December 17-24 is the most harrowing week of the year at the bookstore. Gone are the leisurely shopping ventures of recent weeks; now customers start pouring through the doors with an air of stress and exhaustion. (We’ve all been those customers, haven’t we?) It’s the start of the full-blown panic mode that strikes shoppers when they realize they only have six more days to get their shopping and wrapping and cooking and prepping done.
This is an indie bookseller’s strength; this is what we’re here for, to help. But we’re getting down to the wire here in terms of being able to order what isn’t on the shelf, and customers want specific books, often books that have been touted on NPR and are subsequently in such high demand that warehouses have run out and titles aren’t due back in until — December 26. Or January 3. At any rate, too late for under the tree. (Note to publishers: next fourth quarter, if your book is due to be on NPR, or in the New York Times Book Review, or has six or seven starred reviews, it might be in demand at holiday time, so take a chance and print up a few extries! Pretty please. Okay, okay, I know no one can predict what will catch fire and what will sit unsold. But guess better, wouldja? There must be book psychics out there somewhere, right?)
This is the week we play cat and mouse with inventory, checking the popular titles and bestsellers and indie bookseller recommendations and staff picks and local bestsellers several times a day to see what we’re likely to need to restock before the weekend. Since some restocking orders reach us overnight while others take two or three days to arrive, today is essentially our last day to make those best guesses about quantities. Do we have enough of The Art Forger? The Last Lion? Behind the Beautiful Forevers? The Meacham Jefferson biography? The Smitten Kitchen? Help, Thanks, Wow? How about The Fault in Our Stars? The Last Dragonslayer? Malcolm at Midnight? Seraphina? This Is Not My Hat? Forget about Code Name Verity; that was one of the NPR casualties. Which is GREAT news for that fabulous book; not as much fun for the booksellers who have to disappoint customers. Now, we pride ourselves on being able to suggest great substitute titles for anything out of stock, but — especially this last week before Christmas — people want what they want. I can understand that. My best hope is that I can also fulfill it.
So I’m signing off. Time to go make our last, our almost last, orders before weekend.
Good luck, everyone! And may you have the joy and luxury–amid all this craziness–of slowing down, taking time off, being with family and friends, and doing memorable, fun, meaningful things together.