Sunday, September 19, 2010

Dana Wright Talks about Barnes and Noble and Book Sales

A couple of years ago, Dana Wright was eavesdropping while she worked at her Barnes and Noble. She overheard me say I write Young Adult and ran after me. She caught up with me at the check out counter. Turns out YA is her "baby." She not only sells it but reads it and writes it.

A friendship was born that day and, last week, when I learned she was speaking at the next Houston’s MG/YA writers' meeting, I was thrilled. Dana has worked in bookstores since she was in high school and possesses a wealth of knowledge on the subject of books and bookstores.

Here are my notes from Saturday's event...

According to Dana Wright, who works at Houston's Champion Forest Barnes and Noble, everything starts with "Receiving." Individual stores order some books, but essentially the corporate office chooses and sends books to the stores. Monday through Friday, the store receives one hundred to four hundred cases of books to put on the shelves, which means older titles must be removed to make space for the newer ones. If a book is not moving, three months on the shelf is too long, and it will be sent back.

Dana is the Merchandise Manager at her store. Barnes and Noble stores' Community Relations Managers (CRMs) are in charge of author signings and acquiring educational accounts from schools and libraries. As a Merchandise Manager, Dana has approximately six hundred assigned tasks per month. In addition, she networks with publishers and authors and receives many ARCs (advanced reading copies) which she enjoys and often reviews.

The first third of the store is prime "real estate" for bestsellers and new release hard covers and whatever publishers want you to see. Publishers pay for their "real estate," which includes every Barnes and Noble store nation-wide and lasts about a month. The teen and middle grade area is growing very fast, and teen novels get two endcaps on the main aisle. (Endcaps are the sides/ends of shelves.) The teen area of the store includes themed shelves determined by the corporate office. Dana has one table that is "her baby." It's in the center of the school and has great visibility, and she gets to pick what's on it.

"Brick and Mortar" (real) stores work hard to get you through the doors because of competitive internet sales. Of course, Barnes and Noble keeps a finger on the pulse of this with their digital option, The Nook. Right now there's a Nook kiosk as you walk through the doors of Dana's store, but soon there will be a Nook boutique, which will look very Apple-esque. Check your local store for informational Nook workshops. Other changes include Bible boutiques, educational games and toys, and adult puzzles and games. The Woodlands (TX) store is adding a teen boutique.

Dana confirms that the YA trend is HUGE. She can not keep her YA table full. TWILIGHT is slowing down. CATCHING FIRE, MOCKINGJAY, and HAUNTED are selling fast. Paranormals and novels with edgy, gritty teen issues are still moving. Dana doesn't read as much MG as YA, but she has noticed lots of middle grade paranormals and zombies. She has a tougher time finding MG "boy" books to recommend to customers than MG "girl" books. For girls, there are clique series type, paranormals and gritty realistic stories. There are more YA girl books sold than YA boy books, but MG sales are 50/50.

To find out what’s selling, Dana suggests reading store blogs and YA blogs, and subscribing to Publisher's Weekly. She also suggests reviewing what you read but warns be careful what you say. Be honest but nice. "Netgalley" (online) is for people in the book industry, bloggers, booksellers and librarians. If you review books and post your reviews online, you can sign up for Netgalley and read books before their release date for an extended amount of time.

Dana's advice: Watch the teen and middle grade sections of your local store and study your rival base. Make friends with your bookseller! Introduce yourself! The people working the departments are the people you want to talk with; the general manager is probably too busy. Booksellers LOVE to talk to authors. Bring samples. Ask questions. Booksellers are voracious readers. Hand selling works.

I can tell you this for sure, nobody talks about the books she loves more enthusiastically than Dana Wright! She took me for a spin around "her table" and the rest of the store yesterday, and I couldn't resist her recommendations. Needless to say, I didn't come away empty handed. You want this woman recommending YOUR books!

If you have a question for Dana, be sure to post it. She says Tuesday is her busiest day, so please be patient waiting for her reply.


The next meeting of Houston MG and YA Writers is 9am, Saturday, October 16th at
La Madeleine's off the Sam Houston Tollway near Town and Country Mall.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Fingers to the Keyboard Week

Since I am behind on my self-imposed deadline,
I am not allowed to blog. I wish I was landing at La Guardia (NY) to meet with my editor... However, publishers don't publish unfinished novels. So it's Fingers to the Keyboard Week.
See you soon!

Monday, September 6, 2010

In the Clouds When I Should Be Writing

If you ask my husband what he "sees" in the clouds, he will, every single time, tell you that he sees "a bunny." When I look at clouds, I see texture and shades of color and possibilities.

Thanks to my first grade teacher, the grandmotherly Mrs. Walker, who took us to the grassy playground, told us to lie on our backs, look up at the sky and describe the shapes we saw, I developed a passion for the sky and fell in love with clouds. However, when you move to the cornfields of Illinois and later the Gulf Coast, you quickly learn clouds aren't just bunnies and elephants and Abraham Lincoln's hat. They can be funnel clouds dipping to to the ground or the fury of a hurricane headed for land. They often revise your plan for the day.

Lately, I've been cloud-gazing again, and I'm convinced Texas clouds are the biggest and best-- probably the meanest and most dramatic, too. I've been snapping clouds pics for a few months now. From the car... in flight... through the branches of the trees around our house. I took the photo above when we were leaving the Grand Canyon. It's hard to believe there's a canyon nearby! The clouds below are Texas clouds. I took the photo from the car yesterday. It poured an hour later.

I write a lot in the car and on planes and, when I get stumped, a good long look at clouds is often just what I need to haul me over a rough spot. I'll allow my mind to wander just long enough to untangle an issue with my WIP or figure out what should come next...
What do YOU do to give yourself a short, creative break?

WIP Clue for the week is: Austin, Texas

Writing Tip of the Week is: Find a creative break that is not reading. Free your mind from words for a bit, and watch them flow when you return to your writing.

I guess that's all for now. Today, while I drink my first cup of coffee and write the next chapter, Annie and I will imagine our bags are packed, we're ready to go... to Washington State! Scroll to the bottom of the page for a beautiful view that will explain WHY Washington. We're so ready to feel a cool autumn breeze... Are you?

Sunrise over New Mexico or Arizona