Book Success: Out of My Hands

It was my day to learn about zoning, a practice where we take a wand of a scanner and scan each book on a shelf, pulling the ones scheduled to be returned to the publisher.  We needed to get rid of 1,300 books off the shelves to make room for new books and to clear space for the new Nook boutique we were building in time for the Christmas craze.  The scanner would tell us which books to pull, books that had not sold in a few weeks, books that might never sell because they had not been sufficiently promoted.

The manager showed me the bays of books I would scan, and showed me a chart to after each bay was complete.

“You should be able to complete a bay in about 20 minutes,” she explained, demonstrating how to pull the book out just enough to scan the ISBN on the back cover, but not out far enough to waste seconds.

I got excited about the challenge. I love a good challenge. I did not mind the cleaning task either. Simply swipe the Swifter along the shelves once the scanning was complete. I did not cross my arms and proclaim I am not the cleaning service and they should be ashamed for trying to get two jobs out of me for $8/hr. I scanned the books and wiped the shelves, sitting on the floor to reach the bottom shelf.  When the scanner began malfunctioning and I found myself pulling some books intended to stay and leaving some books scheduled for return, I suddenly enjoyed a smidgen of power within my grasp. I could give an author an extra few weeks on the shelf or short-curcuit some other author – at my own descretion.

But more importantly, I suddenly felt a huge relief about my previous failures with books I had published. Until now, I had not considered the many factors that could ensure a book’s success or failure. Until now I had accumulated a heavy sadness, blaming myself completely for my books’ failure to reach the New York Times bestseller lists. I had believed I failed to write it well enough, had failed to suffciently craft each paragraph, had failed to market the books strategically, had failed to hone a message and connect with an audience.  I may have failed at all those things, but I also realized at this moment, working inside a book store, that I could have done all I was supposed to do and to the best of my ability, but to no avail. Booksellers could have returned the books pre-maturely for all I knew. They could have spitefully done so because of the controversial subject of the books. Anything could have happened. I could have sold 20,000 copies instead of just 2,000 copies because some booksellers liked the subject and kept the books on the shelves after the powers-that-be scheduled them for return. Either way, handling the books myself helped me realize that much of the fate of my books is actually out of my hands.

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Love It or Leave It

I do not like the woman who hired me – the store manager.  I think she is arrogant and corporately callous. It’s just an air she has about herself. I know the type. Type-A. The bottom line, the company’s line, profit margins and procedures are all that matter. Meet their goals or get lost. I used to be one of those types, but now I know better. Yesterday she irritated the hell out of me from the time I got there. She irritated me effortlessly!

“No shades,” she said, nodding toward the sunshades perched on my head.

How dare they impose a dress code on people they’re paying a pitiful $8 an hour!

I had enjoyed the sunshine of what felt like an extended summer – interrupted breifly by snow flurries. I stood on one side of the customer service counter punching in promptly as she stood on the other side talking to one of my co-workers when she stopped her conversation just long enough to tell me what was wrong with me. No, “Hi there. How are you today?”  Bitch. Before she could point out something else she didn’t like, I shifted gears on her.

“I meant to ask you. I know jeans are not allowed, but is this jacket ok?” I asked since I was sporting a jean blazer over khakis.

“No denim,” she said with a fake smile.

“Ok. I’ll take it off, but if I get cold, I’ll have to put it back on, “ I said, ever the agreeable little one. Always aiming to comply and to please.

“I’ll keep you too busy to get cold,” boss-lady said. “Grab a V-cart from the back, get a Swifter, and meet me back here.”

Surprisingly, I didn’t flinch at the notion of helping to keep the place clean, even though custodial duties were not part of the “bookseller” job description. No. I was happy to be on the inside of a bookselling business because I love books!

Loving the Job I Have

On my day off, I enjoyed an acupuncture treat.

Thanks to my spouse’s insurance, I was able to make an appointment for acupuncture on my day off yesterday. The acupuncturist asked about the high-paying job I had when I last saw her, and I explained that the last high-paying, high-profile job had not worked out despite my best efforts. I ranted for a good two minutes about the bad bosses and horrible demands I had experienced in the course of my 20-year journalism/P.R. career. I also told her how I had been willing to suffer the circumstances for the high salary and potential job security within a government agency, but her comments compelled me to consider otherwise.

“Sometimes it’s better to realize a bad fit sooner rather than later,” she said. “A lot of people get stuck. They end up in golden handcuffs.  They have to stay because they get set in a certain lifestyle and can’t make that money anywhere else, but they’re miserable in their job.”

As I lay on the table with tiny silver needles strategically place to reduce stress and soft music playing in the background, I thanked God that I get excited about going to work at Barnes and Noble because I will be surrounded by books, and people who love books enough to patronize a book-selling business.