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.