Monday, August 14, 2006

Sell-by dates

I went to New York this weekend to take Elizabeth to see Mamma Mia! for her birthday. (She's such a good sport.) Looking for something to read on the Limoliner, I went over to the Barnes & Noble in the Prudential Center (I'm dating myself; it's called something like Millennial Square Plaza Exclusive Shops Arcade now) to do some browsing. I serendipitously remembered that I had never read my pal Janet McDonald's first book, Project Girl, and, figuring I could never find it in their spectacularly anti-intuitive system of classification, I asked a salesperson where I might find it. (Yes, reader, I found a salesperson in B&N. I know.) She checked the computer and said they could order it for me but didn't stock it because "it was published in 2000, and we don't usually carry books that old." So if you want to get something at B&N, uh, hurry.

I did find--it's only six months old--and gambled on Sarah Waters's The Night Watch, a novel described on the jacket as being about women in wartime London. While the book did not turn out to be like Maeve Binchy, but with lesbians, I still enjoyed it tremendously. Early on, one of the characters mentions her fondness for going into a movie when it's halfway through, because speculating on peoples' pasts is more interesting than imagining their futures, and likewise the book proceeds backwards, beginning shortly after the war and then going back to two points in the midst of it. The way the time periods and the characters intersect has the effect of a puzzle, almost, but the realism of the relationships and, especially, the evocation of the blackouts of the bomb-battered city keep things from getting too cerebral. I'm thinking I'll try Waters's previous novels now--I hear they're like Leon Garfield, but with lesbians.


Elizabeth said...

You asked for a book from 2000? I tried to get a book called Money: A Memoir by Liz Perle ( a publicist I knew at Penguin) that was published this January and was told it was off shelves already--they would get it again in December when the paperback comes out.

Authors, beware...children's books are getting closer to this trend. At Borders, I know they find it more cost effective to stock fewer titles while giving the impression of having a big selection.

At Barnes and Noble, they found they sold more Christmas picture books if they had fewer titles to choose from, so they are very picky about what new Christmas titles they will take--in fact in some years they've had a quota.

So there's something to mull over. And I really enjoyed Mama Mia, at least when I got to stand up and dance to Waterloo at the end.

Robin said...

I almost missed the rest of your post because I had to find out what a Limoliner was. WOW. Such Envy, I have. I am still excited that Jet Blue is coming to Nashville.

PS I am now using "but with lesbians" as often as I can. It should turn some heads here.

PS deux
Do get Project Girl. It's quite good. I love Spellbound and Twists and Turns (and those marvelous R. Gregory Christie covers).I remember someone telling me about Janet McDonald at a Coretta Scott King breakfast giving a speech and saying, "I want to give a shout-out to my girl Frances Foster!" I wish I had been there to see Ms. Foster's face! I am guessing it was her first shout out.

Jason said...
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David said...

As a former inside man at B&N, the general turnaround time on books is six weeks. If the book isn't tracking well within that time it gets pulled. Exceptions abound -- bestsellers, titles where publishers paid for placement, &c. -- but the jump to back- or midlist is now a six week cycle.

The argument given is that with publishers putting out so many books they have to keep moving titles in order to make room (ignoring how much space they dedicate to in-house imprints like Sterling and whatnot). Yes, blame the publishers for their own books disappearing from the shelves so quickly.

And the first blade pulls the whisker, while the second blade cuts it...

Alex Flinn said...

I had an argument with the people at . . . um, a local chain bookstore that wasn't Borders . . . because they told a teacher who was planning on assigning one of my novels to her class (and who was doing what I always tell teachers to do, checking availability) that it was OUT OF PRINT! And it was only a year after its paperback pub date! I'm happy to say that most stores in this chain now do stock the book (originally published in 2001), since it is on MANY school reading lists. I suspect they consider it a "classic." ;)

But yeah, when new authors I know brag about having sold out their entire first printing to this chain, I just imagine their disappointment when they get the second statement -- the one where all those copies came back to the publisher!