Oh, the Books You’ll Return!

Cynthia Compton - May 13, 2019

Today is your day.
It’s time for returns.
You’re off and away.
You have reports in your hand, poured some joe in your cup. Dragging basket or cart, you must fill it up.
You’re not on your own, but you know what you know. Those books that aren’t selling, they just have to go.

You’ll look up and down shelves. Around corners you’ll swivel. About some you will say “who ordered this drivel?”  With your head full of smarts and your cart full of books, you’re too smart to be trapped by “let’s take second looks….”
And you may not find any you want to send back. In that case, of course, your earnings will slack. It’s smarter, by far, to have shelves with some air. But that means returns…. and we hate to go there.
In the shelves things can happen, and frequently do, to booksellers as earnest and hopeful as you. And when things start to happen, don’t panic. Don’t fret. There will be bestsellers you just need to get.
You’ll make profits galore! You’ll be seeing the black! You’ll join the high earners who send the duds back.

You won’t get bogged down, because you’ll have a list. You won’t get distracted by covers that whist…  ….fully call you to read them again and rethink. It’s not the wrong section, the book might just stink. The cover is dreck, the title is poor. You can’t make it better, of this I am sure.
Except when you won’t.
And sometimes you will.

I’m sorry to say so, but booksellers do. In spite of our numbers, oh sadly, it’s true.
You can get all hung up on the author or spine, and in spite of NO SALES, continue to whine…
“The customer’s WRONG! This book is so smart! Look at this language, look at this art!”
And so you’ll return the dud to the shelf. And there it will sit, all pleased with itself. You’ll look at your sales with an unpleasant frown… for without magic TURN, your profits go down. And suddenly orders are just in a slump….. and the reps will be grumpy, and publishers lump…
….you into the group of those stores that can’t move, the titles they want to tour authors to prove. You’re in a place where the emails are few, and the pitches on Edelweiss sit in review. Forever, it seems, and then you don’t know. Responses from publicists just fail to show.

So you’re lost in a place, where you just shouldn’t go. This is the place of the stores who don’t know. You’re waiting, just waiting for things to be right. For sales to go up, or events to take place. Spring weather will break, and the sunshine will chase…. the customers right from your store to the park. The outlook’s not good. In fact, it’s quite dark.
NO! That’s not for you!
Somehow you’ll escape all that dither and dragging….
of feet to return the ones who are lagging.
For sales are the measure we all need to use
Of how many titles are paying their dues.

With sales reports flapping, once more you’ll ride high! Ready for anything under the sky. Ready for front list, a really big buy!
Oh, the books you will sell! There is fun to be done! There are authors to score, and events to be won. The biggest of signings you’ll do with those books… the schools will all love you, the cookies they’ll cook! The presales they’ll send you, the forms all filled out! With checks all attached, and a tax free account.
Except when they don’t. Because sometimes, they won’t.
I’m sad that some times, you’ll have zero attend. And you’ll call all your neighbors, and maybe your friend. And say “please come on over, we need you today. The author and news crew are just on their way….”
All Alone!  Oh, my dear friend, like it or not. Alone will be something you’ll be quite a lot.
And when you’re alone, there’s time to be spent
Doing the things that help pay the rent.

So on you will go, though the weather be foul. Into the aisles, with your cart, on the prowl. On you should go, don’t throw in the towel!
Onward through many a frightening shelf, though your arms may get sore, and you’ll say to yourself:
“Why did I order the cardboard display? The extra two points did not save the day!”
So onward and forward you’ll push and remove…
the titles whose sales numbers failed to improve. And I know you will face all your fears and your doubt, and make room on those shelves for books just come out.
And will you succeed? Yes! You will, indeed! (I hear that we profit at 2%, guaranteed.)
KID, you’ll move MOUNTAINS of books! And some of them new. Some of them back to the publishers, too. So today is your day! Your returns are there waiting.
So….. get on your way! (and no hesitating)
*in this graduation month, I offer this little bookselling homage to Theodor Seuss Geisel, and his ever popular OH, THE PLACES YOU’LL GO! , a perennial bestseller that shall never be returned.


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About Cynthia Compton

Cynthia is the owner of 4 Kids Books & Toys in Zionsville, Indiana, a 2600 sq. ft. childrens store founded in 2003. She serves on the board of the American Booksellers Association, is a past president of the Great Lakes Bookseller Association, and is a former member of the American Specialty Toy Retail Association board of directors. 4 Kids was honored with the Pannell Award in 2013 and has received numerous "best of" awards in the Indianapolis area. The opinions expressed in her posts are her own, and sometimes those of her english bulldogs.

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