On “Getting Skipped” By The Chains..
April 21, 2009
It seems like lately a big theme on a lot of blogs, message boards, mailing lists, etc. is getting “skipped.” I guess that’s what they call it now when your book doesn’t get into a bookstore. Used in a sentence, it would be, “My book was ‘skipped’ by Borders.” It actually sounds much better than “Borders isn’t carrying any copies, OMG, I WANT TO DIE.”
Skipped sounds kind of nice, like maybe they just overlooked it. Like, “Oh, sorry, I must have ‘skipped’ that one!”
So why do books get ‘skipped’?
From what I understand, usually the decision is made by Borders or Barnes and Noble at the national level. I read on Kristin Nelson’s blog once that it’s one person. ONE PERSON, one buyer, who decides. And how do they decide? Based on a lot of things. Cover, past sales record, publisher push, how similar books are doing, etc. So basically, it, um, kind of has nothing to do with you as a writer.
The good news is that.. it has nothing to do with you as a writer. The bad news is that if it happens to you… now you have to figure out a way to let it go.
Here’s my story about being ‘skipped’:
When TWO-WAY STREET first came out, I’m not positive, but I think it was skipped by Barnes and Noble. If it was in Barnes and Noble, it sold out of my local store really quickly and then was never reordered, because I never saw it there. It might not have been in B&N stores at all, I’m not sure. I do know that the orders for that book at first were on the low side. Borders, however, WAS carrying it, so I was thankful for that.
This was after we changed the tag line from “There are two sides to every break-up” to “A road trip with her ex? Danger ahead..” because supposedly the buyers were excited about road trip books, and my editor wanted to make sure that the front of the book made it clear it was about a road trip. (My editor for that book, Michelle Nagler, was amazing. She really fought for that book, turning down cover after cover until we found the perfect one. I heart Michelle, and she is a huge part of why TW0-WAY STREET is doing so well.)
Anyway, so TWO-WAY STREET may or may not have been in B&N, and if it was, it did its couple of months and then got shipped back. Usually this is how it works — your book stays on the shelves as long as it’s selling, and if it isn’t, it gets shipped back. I don’t remember if I was upset about not seeing TW0-WAY STREET in B&N at the time — I think maybe I was, because that was during a time when I was switching agents and everything careerwise felt very kind of up in the air.
But then something happened. The book started catching on, I think by word of mouth. Usually a book sells a lot at the beginning, and then sort of peters out. But TWO-WAY STREET kind of started to have legs, even though it wasn’t in any Barnes and Nobles. The sales stayed steady, and I started getting more and more emails from girls who had read it and loved it.
That’s one of the most amazing things about writing for teens. They TALK ABOUT BOOKS. They pass them around. They want to read what their friends are reading. They read books in school, they blog and myspace and facebook about them, they become passionate and excited about the books that they like.
Then, about a year after it had been released, I started seeing TWO-WAY STREET in pretty much every Barnes and Noble. B&N HAD DECIDED TO CARRY THE BOOK!! A YEAR after its release. And now, almost TWO YEARS after the book was released, it’s still there. Tons and tons of copies, sometimes stacked on front tables. The book is now in its eleventh printing.
Something similar recently happened with THE SECRET IDENTITY OF DEVON DELANEY. It wasn’t ‘skipped’, but it did its few months in B&N when it was released, and was then either shipped back or never reordered. A few months ago, B&N decided to restock it. I asked my editor why this was, and she looked into it. DEVON was doing so well at other stores, that B&N decided to bring it back. That book is in its tenth printing.
Anyway, the point is that being ‘skipped’ doesn’t mean everything’s over.
Just keep working, keep writing, keep believing..
Because the work, the writing, and the belief are the only things you can control.
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