Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Distribution issues

Well, so here's what I've been able to piece together. Deseret Book in Albuquerque originally ordered four copies of my book, the last of which sold nearly two weeks ago to a member of my ward. Ward members and friends who have tried subsequently to buy the book have been simply told it is out of stock. One friend who ordered copies through this store over a week ago, has not had his copies come in yet.

Such are the joys of dealing with distribution. I've talked to the manager at this store and a couple of supervisors, and they couldn't care less that I'm around. They first told me they couldn't afford to do a signing (I wasn't suggesting they do a signing - the cost of advertising those for a new author rarely gets recouped in the number of copies sold) and just muttered noncommittally when I offered to give them things like Book Club questions. Well, actually they again told me they couldn't afford to buy them from me (what kind of whacked out author tries to sell more items to a bookstore? They don't need more expenses.) Even when I made it clear that I wasn't trying to get anything from them, just offering to help if they could think of anything I could help with, they did little more than shrug. I did try to tell them, without sounding too arrogant, that more than four copies of the book would likely sell. The ward member who ordered copies through them was more blunt, saying, "Well you'll want to get *more* of these." They may have more in stock now, but I've been suggesting that people call ahead to reserve an in-store copy before making the drive to Albuquerque (not that I think they'd go solely to get my book, mind you.)

This leaves the internet the best way for people in my area to get the book, and yes, this is a problem. Even in the information age, there are a lot of people who don't use the internet. For those that do, I recommend this link to Seagull Book because they always sell at more of a discount. The real concern here is that people who think they might like to read my book are getting turned away the first time they try to buy it, and most will not try again. This impacts sales in a big way, since most product moves by word of mouth - every publicity campaign and event is trying to get this elusive force going. If that first round of readers isn't getting books, they won't have any opinion, good, bad, or indifferent, to pass on to others.

There are a few bright spots, though. Despite these hiccups, there seems to be good market penetration. Char encountered the bookstore employee who was raving about the book - and did not know that Char is my friend and top of the acknowledgments. Another member of my ward had a relative call up raving about the book, again, not knowing that I was in this person's ward and her visiting teacher. These are really, really good.

Another piece of good news is that the local grocery store will be stocking the book just as soon as their shipment gets in this week. In my town, as in many, the grocery store is the highest traffic business. I've also been asked to give a talk and signing there, perhaps multiple if it goes well, and this is a golden opportunity for me. I very much look forward to doing that, because unlike in a bookstore, where you usually sit alone with bookstore traffic going by, here I can expect to sit alone with grocery store traffic going by. Far more people eat than read.

And then there's the Words of Wisdom Bookstore in Billings, Montana, where I will be signing books this Saturday. First of all, it is very kind of them to arrange a signing for an unknown. I simply called them up because I was going to be in the area visiting my in-laws and asked if I could do anything for them. Second of all, they've done incredible advertising in their store. They've given my poster by-the-register real estate and put another on the front door. They've made a display of my book with a huge stack of copies. It's really quite incredible, and I hope it doesn't hurt them too badly economically. (I don't mean to be an utter pessimist - I only want things to proceed in a sustainable way.) And now I've just checked that link and see I'm up on their website. Wow. Thanks guys!

My calendar of signings as E.M. Tippetts is here.

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