Monday, August 16, 2010

Bookseller Terminology

I was never quite sure whether or not people knew some of the terminology used in bookselling. I've seen writers throw out "backlist" and "frontlist" whereas I never had any idea of what they were until working for Barnes & Noble. I'd like to add that working for a bookstore has infinitely improved my knowledge of the selling aspect of the book. The far end, if you will, of the writing business. So if you ever get the chance to work at a bookstore for a while, do it. If anything, the clientele is much better than at that clothing store you've been stuck in (I would know).

So I've thrown out terms here and there sort of half-assuming that people would know what I was talking about, occasionally clarifying, yadda yadda yadda, until recently an author asked what one of them meant. I decided it's time you get a little extra knowledge in your brains, even if Borders or your local mom & pop bookstore down the street don't use the same terms. But B&N is a big freakin' bookseller, so hey, it doesn't hurt to know some of these, right? And if anything, you'll know what some of your fellow authors (or just me) are talking about from time to time.

Promo: Not a real big deal to know, but in case you hear one of us muttering about promos while looking for your book, it means it's in some sort of promotion area. A table. An endcap (see all those books sitting on little clear shelves at the end of a row of shelves? That's an endcap). Faced out somewhere. Promos do not necessarily the book is on sale. It's simply being promoted in some way. Think of it as a form of marketing. If your book is on promo, then it gets more notice, more publicity, and can mean more sales.

Face Out: A faced out book is pretty self explanatory. It's faced out. You can see the front of the cover instead of the spine. Whether you want to believe it or not, people do tend to judge books on their covers, so pray you have a good one if your book is faced out. Typically faced out books include: new titles, promo titles, titles that we have 3 or more of, we're using it as a bookend, we're trying to fill gaps on the shelf, we know you, or we like your work. No, those last four aren't actually regulation, but we all do it.

Backlist: These are books that we pretty much have in the store all the time. They're not new, they've been around for a while, and they're not necessarily a major priority unless they're on a promo. If we have oodles of backlist, then the extras are put in the backstock area until we have room. These are modeled titles.

Frontlist: These books are put out as soon as possible because they're fresh off the press and not modeled. We usually get in 3 or more of these types of titles. Usually they go out right away either in section or on promo. If you see us at the Info desk putting away a cart full of books, there's a good chance they're frontlist. Frontlist are typically faced out.

Modeled: This is what you want to be if you're an author. Selling a ton of books is fantastic, yes, but it really helps in the long run to be modeled. I know authors with good books under their belts and still aren't modeled for any. Modeled books are books that we are required to have in the store. A title can be modeled for anywhere from 1 to more books (large numbers do not happen often, but I've seen it. Tucker Max is a good example with his staggering 10). Once we sell a book, the system automatically orders another to replace it. Being modeled ensures you have a place in the store at almost all times. You are now backlist. If you're a new author, I consider you damn lucky to get your book modeled.

Non-modeled: Obviously the opposite of modeled. If you have 3 books sent to the store and they all eventually sell, the system does not automatically order more. If it's in our warehouse, we can order it for people, but customers browsing are not going to see your book. It sucks to be non-modeled. It can also mean that even if we got your book in hardcover, we may not get it when it comes out in paperback or mass market. I don't know who the man behind the curtain is when it comes to getting books modeled, but my advice? Make sure your book f$#!%ing sells.

Mass Market: I decided to throw this in here at the last moment, although if you're a writer and you don't know what a mass market is, you need to do your damn homework. Hardcover and paperback are pretty self-explanatory. Mass market books are paperback, true, but they're the smallest version. That $5.99-$9.99 book you bought because it was the cheapest. Hardcover sales are nice, but most of your sales are going to be made in mass market. Important to note is that if a MM doesn't sell and ends up on the returns list, 99.99% of the time it will be stripped (the cover ripped off) and recycled. Covers are sent to publishers for credit. Yeah. We just threw your book away so it can be made into someone else's book.

**Note: Stripping books is traumatizing the first time you do it. It feels sacrilegious, and I actually winced the first time. Eventually there are so many you get desensitized. I can now strip books like a machine and only give the occasional, "Aw, bummer" thought to a few books before doing them in.

So there you have it. A quick compendium of bookselling terms. Enjoy the knowledge because it's time for me to go to bed.

And high-five for Banjo-Kazooie music on YouTube.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Joy of Seeing AW Authors

AW is a beautiful thing. No, not the root beer (though that's pretty nice too), but Absolute Write. More specifically, the forums. I joined those forums back in 2009 and have had a grand time in them, learning things, helping other authors, and screwing around when I should be working.

But one of the coolest things is seeing those books "In the Wild" (as Medievalist put it). All these people, these authors, put in time at AW, but they really do know what they're talking about because they've been published. They're out there. On the shelves. And while some other AW members may never get the chance to spot them (which is kind of hard considering the number of books we get in for some of these guys for promotions and frontlist), they do exist.

But it's one thing to be strolling in the store and seeing a title at random. It's another to work in the store and see these titles on a daily basis. I've seen books slid across the cash counter at me for purchase. I've been unpacking titles to see a fresh stack of frontlist ready to go out and be faced out. It's just plain fun, and here are some of the titles I've sold, unpacked, put away, or even bought myself while at work.

Jill Myles. I first discovered her at AW, got very intrigued by the cover of Gentlemen Prefer Succubi (and honestly, it's not often a hot guy on a cover gets me interested, mostly because there are so many of them), went to her website, and read the first chapter. Aaand hooked. I promptly went out and bought it. Then I later went back and bought Succubi Like It Hot. I fully intend to buy her next one. But it's good to know that since I took both of those out of the store, a few more would be ordered to come in to replace them in the hopes of more sales. Win-win for everyone involved.

Touched by an Alien by Gini Koch. I see this one all the time. Or at least, it seems like it. All our SF, mystery, and romance titles that are frontlist are faced out. People get to go ahead and judge books by their covers this way. But hey, it's more exposure (at least until we run out of room. Sorry). But this one has been on our frontlist shelf for a while, and I smirk a little smirk every time I see it, hoping that Gini's going to get some royalty checks off this one. I'll be keeping an eye out for her next book in December. The fact that there's an alligator on the cover makes it automatically awesome.

Red Hot Fury by Kasey Mackenzie had her very own display for a while. And I do mean display. She's not sitting among all the other frontlist books. Instead, her Fury rested in a cardboard dump (ok, the official name is "corrugated display" but don't worry, "dump" isn't derogatory) with a big sign above it and those green eyes staring out at every customer that walked past. I've walked past one day and seen several books in the notches, another day and a few are missing. I've been checking people out and had this one come at me from the other side of the counter to ring up. She's out in front, and it looks like it's working. Hey, read the back of the book and tell me it doesn't sound intriging.

Unholy Magic and Unholy Ghosts by Stacia Kane. But for some reason, I keep thinking it's Stacey or Stacy Kane. No idea why. But forget about my lapse in brain power. She's been sitting pretty with both books on the frontlist shelves, faced out so everyone can see her. In fact. I kept seeing Unholy Ghosts so many times I finally had to pick it up and see just what it was about. Then I did the same with Unholy Magic. The last time I looked, she made it to what we call the "Triangle." Basically, a triangle-shaped tower o'mass market books. High five for promotions.

Lottery by Patricia Wood. I cannot for the life of me remember if she made it to the backlist area or not, but I'm leaning toward yes. Backlist, for those that don't know, means that we're pretty much supposed to have your book in the store. We may be required to have 1, or we may be required to have 10 (rare, but ohyeah, it happens). I know she's out there in my store though. That's because I unpacked her just the other day. Filling in for our receiving manager, I get to unload boxes and then set books in the proper places in the back so they can go out the next day (or that same day, depending). And I remember seeing this in the box, pulling it out, and laughing to myself as I thought, "Way to go Patricia, you made it."

Dark and Stormy Knights edited by P.N. Elrod. Multiple authors here since it's an anthology, so I'm honestly not sure which one is the AW writer. What I do know is that we have a whole truckload of these sitting on a cart in the back, waiting to go out for a promotion. I'm guessing the "New Arrivals" table. I haven't been in the last two days, but I'm sure it's out there now and people are plucking it off the table left and right. Urban fantasy is hot right now, in case you haven't heard.

Sleepless by Cyn Balog. I honestly don't remember what I was doing to discover Ms. Balog. All I know is that I ended up on her site, read the blurb for this book, and decided I had to read it. That was at least 4 months (maybe more?) before it was finally available. Now that it is, I mean to read it since it's there...sitting in our store...right there in the teens section where I can see it. And now that I think about it, why on earth isn't this book in our frontlist section? I'll have to remedy that the next time I'm in the store... (Edit: I scanned this today - 11th - and discovered it was supposed to be on an endcap. The endcap doesn't exist, but a table did. These are now on the table. :D)

Four World Film Reviews by Benj Clews and Michael Onesi. Not sure if one or both are involved in AW, but hey, I've seen their book in the store and that's what counts. I finally spotted this one in section while putting away some other film review books, and then spotted it again on an endcap (display at the end of an isle) on my way back to Info. Lucky, lucky. Seems like everyone's on promotion these days.

Kelly Meding. I think these recently popped into the triangle. In fact, I just walked past them the other day and thought, "There it is!" since I knew these books were out in the store somewhere. They were right underneath Stacia Kane's books. It's great when you get one book in a triangle or tower; it's better when they both make it there.

It doesn't matter that I don't know any of these authors personally. The only interaction I've ever had was with Jill and on a teeny-tiny scale. Still, I've seen them commenting on AW, even in threads I've commented in, so they're not just far off authors the way others like Stephen King and James Patterson seem. They're regular Joes and Janes, still working hard at perfecting their craft, and some of the few that can happily help others and revel in their published status.

Here's hoping I can join them someday.

Friday, August 06, 2010

The Death of Music

I love killing a song.

Ok. That sounded a little overly dramatic. The title is a little overly dramatic, for that matter. But here's what I'm talking about.

I'm one of those people who loves to write with music. Not all the time, mind you, but often enough. I'm particularly fond of soundtracks (trust me, I've reviewed over 70 of them and can name a composer within a few minutes of listening to his/her style). But there are times when you hit that one scene, that one sweet scene where a song goes perfectly and the only way to keep that delicious writing vibe going is to play that song.


And over.

And over. Andoverandoverandoverandover.

Until finally you've reached the end of that sweeet scene and WHEW! You're done. You sit back and finally hit the stop button on your CD/MP3 player. And you have effectively killed that song.
You've killed it because you've just listened to it about 20 (maybe more) times in a row. Songs can be killed on the radio too. You've probably had it happen before. Everyone and their grandma thinks that "Super Awesome Song" is so great the radio plays it every hour, on the hour, until you want to tear your hair out or go on a bloody rampage down at the radio station. They did it with "One Sweet Day." They did it with "Lady Marmalade."

But you, ah, you've killed it for a purpose, like a caveman skinning a wooly mammoth, you used it's inspiration and sucked it dry. Yum-o.

And it is a beautiful thing. Completely indulging in that song as you write, one with your muse, swimming in those golden notes like it'll never end. Except it does.

The problem with killing a song is that, well, you've killed it. Listening to it again, it doesn't have that same punch it had the first time around. It's not as magical, not as strong, and - let's face it - you've already heard it a gazillion times.

I love those moments of pure inspirational writing bliss with Hans Zimmer blaring in my ears or the pure beauty of Lifescapes floating around the room. I bless the person who came up with the one song repeat button. I rock out to a chunk of soundtrack or a handful of really wicked melodies. I've taken out entire CDs this way. I've done love scenes, fight scenes, flight scenes, character themes, chase scenes, travel scenes, and credits. I've killed songs and not listened to them for years until randomly one day I hear one and it reanimates itself for a brief moment while I relive the joy of that particular scene before it goes away again.

I would now like to take the time to dedicate a moment of silence and respect to those songs I have totally killed:

  • Hybrid Theory Album (a few survived, but not many), and most of Meteora Album by Linkin Park

  • "The Battle" and "Barbarian Horde" by Hans Zimmer, Gladiator Soundtrack

  • "Rollin'" (both versions) by Limp Bizkit, Chocolate Starfish and the Hotdog Flavored Water Album

  • Braveheart Album by James Horner (particularly "The Princess Pleads for Wallace's Life")

  • "Haunted" by Poe, Haunted Album

  • "Kryptonite" by Three Doors Down, The Better Life Album

  • "Backwards" by Apartment 26, Mission Impossible II Soundtrack

  • Most of the Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring soundtrack by Howard Shore (particularly "The Bridge of Khazad Dûm")

  • Most of the Transformers score by Steve Jablonsky (though it's still got some heartbeats left)

  • "Don't Hold Back" by The Potbelleez

  • "I Don't Care" by Apocalyptica

  • "Man on Fire (remix)," "The End Music" by Harry Gregson-Williams, Man on Fire soundtrack

  • "Savin' Me" by Nickelback, All the Right Reasons Album

  • "Angels," "Stand My Ground" by Within Temptation, Silent Force Album

  • "The Cross," "What Have You Done" by Within Temptation, The Heart of Everything Album

There are more songs on their way, it's just a matter of time:

  • "Bad Romance" by Lady Gaga, The Fame Monster Album

  • "Black Roses Red" by Alana Grace

  • "Invincible" by Adelita's Way, Adelita's Way Album

  • "Follow Me Down" by 3OH! and Neon Hitch, Alice in Wonderland Soundtrack

  • and many more!

So if you're with me, rejoice in killing songs because hey, you sure do get a lot out of it, don't you? And it is fun hearing them in almost their full glory, an echo of what they used to be, years on down the road.

One day, the music just...stops.