…check out this post by Andrew Wheeler. Some of the most interesting parts include:
By the way: that’s what it’s called when your book isn’t picked up by a particular bookseller. Your book is “a skip,” and they have “skipped” you.
…bookstores are businesses, not public conveniences. No store has the responsibility to carry every book published — although, to be honest, that’s a straw-man argument, since no one is asking for that. (They’re just wishing that their books, the books they like, and the books by their friends be spared the chopping block.) I market books for a living, so I can tell you an unpleasant truth: the order for any book, from any account, starts at zero. The publisher’s sales rep walks in the door with tipsheets and covers, past sales figures and promotional plans, to convince that bookseller’s buyer to buy that book. In many categories — SFF is still one of them — the chain buyers say “yes” the overwhelming majority of the time. But not all the time. Sometimes, that buyer is not convinced, and the order stays at zero.
I should also point out that chainstore buyers have budgets; they don’t have an infinite amount of money to play with. They have to buy books for all of the stores in the chain, in their category, given the money they have available — this is called “open to buy,” and varies depending on recent sales, returns, and what else is publishing that month. Like any other budget, I’m sure buyers start with the most important things — the big books that month — and work their way down the list. If the money runs out before they hit the bottom, that’s it.
Let’s talk specifics. Frost’s Lord Tophet was skipped because his previous book (the one Lord Tophet is the second half of), Shadowbridge, didn’t sell well enough.
Frost points out that Shadowbridge “received glowing reviews and went back to print twice in its first six months.” But neither of those things, sadly, mean anything on their own. Lots of books are glowingly reviewed and don’t sell — ask the literary writers selling 1,500 copies of their first novels — and reprinting twice in six months can just mean that the first printing was tiny. What I can say: Shadowbridge sold less than 2,500 copies, as a $14.00 trade paperback, across all reporting sales outlets (which include Borders, B&N, Amazon, and others), since the beginning of this year. Of those, almost 2000 were sold at the “Retailer” level, which includes Borders, B&N, and other brick-and-mortar stores. If those were sold evenly between B&N and Borders superstores, and nowhere else, each superstore sold a little over a copy and a half.
Pat Cadigan all but called for a boycott of Borders in her post. Even allowing for the effect of anger, and the tendency of blog posts to be overly extreme and rabble-rousing, I can’t see that this would be a good idea. Even if it had a noticeable effect — and that’s a big “if” — getting SFF readers to move their business away from Borders is exceptionally unlikely to get Borders to start stocking SFF in more depth. Rather the reverse, actually. If Cadigan wants Borders to cut back on SFF, she has an excellent plan. If not, not.