28 Aug

Sly Mongoose comes out swinging

My agent yesterday emailed halfway through the day to congratulate me on the best opening week sales of any of my hardcovers yet. Almost double the first week sales of Ragamuffin and a 12% edge over Crystal Rain’s first week numbers.

This has me thrilled.

Over the counter retail stores (many independent stores don’t report to bookscan) for Ragamuffin had been about 50-60% that of Crystal Rain’s, due in part to Borders choosing to hardly carry the hardcover at all and to a somewhat smaller order via B&N. The sort of thing that leaves a writer somewhat worried about things like order-to-net death spirals, and about whether you’d be turning to a pseudonym eventually.

And according to a source I trust, Borders centralized computers put a ‘do not reorder’ tag on my hardcover of Ragamuffin, with what few copies they ordered. What that meant was that even if they sold right off the bat, they were not going to be restocked. I saw this first hand in Toledo, where a significant number of my family and friends live. The Borders there sold 40-50 copies of Crystal Rain in hardcover due to interested family and friends supporting me, the sales rep told me it was one of the store’s single best selling titles. Ragamuffin came out and the computerized central system put 2 copies on their shelf, which sold on launch day to two of my best friends. It wasn’t reordered. They are not carrying Sly Mongoose.

So when readers ask why they aren’t able to buy my books from Borders, this is the only answer I have for them.

I’m not particularly bitter about it. Borders is a business, they choose what books they have on their shelves. I will note they do have Ragamuffin in paperback in some numbers, so it’s not all bad. In fact, retail sales of Raga in paperback have matched Crystal Rain, so we’re holding steady (though Ragamuffin, I don’t think, didn’t get picked up by Wal-Mart and etc. like Crystal Rain did).

I just can’t say I’m surprised when I see that they’re losing money year to year. I got to B&N and introduce myself as a semi-local author anywhere in MI, OH, and IN, and they’ll either order a few copies for me to sign the next time I’m through, or explain to me why they think it won’t sell, demonstrating an awareness of what sells in their store. When I drive by Borders stores in the tri-state area and introduce myself as a local author, they shrug and say ‘the computer won’t let us order you’ and that’s usually that. Recently a Borders bookseller who loves my books said that they tried to stock Sly Mongoose so they could handsell it, but weren’t allowed. Is it any surprise the chain is looking for buyers? I can’t help but compare this atmosphere with the independents I talk to and the B&N reps I talk to who have an awareness of what is selling in their stores and welcome me to sign stock, chat with the staff, and reorder my books so I can sign them again.

So now when I see that Sly Mongoose rocked out its first week, you can understand why I’m particularly pleased, because that means it’s doing better numbers with less shelf space. And that’s really exciting to me.

So thank you everyone who ran out to grab a copy! A first week or so push like this is really helpful, as this is what gets attention from the ordering computers, and so forth.