Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Chain Bookstore Adventures

I didn’t have a historical blog column ready, so thought I would catch you up on my latest adventures in publishing a first novel instead.
Willow Vale is set in southwest Wyoming.  My daughter tried twice to get Willow Vale on the shelf in the local southwest Wyoming chain bookstore.  Sixty highway miles, a lot of waiting around, and two months later, the only answer my daughter has been able to get from the chain bookstore is, “Call corporate headquarters.”
            Publicity for Willow Vale in southwest Wyoming has been good: a big story on me and my novel by Connie Wilcox-Timar with my picture in the Rock Springs Daily Rocket-Miner.  Just this last weekend Willow Vale made the cover of the Sweetwater Guide in southwest Wyoming: a nice, informative article with a nice, big picture of the book, distributed free all over the county. 
My friend Marcia, author of Staking Her Claim: Women Homesteading the West, went in to the chain bookstore on my behalf on March 23.   One perk of being a published author: Marcia got to talk to a back-room person, who said Willow Vale didn’t show up on Ingram’s distribution list on the store’s computer, so therefore the store couldn’t order my novel.
I started trying to follow up on why a southwest Wyoming chain bookstore couldn’t order a novel of southwest Wyoming interest that was getting good southwest Wyoming publicity.  I called twice on March 23, once on March 24, and once on March 26 when I finally got to speak to the same back-room person who had so rashly given Marcia her name.  The back-room person said the book wasn’t showing up on the store’s computer and that I should call my publisher and see if there was a problem.  Another phone call on March 29 revealed that the problem wasn’t Ingram’s or my publisher’s.   This back-room person apparently employed part-time by the chain bookstore couldn’t order just any book.  Willow Vale had to show up on an approved list on her computer from corporate headquarters’ computer.  But she would e-mail corporate headquarters and find out why a novel of southwest Wyoming local interest wasn’t on the approved list of southwest Wyoming local books on the company’s corporate computer.
I tried on April 5 to see if the part-time back-room person at the chain bookstore had gotten an answer from corporate headquarters.  She wasn’t in, but I got to speak to another person.  I told once again how I was trying to get a novel of southwest Wyoming local interest ordered in to their southwest Wyoming store.  She said Willow Vale wasn’t showing up on the computer, but she would talk to the store manager and I would be called back.  Uh-huh, this story is certainly starting to sound familiar.
The morning of April 10, I called to follow up with either of the two persons I had spoken with about Willow Vale.  By this time the first one had quit and didn’t work at the chain bookstore anymore, and the second wasn’t available.  (All the employees of this particular chain store must be part-time on a nightmare schedule because they’re the very dickens to reach on the phone during what I thought were normal business hours.)  But I patiently went through the whole saga about trying to get my novel of local interest on the shelves of their local store with yet a third back-room person.  This third person said Willow Vale wasn’t showing up on their computer.  When I asked about maybe consigning a couple copies of the novel as I had good local publicity and people asking me where to buy the book locally, she said, ”Oh, you want the sell-back program where you can sell us used copies of books you bought from us?”
I said, “Forget it,” and hung up.
I wouldn’t be one bit surprised to see this chain follow Borders into bankruptcy.
Support your indie bookstore!

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