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When Goblin Quest came out from DAW, my agent took me on a madcap bookstore-visiting spree in the Chicago area. We soon discovered a pattern: Borders almost always had copies of my books in stock. B&N had none. This was more than a little disconcerting…

My friend Joshua Palmatier, aka Benjamin Tate (Facebook, Twitter, LJ) is another DAW author, with two series in print: The Throne of Amenkor trilogy (The Skewed Throne, The Cracked Throne, and The Vacant Throne) as Joshua Palmatier, and the Well series (Well of Sorrows and the newly-released Leaves of Flame) as Benjamin Tate. He’s also published short stories in Close Encounters of the Urban Kind, Beauty Has Her Way, and River.  With Patricia Bray, he’s co-edited After Hours: Tales from the Ur-bar and the upcoming The Modern Fae’s Guide to Surviving Humanity (March 2012).

Today, Joshua finds himself in much the same position I was in back in 2006 … only now Borders is gone. I’ll be honest, this is something that scares me as an author. Joshua’s been doing some guest blogging lately, so I asked if he’d be willing to talk about B&N’s decision and how he’s responding to it.


My newest novel, Leaves of Flame [Amazon | B&N | Mysterious Galaxy]–sequel to Well of Sorrows–has just hit the shelf . . . so to speak. Typically, an author is ultra-excited when the new book is released, and I am, but almost immediately after the release date I learned some rather disastrous news: Barnes & Noble, practically the only large-scale bookstore chain left in the U.S., elected not to carry the new book on its shelves. For an author attempting to build up an audience, this decision is, in essence, a death knell. It’s also not something that authors generally talk about. We tend to curl in upon ourselves and keep such heart-breaking news hush-hush. I know that was my initial reaction. But Jim asked if I wouldn’t mind talking about it here at his blog, and after some thought I asked myself, “Why shouldn’t I talk about it? It’s the real world of the publishing industry. It happens. Why keep silent?” So here’s why this decision on B&N’s part is so disastrous for me, and what I, as the author, have attempted to do to correct it.

Let’s face facts, I’m writing under a pseudonym now. The reason, to be blunt, is that my first trilogy, published under my real name, Joshua Palmatier, didn’t sell as well as hoped or expected; it didn’t find the audience it was intended for here in the US. So when the new series was set to be released, it was decided to send it into the world with an open pseudonym, Benjamin Tate. The hope was that the new name would attract new readers, and that fans of the Palmatier books would find out about Tate and buy the books as well.

To be honest, I don’t think this happened. WELL, in trade format, did not attract readers. When it came out in mass market with a brand new and incredibly cool cover, B&N decided to put only a few on the shelf, because of the sales of the trade. DAW designed an eye-catching cover for the sequel, LEAVES, that would pop on the shelf. But of course, LEAVES isn’t even on the shelf, which ultimately defeats the purpose of the eye-catching cover.

This means that the chances LEAVES will sell (and potentially bring in sales for WELL) have plummeted. I have little to no hope of a random reader—someone who has never heard of either Palmatier or Tate—even SEEING the book, because the browsing capabilities online at places like bn.com and amazon.com are geared toward the books that are already hot sellers. For all intents and purposes, LEAVES doesn’t exist for the random browser, so my chances of expanding my audience are gone.

What can I do to make LEAVES (and thus WELL) more visible? I really only have two options: cons and word of mouth. Cons are easy, but costly. I’ve signed up for numerous cons over the course of the next few months, but I have a day job, so I’m limited, and besides, each con costs a significant amount–money that I’m unlikely to get back in terms of the sales generated at the con. So cons, while extremely fun (I’m ticked that I couldn’t be part of Author D&D at ConFusion), aren’t cost effective.

Which leaves (ha ha) word of mouth. Immediately after learning B&N had decided not to carry my book in its brick and mortar stores, I e-mailed every friend and author I knew asking if they could help by hosting a guest blog or posting an interview or perhaps just mentioning the book online in Facebook or Twitter. I already had some of these lined up, of course, but now I needed as many as I could get, because the only way to reach new readers was to make the book visible online. You may have noticed numerous blog entries from me posted by my friends and fellow authors over the last few weeks, including this one by Jim. In general, authors are an extremely supportive group. Word of mouth—not just authors supporting other authors, but readers talking about books they’ve read or noticed to their friends in person and online—is the best way for a book to be seen. And for an author to pick up new readers.

So, I would turn to you, the readers: If you’ve read a book that you liked, or you’ve seen a book that you thought looked interesting, talk about it. Mention it on Facebook, tweet about it on Twitter, blog about it. Hit up amazon.com or bn.com or your favorite online bookstore and leave a brief review. Or go to the book’s page at any of those sites and “like” it. Do the same at reader forums like Goodreads or Library Thing. Every little mention, every good word here and there, may bring in a potential reader for that author. In essence, YOU are the balancing factor when a single person at B&N makes the decision—for you—about what books you’ll be interested in. YOU are the ones who make books bestsellers.

For some of us, whose books are only going to be seen online, *cue R2-D2 holographic image of Leia* “You’re our only hope.”

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.


( 43 comments — Leave a comment )
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Feb. 1st, 2012 03:04 pm (UTC)
Thanks, Joshua!
Feb. 1st, 2012 03:20 pm (UTC)
I've "shared" -- both here and on Google+. Author's nightmare.
Feb. 1st, 2012 03:27 pm (UTC)
Why not available as Kindle Book ?
While I'm personally glad to see a book unavailable as a Kindle ebook (exclusivity ?), but as a B&N one, I guess you (DAW) miss an opportunity there...
Feb. 1st, 2012 03:29 pm (UTC)
Re: Why not available as Kindle Book ?
What book are you saying isn't available for Kindle? DAW puts books out in both Kindle and Nook format...

ETA: The Kindle link for Leaves of Flame is here.

Edited at 2012-02-01 03:31 pm (UTC)
Re: Why not available as Kindle Book ? - thesfreader - Feb. 1st, 2012 03:37 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Why not available as Kindle Book ? - jimhines - Feb. 1st, 2012 03:41 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Why not available as Kindle Book ? - thesfreader - Feb. 1st, 2012 03:43 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Why not available as Kindle Book ? - jimhines - Feb. 1st, 2012 03:49 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Why not available as Kindle Book ? - thesfreader - Feb. 1st, 2012 04:14 pm (UTC) - Expand
Feb. 1st, 2012 03:31 pm (UTC)
Mind if I re-post this? I'm a member of an aspiring writers' group and this is as important for us to know as it is for you to get word out.
Feb. 1st, 2012 03:36 pm (UTC)
As this is Joshua's post and I'm only the host, I'll ping him and let him respond to you on this.
Feb. 1st, 2012 03:43 pm (UTC)
Is there a way to take a peek at Well? I hesitate to promote something that I haven't read. And I don't want to just buy it without at least having had a small chance to get a feel for the story.

So if there's a first chapter or prologue posted somewhere, then it might be a good idea to give the link for that in the blog post... :)
Feb. 1st, 2012 03:51 pm (UTC)
The Amazon link includes a "Look inside" option which lets you preview the book. I'm not seeing a sample/excerpt on the Benjamin Tate site, though.
(no subject) - ravensilver - Feb. 1st, 2012 08:17 pm (UTC) - Expand
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(no subject) - ravensilver - Feb. 2nd, 2012 09:13 am (UTC) - Expand
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(no subject) - ravensilver - Feb. 1st, 2012 08:18 pm (UTC) - Expand
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Feb. 1st, 2012 06:57 pm (UTC)
I don't know, but I'd certainly like to see independent bookstores reclaim some of the ground they lost. I can't say for certain, but I think my books have sold better in the independent stores than in the chains. (I don't have long-term data or numbers to prove that though, and I'm only one example.)

One thing I think would be good about such a shift is that independent bookstores have a lot more flexibility and freedom to stock the titles they think their readers will like, and I'd love to see more of that.
Eric Griffith
Feb. 1st, 2012 04:44 pm (UTC)
Feeling the pain
As a friend of Joshua's on Facebook, i've watched him march forth on this blog-tour with interest, wondering why the big push, and now I know.

I feel his pain: I've got my first book out (BETA TEST, check it out!), but because it's from a small press (Hadley Rille Books) getting it in bookstores is damn near impossible. Even my local B&N here in Ithaca, NY, doesn't have it, and I've talked to the customer relations person face-to-face.

Knowing Joshua's got five books out and still running into this shelf-space issue bodes very ill. I fear local stores, nice as it might be if they win back all the customers, won't do us small-press or mid-list guys any better. They just don't have the shelf-space available. A blog-tour and word of mouth appear to me the only things we can do personally, and it's a lot of work. (The answered-prayer of good reviews in national outlets is, unfortunately, out of our hands.)
Feb. 1st, 2012 06:45 pm (UTC)
Re: Feeling the pain
Even good reviews in national outlets doesn't guarantee anything. At least one of Publishers Weekly's Best Books of 2011 for sf/f isn't even stocked in B&N.
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Re: Feeling the pain - firynze - Feb. 2nd, 2012 02:29 am (UTC) - Expand
Feb. 1st, 2012 04:49 pm (UTC)
These are terrific books--I think the only reason why WELL didn't get grabbed was the first, unfortunate cover on the trade, and B&N's bad decision not to carry the redesigned book. This series really deserves to find its audience.
Feb. 1st, 2012 04:59 pm (UTC)
As an avid reader of sf/fantasy, I have been noting this very situation on B&N shelves for the past year or more. I keep up on when books are supposed to hit the street, and I have a list of what I want to read, including books I've seen mention of on various blogs that look interesting. When I go to either of my local B&N stores, they do not have them. They say, "oh you can special order them, and they'll be there in 3 business days". Yeah, and pigs will fly. (I ordered sartorias's "Coronets and Steel" in September, and it took over a week to get to me, which still burns my biscuits, as it was a birthday present to me. Anyway...) Now, I do have an amazingly cool local indie store, and that works for the YA books I want, but it's a small place which doesn't always get everything (and why should it?) and I still can't take the books off the shelf and look at them to be sure I want them. Now, sure, if I was reading the endless reams of "urban fantasy", I could find something, but when I can't find ONE book I want off my list, something's very wrong in Denmark.
Feb. 1st, 2012 05:18 pm (UTC)
Has B&N responded to either publishers and/or authors about how they determine what they carry in stores and not in stores? Just curious. Also, is their stock determined on a regional level or store by store level so that we could appeal to either the store or regional manager about what books we'd like to see in stock in their stores?

The selections in the northern VA area aren't half bad - most of the books I see you blog about, I can usually find at one of the local B&N stores. I might need to check the online inventory of stores close to me to make sure they have it in stock, but I can usually get it without too much of a hassle.
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(no subject) - firynze - Feb. 1st, 2012 06:48 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jimhines - Feb. 1st, 2012 06:55 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - firynze - Feb. 1st, 2012 07:07 pm (UTC) - Expand
Feb. 1st, 2012 05:34 pm (UTC)
Best of luck!

I've found that very thing to be frustrating; not as an author, but as a reader. I used to find a lot of new books just by heading to the bookstore and browsing for something new. Now... popular series may have up to 30+ copies of each book in stock, popular authors have a section with a single copy of most of their books, and there may be a new release end on one of the aisles, but for the most part that's it. B&N, or at least the one in my area, is also painfully disorganized, making it difficult to find things at all.

Amazon doesn't give the same experience of browsing that a physical store does. I don't always know a keyword or an author or a title to look for. I just want to find something new.

I hope you get some new readership by sharing around!
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(no subject) - darkangel_wings - Feb. 1st, 2012 06:42 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - Princess R [dreamwidth.org] - Feb. 1st, 2012 07:27 pm (UTC) - Expand
Feb. 1st, 2012 05:46 pm (UTC)
Not that I frequent B&N; but, in my opinion, this is a good argument against the chain. Granted, it's what they consider a good business decision, but it restricts what's available to the random reader. No wonder I see so few books that interest me on random store bookshelves.

Maybe I should start a "Books LinksAPlenty" for the purpose..... :p
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(no subject) - snapes_angel - Feb. 2nd, 2012 01:13 am (UTC) - Expand
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(no subject) - snapes_angel - Feb. 2nd, 2012 04:02 am (UTC) - Expand
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(no subject) - snapes_angel - Feb. 2nd, 2012 05:51 am (UTC) - Expand
Feb. 1st, 2012 05:49 pm (UTC)
In my small town, since the mini-Borders closed, we have no chain bookstores at all. We have a lovely Indy bookstore, but she doesn't carry much in the way of mass market paperbacks, and almost all the authors I read I have to special order. I like to support the store, but sometimes it is just easier to go online and order a bunch at a time from Amazon. I've got "Amazon Prime" so they show up almost instantly.

The problem with this, of course, is that I have to know the books are out...

This is a very scary time to be an author, alas, and this post doesn't bode well for the rest of us...

Joshua, I wish you luck, and I will certainly go take a look at the books.
Feb. 2nd, 2012 05:56 am (UTC)
One nice place to look for some new releases is http://groups.yahoo.com/group/authorisland/. The moderator/list-owner is usually good about updates.
Princess R [dreamwidth.org]
Feb. 1st, 2012 06:32 pm (UTC)
Just wanted to say this post has inspired me to do a 52 book challenge on G+/FB where I promote some of my favorite less known/unshelved authors.

Feb. 1st, 2012 06:41 pm (UTC)
This sounds like a wonderful idea! I think you've inspired me as well. :)
(no subject) - Princess R [dreamwidth.org] - Feb. 1st, 2012 06:44 pm (UTC) - Expand
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(no subject) - Princess R [dreamwidth.org] - Feb. 2nd, 2012 02:22 am (UTC) - Expand
Jen Midkiff
Feb. 1st, 2012 07:44 pm (UTC)
When there's a new author out whose stuff isn't on the shelf, I'm the kind of fangirl who will go ask the store employee for it, and ask why on earth it's NOT on the shelves (author friend's book wasn't on the B&N shelves during the FIRST WEEK it was available, when sales are so important!), and STRONGLY suggest to the employee that they are really missing out on some sales here; this is an author who's going to go far, and they really should be spreading the word. If I'm lucky enough to have gotten an employee who actually likes the genre, this usually results in 1)shelf space (this worked at Borders) and 2) employee recommending it to customers as they browse. Word of mouth can be powerful, but we readers have to do our part to boost the signal too, so our favorite authors can afford to keep writing the stuff we love!!
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Jim C. Hines


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