I’ve arrived—big time.
Have I made to the New York Times bestseller list?
Have I been short listed for a Pulitzer?
So what’s the big deal? Do tell, Simon.
Okay, I will. I saw Accidents Waiting to Happen at my local supermarket, nestled between the latest expose about Britney’s trip to rehab and 10 ways to lose those fat thighs for summer. Now I know it may not sound like much to see my book at the checkout, but it is to me. One of my earliest posts talked about the importance of distribution. Having been published in the small press, I know the publisher’s uphill struggle just to get the book on the shelf. Success is almost entirely based on people knowing who you are and ordering the book. Essentially, the process of finding readers is tough. Simple math (and economics) will tell you that the more shelves a book sits on, the greater the chance someone will see it and buy it. That happens when the publisher has the clout to get the book on a lot of shelves.
A few years ago, my local MWA chapter hosted a presentation given by a publicist for Random House. The publicist was very good. She took us behind the velvet curtain to see the mighty Wizard of Oz and told us how the bookstore-publisher relationship worked, how books got into the store and where they got placed. I banked everything she told us. I experienced the realities when every one of my small press books came out but didn’t make it to the shelves. A key reason I targeted Dorchester as a publisher I wanted to do business with was because I kept seeing their titles displayed predominately wherever I went, including airports. That kind of visibility is worth killing for.
So while having a title at the supermarket might not sound like much, consider this. The average big box bookstore will carry thousands of titles—a bibliophile’s candy land. But a supermarket doesn’t carry thousands of titles. A few dozen at most. So for my small offering to the publishing world to make it to a supermarket is a nice coup for me—and tells you the kind of reach Dorchester possesses.
Bing! Happy author on aisle five. Bring a mop.
This occurrence isn’t unique to my local supermarket but several supermarket chains across the country. I could become the shopper’s favorite. The next time you’ll see my face, it might on advertising placard in a shopping cart—or on the back of a milk carton, if things don’t go too well.
While I was satisfied with my checkout success, Julie wasn’t. In one supermarket, she spotted my book in their book section and made me an instant bestseller by moving Accidents to the #10 spot. My sense of fair play kicked in and I did the British thing of telling her to put those books back, but those words didn’t make it past my lips. Instead I said, “I feel I’m more like a #7 bestseller type. Not #10.”
In publishing, visibility matters—and I like to think I’m being seen. Now who needs help loading their purchases into their car?
Yours here to serve,
PS: This brings me neatly to a little game I’ve been playing with my newsletter chums. Seeing as there is a little piece of me everywhere. I’d like to visit every store to see it sitting on the shelf, but I can’t—and this is where you come in. I want you to check your local bookstores, libraries and supermarkets and hunt down the book. Then take a picture of you and the book on the shelf and send me the picture with the store’s location. I’ll take all your pictures and make a photo album. But if you cause a kafuffle in the store and people ask who sent you, I’ve never heard of you and I will deny all knowledge of this conversation. Good hunting.