02/12/16

Why a book isn’t in your bookstore

why a book isn't in bookstore

As many of you may know, I work at Barnes & Noble, and since working there, I get asked one question particularly often: Why isn’t _____ book on the shelves?

Today, I’m going to tackle this question.

Disclaimer: I’m not an expert on this, but this is what I’ve observed during my time at Barnes & Noble and my own experiences. Also, I could easily be missing a piece to the puzzle – this is just what I know!

Let’s first start out with the one of the most obvious answers to this question: the book is out of print.

This happens more commonly than you think – books that are put out by small presses especially and titles that came out thirty+ years ago. One of the big things to know is that just because you can find a book on Amazon, doesn’t mean the book is in print.

It’s published by a small press.

Barnes & Nobles stores don’t carry EVERY book that comes out – that’s impossible to do. We carry books that publishers pay for us to stock in stores, and it’s expensive. Especially in YA, large presses dominate the shelves, and the possibility of seeing a book not published by the big five publishers is rare.

No one has bought it recently.

This is one of the biggest reasons and one I had no clue about before working in a bookstore.

Whenever we get a new shipment in of books, shelvers have to physically find space on the shelves, because (and if you’ve ever been in a bookstore you’ll know this) Barnes & Nobles shelves are packed TIGHT with books. So we have to pull books from the shelves. The way we choose these? The ones that haven’t been bought recently. The oldest ones come off first, and they come off in order of when we received them and how long it’s been since someone bought them. Then, we send the books back to the publishers and put new books on the shelves for you all to read!

That new title you’re looking for isn’t modeled yet.

“Modeled” means that enough copies have been bought that we will take copies out of the new release section and put them into the main stacks (there is a word for this but I cannot remember it right now). If a book is a new release and it doesn’t sell enough copies, then it isn’t modeled, and therefore, we have to send it back to the publisher.

THIS IS WHY YOU NEED TO GO BUY YOUR FAVORITE NEW RELEASES.

Also, sometimes we simply don’t get certain books in, but booksellers can always order them to the store. So if you’re best friends with your bookstore’s staff and are in love with a book they don’t have, let them know. Maybe they’ll order copies and you can spread the love.

I hope that explained some of the behind-the-scenes of bookstores, but let me know if you have any further questions! I’d love to answer them.

  • Rachel Pietrewicz

    Willa, this is such a cool post! I’m currently taking a class called “Unpacking the Bookstore” which is all about the history and culture of bookstores, and right now we’re studying how bookstores choose the books they’ll stock and why they choose them. As huge book lover (obviously), I find it so fascinating to learn about the behind-the-scenes of bookstores, and it definitely makes me want to work in one. (Hopefully this summer I’ll find a bookstore job!)

  • Helen Deng

    What are “the big five publishers”? I’m about to go Google it, but I’ve always felt like there’s so many! Especially in YA, which is primarily what I read, I know of PenguinTEEN, S&S Teen, Speak…oh. I see your point (kinda). I mean, there’s some that I’ve never heard of until they publish a big series (like Feiwel & Friends for The Lunar Chronicles).