I got some IPPY Award stickers so I wanted to put them on my books at the stores. I went to my local Barnes & Noble and Borders this past weekend, but to my surprise, I couldn't find my book. Two stores were out, and there was one copy left at another. I was baffled. My initial thought was, oh crap, they returned all the copies already? Then I thought, wait, some of these are autographed, and they can't return altered/marked/signed books. So what's the deal here?
So I went to another store where the manager had told me specifically that they'd *never* return books, and I trusted her. They had 40 copies before my signing in May, and I sold about 10 and signed another 10. I asked the clerk if I could sign the stock, and she told me there were 12 left, 3 of those autographed. That means 18 must have been sold since my signing.
Could it be that people are actually buying my book off the shelves? Part of me wants to say, YES! But part of me is still skeptical -- they must have returned the copies. 18 doesn't sound like a large number, but for someone like me, an unknown author published by a small press, it's a great number, especially when only two months have passed.
It does drive home this point, though: Getting books on store shelves is crucial. The point of sale system really works. Potential customers can actually see, touch, smell, and read them before they make a purchase decision. They don't have to know about your book already. A good cover, jacket blurb, and the writing itself are the best tools to sell a book. Then, hopefully word of mouth would do the rest.