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jimhines has the second in his bookseller interviews up here. The bookseller he interviewed this time is me :D.

I am happy -- honestly happy -- to expand on anything, or even to, you know, get it right the second time if I wasn't clear the first time.

But I am pinch-hitting at the store at the moment, so the actual answers will happen when after I leave it :).

ETA: In the interview I say "write one book a year, or less," and what I meant to say was: Write a minimum of one book a year, or more than one book a year, when you are first establishing yourself, because, etc.


Apr. 15th, 2008 02:50 am (UTC)
Okay, so here's something I always wanted to know about: modeling. Or the automatic reorder system and how it works in bookstores (though I know it's not at all a standard across bookstores). Any insights? I know, it wasn't part of the original interview, but yanno, if you've got time and all . . . .

It's not part of the original interview because, in a speciality or independent bookstore, modeling is not an issue in the same way; which is to say: We obviously do our own version of that in deciding what we keep as backlist on the shelves, but we only do it for our store.

When I was working at Classics (and briefly at the WH Smith incarnation) it was also... milder. There was a warehoused list of titles (Classics had a central warehouse; even books ordered directly from the publisher were shipping to the warehouse, and then gathered and delivered by the internal drivers), We had no Superstores at the time, but we had store codes or classifications, which had to do with sales, and they went, roughly, from A to E, where A was the highest and E was the lowest; this was generally reflected, as well, in the square footage of the store.

There was no computerized inventory system that spanned the entire chain; the quantities of the Must Haves were therefore still suggestions. If we didn't feel that the book would actually sell, we didn't order it (although sometimes we had to answer the Why Isn't This On Your Shelves questions from the area supervisors).

Each store was expected to carry a number of copies; this number was dependent on their size (and in the case of the smallest of the stores, the number was often 0).

Modeling is the computerized inventory form of that. Someone at head office (sometimes the buyer, or at least one of the buyers used to make that decision) would decide, in theory based on the speed of the initial sales of a front list book (front list being New Release), and performance of the author's other backlist titles, that this particular book should be carried by stores in the chain. The larger the store, the more likely they were to fit the modeling demand, i.e. the equivalent of the A to E classification. If the author were King, that would run from A through to E.

This was actually a much bigger thing before the Big Box stores, because, in our genre for instance, you might have 2 wall units worth of shelf space, and all the books, New Release and backlist, would be on those units, rather than on the sections at the front of the store. If you could get a broader modeling of your title in the small stores, it meant your books would be on the shelves after their initial order. You would have a minimum number "in stock", and if you sold below that, you would automatically re-order the title.

With the big box stores, though, backlist didn't have that fight for shelf space up front, at least not initially.

And anyone -- anyone at all who works in any position in a chain in the US -- is going to have much better information than I will. (Yes, this is a hint).