Saturday, 30 May 2015

Five seconds of fame

That's what my original boss called it when we took stock of the shelf life of a new release. We were standing by the shelf nearest the front of the store, weighing up which books were coming off the new release bay to make way for the ones that had just been delivered, hot off the press. As an author, her remark made an impression on me of untold proportions.

Now under new management, the bookstore I work for has a new flavour as is to be anticipated with a change of ownership. However, the rules of engagement for buyers and their books haven't changed at all. The new releases get a far better timeframe for maximum exposure, but the best way to capture an audience is unchanged. I can only chart what happens in our store, but I believe this is applicable on a much wider scale, and dare anyone to share otherwise.

Our new releases pretty much get delivered on a Monday, and we have an enlarged new release bay (which began about four months ago) to house these incoming books. We now display a top 30 at the front of the store (to see what our nation is buying that week), and depending on volume, in the bay beside the top 30 we display between 30 and 40 books that are new releases which are predominantly fiction (there may be some sci-fi, literary, biography, or crime mixed in).

My co-worker and I get to put the books out ("face out" not spine out), and while the top 30 are listed for us in order of favour, the new releases get laid out according to date. BUT, in the likely scenario we get more than eight new releases all having the same date, we get to choose the order in which they are laid out for the public to peruse. Last Monday we received around eighteen new releases, so whatever had spent prime time on the top shelf for a week was now down to shelf number four, no longer in first place, no questions asked.

A book I thought was fantastic and that everyone would surely grab did not move from second place for two weeks, neither did any sell. The new releases came in on Monday and the novel was moved down to eighth position. By that afternoon we'd received another five boxes. Not five books, five boxes. Book number two was now book fifteen. Another couple of boxes were wheeled through the door by the courier, bringing the book to rest for the day at place twenty-one. By the end of the week, book two had become book twenty-nine, where it stayed for about one more week, finally coming to rest at book forty-five before finding a permanent home amongst Fiction A-Z having sold only one copy out of six.

Five seconds of fame.

In our shop, the books in the new release bay may occasionally be leap-frogged by other books as a bio or crime fiction sells or is moved to its proper place in the store, but there are no guarantees about book placement. What might be a new release sitting in pole position on Monday can be shunted down in an hour, a day, or a week. This is the reason behind the picture above. This is how your book might be promoted after only one week of hitting the shelves - unidentifiable unless people know what you've done, or what they should be looking for.

Next post, tips on what to do to help your book stay ahead of the bookstore slush pile (and you thought the only one that existed was on the editor's desk, right? Wrong.).

In God, Whose Word I praise - in God I trust and am not afraid. What can mere mortals do to me? Psalm 56v4.

Am I back? Really?

Talk about a false start. In many ways I can't believe it was January that I last made a post, but when I look back at even the last week, it is quite obvious as to why. They say that you give time to whatever you love, and as much as I love writing, I love my family more, proven lately by working the longest hours of my life.

My disappointment in not having the time to write is overcome by being able to provide for my family as well as spend time with them. It's a great combination. However I'm also old enough to know that if I don't spend a certain amount of time on creative me, frustration will peak quite readily. So, in recognition of the dust that has settled long enough for me to be able to dust off my dearly beloved laptop, I have also come back to write a post.

In the past five months there has been little time for expressing creativity as we have undergone an intriguing transformation as a family through a series and course of events we would never have thought do-able. Nothing life-threatening, but I think several of my friends must think I've either died or become a hermit from my lack of contact. But slowly and gradually, by the grace of God, they're finding out I've not dropped off the planet after all, and I'm slowing reappearing from being buried under work, packing boxes, and clients.

Not writing has also been fun. Yes, you read that correctly. It's been a recharge, a season to refuel, and as I (hopefully) continue to blog away that it will contain topics of interest. I'm never far away, and hope readers here can feel comfortable enough to either comment or tweet me and keep me coming back, too :)

I'm keen to share some fresh insights of my end in the publishing world, but first of all wanted to make a greeting. Yes, I'm still alive, and God is good, and that's my post for now. We are blessed to face new challenges, as it keeps us from being lazy :)

Catchya soon.

I lift up my eyes to the hills; where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of Heaven and earth. Psalm 121:1,2


Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Keeping the faith

It's been a while, but I'm back. And as the French say, pas de excuses. I have a few :) In any case, I hope I can consistently blog again this year about the things, books, experiences and ideas that matter to me. Again, I have a few :)

Today as I started another day at the bookshop (we are under new management) I reflected on a conversation I had last night with a brilliant writer friend about moral compasses and reading books that bug me well after the final page is turned. Being in an environment where people are filling their minds so readily with all kinds of stuff (read: rubbish) is actually a concern to me. Much of what can be found in a book is good, but much of it is... well... not. I wonder sometimes about my purpose of being in the shop, and asked God to make it clear. Today I began to realise He knows what He is doing.

A lady came in and asked me about a book by title for her daughter, so I did our store computer search so I'd know where to find it on the shelf. As she followed me from the counter she told me her daughter was 12 and was quite into this series. Alarm bells rang in my head. We were headed for the adult erotic section. As I listened to the mother talking about her daughter and her love for the series, questions were firing off in my brain, and as she chatted I pulled two of the requested titles from the shelves and opened one at random. With an "ERO" (as they are known in our store) you're pretty much guaranteed that no matter where you open a page, you'll find something of interest to ERO readers. This book was no different and I held my finger in the page as the mother chatted.

I asked if she had ever read any of what her daughter was reading. She said no, but if she was reading and taking an interest in books, then surely this was a good thing to be encouraged. It was on my mind to tell her there are OTHER (more appropriate) things she could be reading, but instead I asked if she'd ever read an ERO (because ERO is not your general Mills&Boon or Harlequin Romance). No, she had not. I said, "This is what she's reading," and turned the open page to the mother, which she promptly began to read aloud in a somewhat lusty voice. Funnily, her gaze set upon the exact same part where I had started to read moments earlier as she'd been chatting, and you can imagine how her voice changed when she hit the ERO bit.

She stopped, and the realisation of what her daughter was opening herself up to hit home. Quietly I told her that if this is what she is allowing her daughter to read (and she is allowing her), then she needs to chat with her about what she's reading, because although she might be physically as tall as her Mum and going on 13, she's still only 12 in her head. And though she might be savvy, she might not be equipped enough to handle her own curiosity. She needs to explain to her daughter precisely what's going on, and reconsider the options.

As the mother realised what I was trying to tell her, and we spoke a little more, she began to tear up (which made me tear up, too). Reading between the lines, in her own words she saw that a way had been made for her to bond with her daughter - not because of the smut (let's be honest), but because of the conversations they could have about what it's like being 12 and growing and all that it entails.

Dear God. Only He could have brought something beautiful out of dust, and I felt a strong purpose and privilege of being there in that moment. That has been just one of the opportunities I've had these past two days, and it amazes me how only God can work something out like that. It's absolutely special to me to connect with people, and I will long treasure this encounter.

She bought the book, frowned as she said she would read it herself, and more to herself than me said she would be doing some serious quizzing about how Miss 12 found out about this series.

Parents, KNOW what your kids are reading, and know that whatever YA fiction they are into is likely to lead into other things, and that this WILL affect their mindsets. One ERO author in our shop is writing YA as well, and I did explain to this mother that this is how younger readers' attentions are being snared and bought for years to come. This other author is writing for Young Adults, capturing their interests for the harder porn she'll be feeding them before you know it. She is raising and influencing other people's children - children she doesn't even know - for as long as they're reading her work.

Is this what parents want going through their kids' minds?


People sometimes look at me like I've got my head screwed on backwards when I say I'm looking for something better. If I was meant to be living in the 1950's, God would have put me there. But He didn't. I'm here, and that for a reason. Maybe, just maybe, one reason is to gently remind people of what true vales really are and that they don't need to settle for what the world readily sells them. Whatever the case, I'm not the only one who thinks like this, and that is encouraging.

Q: Are you reading something you shouldn't be reading? You might think it isn't affecting you, but maybe it is and the changes are so subtle that they are almost invisible... Why should you settle for less than you should?

Sometimes it's the places you don't go that enrich your life the most.