for taking such a negative tone in a blog that's supposed to be about celebrating m/m and the brave frontiers of new publishing technologies, but these are real life decisions that impact our ability to conduct our trade, and they're being made by uninformed third parties who do not share our stake in the matter. And what they're doing is wrong.