Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Yes, officer, that’s my brother...

Friends, family, and readers often ask why The Tin Box is found under "K" for Kennedy in book stores instead of face-out on those Hot Fiction or New Fiction displays done up at the front of every store.

It's because this is called "premier shelf placement" and I don’t get it. At least, not yet, anyhow!

Front-of-store placement must be paid for, whether its face-out positioning on promotional stands, end caps, new release tables in the front of the store, or placement in airport book stores. For those of you interested in more information on this, check out the following post at where it’s explained in detail.

That said, I couldn't resist posting today about my brother, who doesn’t care that I don’t get premier shelf placement. All he knows is when he walks into a book store (in any city, on any given day) he thinks my books should be face-out under Hot Fiction or else on a table reserved for bestsellers.

So he moves them.

All of them.

There are times when he’s sly about it, glancing furtively over his shoulder to make sure no one’s watching. But there are others when he simply grabs half a dozen and moves them, offering no explanation to the staff watching as he does so. Often, smiling charismatically, he tells them they should be doing it. “Now here's a good writer,” he’ll say. “She not a bestseller yet, but she’s gonna be!"

And then there are also times when he… lurks.

Picture this: A woman stands in front of the Hot Fiction display in a book store, frowning. My brother, who is married, but bored because his wife has left him alone for ten minutes, sidles up to her. “Looking for a good book?” he asks. “Actually, I am,” she admits. And then — PRESTO — he whips out a copy of my book and hands it to her. “You’re gonna love it,” he says. “Read it and tell all your friends.”

And so it goes.

Me, telling him to stop, and him, ignoring me as he becomes intimately acquainted with every bookstore within a hundred miles. Not that he limits himself to local bookstores, by the way, because even when he travels (as he’s doing this week) he often phones to tell me he’s been busy “promoting me” which is when my neck starts to itch and I find myself scratching my arms, breaking out in a nervous rash.

I just know the phone’s going to ring one day and it’ll be the "book police" who've given him a quarter and allowed him one phone call, and that’s when I’ll have to decide if I’m going to bail him out, or pretend I haven't got a clue who this guy is.


ORION said...

You should have warned me NOT to be drinking coffee while I am reading this!!!!OMG this is hysterical.
As Holly's good friend here in Hawaii, I do harbor guilty feelings when I remove her book from the shelf and lay it provocatively out on a nearby table at Borders...but this...this is brilliant.
Holly's brother has inspired me.
I have to leave now.
I need to go to the bookstore...

Robin L. said...

I'm sending this post to my sister as we speak for ideas.... ;)

spyscribbler said...

That is SO sweet! What a cutie.

I always face-out my friends books, even the three of yours that are in my local store. :-)

Kyla-Dale said...

*snort* He MOVES your books?!! OMG, this is beyond kewt.

What a nice bro you've got. Kewl stuff. (If they call, bail him out, girl!)

Friend from Athabasca said...

I know all three of Holly's brothers, and when I saw this I busted out laughing cuz I think I know which one it is! (Now every time I go into a book store, I'm gonna do the pro-Holly thing and move all her books too!!!!!)

Heidi the Hick said...

I love it!

I hear authors are supposed to do a lot of self promotion now, but brother promotion...brilliant!

Anissa said...

Your brother rocks! That's awesome. I'm still chuckling thinking about it. Wish I could be in one of those stores to see the looks on the booksellers' faces.

Priceless. Go Holly's bro!

Brenda Oig said...

That's awesome! I read this in a coffee shop and embarrassed myself by laughing out loud. You should have a disclaimer on the top of your posts, ie: Don't read this in public... lol

Your brother is awesome and he loves you. That's great. I actually faced out your stack of books the day I picked up my copy. :)

L.C.McCabe said...


I worked at a B&N Superstore back in the mid 1990s and I don't know how much of the co-op style stuff was going on back then with the octagons.

It may have been, but if it was the managers were probably the ones taking care of it. I remember them coming into the receiving room and looking for different dumps they were expecting. By the time I left we started looking like a B.Dalton with all the cardboard cut outs for books. It looked awful and oh so tacky. That and it was hard to walk through the aisles.

I actually wasn't thrilled when all the copies of a new book were put on the octagons. I was in the receiving room for most of the time and didn't try memorizing where every title was located. I felt that new releases should be on the new release shelf. At least one copy should be there. So when a customer called and asked for a specific title and I looked there and didn't find it right away I got miffed. I didn't want to spend five minutes looking over all the stacks on all the tables.

So to me, I actually hated those tables.

I remember distinctly one stack of books on an octagon was Gennifer Flowers' kiss and tell book. I was disgusted by the very thought of it and my morbid curiosity made me wonder how many copies it sold. I was pleased when I saw we hadn't sold a single copy.

I kept checking and we never sold any. At least not before it wound up returning in its second life as a remainder.

There was at least one book that wound up on a table that did not have any publisher paying for its product placement. That was a table of paperbacks for Christmas gifts. The book was "Swoosh: the unauthorized story of Nike and the men who played there." That's because a bookseller's fingers slipped when they placed an order for a customer and accidentally ordered 14 copies rather than 1.

I was in charge of special orders and I remember calling the customer to tell him that we had only gotten 8 of his 14 copies in, but that if he would like to --that's when he told me that he had only wanted one.


It was Christmas time and we had 13 extra copies of a book. They got put on a table and we sold maybe 7 of them. Not bad for what we rebels in the back room called a "Swoosh oops."

There was another book which had 144 copies accidentally ordered. The only good thing about that goof was the next week it went on the NYT Bestseller list and it was Christmas time. We actually built a pyramid on the floor for that title.

We didn't have to worry about not having enough copies to meet demand for that title.

Those were bookseller mistakes that we in the receiving room knew about, but didn't tell management. Because we liked the individual booksellers with the sloppy fingers.

To me, as a bookseller back then, when it came to regular shelves throughout the bookstore we would face out books if we had room on a shelf and multiple copies of something. Sometimes it allowed you to fit more books on the shelf.

The one downside I saw for "faced out" books were sometimes their covers would start to bow out and curl. No one would want that particular copy either.

And Holly, you've got a great spine on The Tin Box There are a lot of lousy spines out there, but yours is one of the better ones. You should be proud that your publisher not only gave you a good cover, but a good spine.

Oh and thanks for the tip on the Big Bad Book Blog. I hadn't seen them before. It looks cool and a source of a lot of good info.



LadyBronco said...

Holly, your brother is awesome.

I can totally see my baby bro doing the same thing when (please God, when!) my story gets published.

Melissa Marsh said...

It amazes me how intricate the book selling business is - not until a few years ago did I realize publishers paid for book placement.

But how awesome that your brother will do that! Very, very sweet. :)

Another Friend from A-Town said...

(Whoops of laughter....). I can soooo picture almost any of your bro's doing this. Thx for the's given a whole new meaning to my next trip to Chapters.

Wordman17 said...

My sister isn't an author, but I'd do this for her if she was. I wouldn't care what anyone thought. He's telling you he's proud of you; You see that, right?

Holly Kennedy said...

Be careful, ORION. They're watching you on those cameras, I'm sure!!

Thanks Spyscribbler -- it all adds up!

Everyone else -- glad it made you laugh; hope it gives you a new appreciation for how HARD it is to get placement and in turn get known.

And, yes, Wordman17, I know what he's saying.

Zany Mom said...

Paid book placements. Kind of like grocery stores, where the same thing happens. Every inch of shelf space is paid for...

Jess Riley said...

This is fantastic! I'm going to ask my brother to do this when my book comes out.

I just discovered you & your blog today and I'll definitely be back.

PS: I love your covers!!!

adrienne said...

That is so amazing. And so sweet. And reminds me of someone. Oh yes, EVERYONE I know.

Now I'm not published yet, but I know a few others who are. And none of us have any shame.

My mom. My friends. Me. As far as I see it, these books deserve to be seen.

And I totally expect things to get exponentially worse when I DO get published. Especially my mom. For some reason when it comes to me, she's fearless. But that's okay. Because it means I can be "oh so embarassed" while still asking, "So have you hit the bookstore near the park yet?"

Therese Fowler said...

I've been late to all the parties today...but have gotten some writing done...

I read this and thought of that song, "He ain't heavy, he's my brother."

He gives new meaning to "supporter of the arts!" Does he need extra income? I might like to hire him when my book comes out. :-)

Wendy Roberts said...

Hey if your brother wants a job doing this kind of stuff I bet a number of us would chip in and having him working full-time moving our books LOL!

Mia King said...

While your brother is moving your books, can he go down the shelf a bit under "Ki" and move mine as well? ;-)

The term someone used in the industry is "Siberia." That's when you're on the shelves, spine out. How inspiring is that? Sheesh.

Your brother sounds like a sweetheart. And loyal. And smart. I promise that the next time I am at the bookstore (although Patricia may be beating me to it - there's only one Borders in Kona!), I am going to grab our books and put them face out on that bestseller rack ...

Kate S said...

Aww... I'd like to have a brother like that. Mine doesn't even know I'm published yet - I haven't told him because he'd snicker at the subject matter.

I've not moved books from shelves, but I do put my friends' books face out when I see them.

Southern Writer said...

What a sweet brother and great, sneaky idea! I'm going to keep the clerks in the bookstores very busy from now on.

Shanna Thompson said...

Your brother is awesome!

rdl said...

Let him do it, that's great!!