The Canadian Writers' Collective

Writing, and writerly tangents

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Odds Are Not in My Favour

by Tricia Dower

What are the odds that a respectable number of people will notice, much less purchase, Silent Girl?

Last week it was listed as being in “High Demand” on Book Manager, with a sales ranking of # 3,342. It has since slipped to “Medium Demand” and #6565. (By point of reference, Margaret Laurence’s The Stone Angel, is #377, and she's been dead 21 years.)

Book Manager is software many independent bookstores in Canada use for research, ordering, inventory management, and online sales. According to its site, the database contains over four million new books. Four million! I haven’t got a chance.

The US and Canadian Amazon sites kindly post their sales ranking of your book. On June 7th, I was #749,787 in the U.S. and #199,987 in Canada. On June 10th, I had slipped down to #221,182 in Canada but soared to the #153,373 spot in the U.S. (Due, I’m sure, to the purchase of my book by one friend in the States. The rankings are that volatile, I’m guessing. Buy one book and make me a star!)

Coincidentally, Book Manager is operated by Mosaic books in Kelowna, BC, and because a search on the Mosaic site turned up the Book Manager listing of Silent Girl, Colin and I made a special stop there on the way back from Calgary. Photos on the site showed a cozy café and I wanted to scope it out for a future reading. Plus, I would offer to sign copies of my book. Wouldn’t they be pleased?

We found the store without too much trouble and I sauntered in with my special purple ink signing pen. The woman at the front desk frowned into her computer screen and said, “We don’t have any copies of your book.” It wasn’t because they’d sold them all, either. Book Manager only makes it seem as though every store has your book. The café was gone, too, and in its place, tables of bargain books, tumbling over each other.

The stores in my own town haven’t exactly hailed me as queen, either. (You have to really be looking to find my book on the shelves of Munro’s and Bolen Books, despite the copies being signed.) When we returned from Toronto a couple of weeks ago, I hurried down to my local Chapters, knowing Silent Girl was supposed to be displayed on an end-cap from mid-May to mid-June. Their computer screen showed that two were on order but not expected to be in for another 3 or 4 weeks. “It does say,” a sales associate told me,” that they’re supposed to be end-capped when they come in.”

“How can you end-cap two books?” I asked.

“I guess they’ll go fast,” he said.

My publisher got to work on it and when I checked again last week, three copies were on a shelf. I offered to sign them and a different sales associate seemed truly delighted. He checked his computer screen and said, “They’re supposed to be end-capped. I’ll take care of that right away.”

I went back yesterday and found the three signed books back on the shelf, narrow, dark spine out, doomed for obscurity. The sales associate I talked to this time—Janis, her name tag said—called the store manager who explained headquarters was supposed to send them six copies, not three. Apparently, three are not enough for an end-cap. “I can put them on the shelf face out,” Janis said. I could tell she felt bad for me.

“Great, thank you,” I said. “That will help.” I asked if she could label them as signed copies.

“I can!” she said and dove into a cabinet where she pulled out stickers that read Victoria Author but was unsuccessful in locating the Signed Copy stickers. “I’ll have to look for some downstairs,” she said.

I’ll go back in a few days to check.

Photo: The newly Victoria-Author-labelled Silent Girl on a shelf in my local Chapters.


Blogger T. Lee said...

Oh, Tricia, this must be the toughest part of the experience, but if it's any consolation, I worked in bookstores for many years and we *never* relied on Book Manager. Also, the ebbin' and flowin' will alter in your favour when the school year begins. That is the nature of the game. Good for you for being so proactive!

Thu Jun 12, 01:13:00 am GMT-4  
Blogger Jacqueline said...

Hi Tricia, I just received your book yesterday (I ordered it from Chapters). Hopefully I will help out your stats, but remember to have faith in the world.

Everyone starts off like you are. You have to begin, well, at the beginning.

Thu Jun 12, 10:07:00 am GMT-4  
Blogger Andrew Tibbetts said...

Frustrating, but fascinating!

Thu Jun 12, 11:43:00 am GMT-4  
Blogger Tricia Dower said...

Thanks, Tamara. Good to hear things might pick up in September. Also, it takes more than a month to get the word out, too, I know. I'm just impatient.

Thu Jun 12, 12:31:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger Tricia Dower said...

Thanks for buying the book, Jacqueline. I hope you enjoy it. Unfortunately Chapters doesn't provide stats -- or maybe that's fortunate. But it means that's one less book they'll return some day!

Thu Jun 12, 12:33:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger Tricia Dower said...

It IS fascinating, isn't Andrew? Think of my as the canary in your mine. Letting you know what to expect.

Thu Jun 12, 12:33:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger Chumplet said...

Oh, but to see your book on the shelves! What a feeling that must be! I wandered my local Chapters today and found a couple of books by my cyber writer pals. Next time I'll look for yours.

Mine isn't even on their database. (boo hoo)

Thu Jun 12, 11:09:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger Tricia Dower said...

You are so right, Chumplet. It's a thrill to have it out there. I'm not nearly as discouraged as I sound.

Fri Jun 13, 01:23:00 am GMT-4  
Blogger Tricia Dower said...

Oh, and did you notice? I'm right beside Dostoevsky!

Fri Jun 13, 01:25:00 am GMT-4  
Blogger Steve Gajadhar said...

I'm buying a copy right now!

Fri Jun 13, 11:04:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger Tricia Dower said...

Thanks, Steve. My numbers will soar!.

Sat Jun 14, 02:16:00 pm GMT-4  

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