Release Date – oh, Really?

scavenger-hunt Ah…Tuesday. A big, shiny new release day and judging by the look of my bookstore, the book & music fans were out in force. I’ve long since learned that the store by my office never has the new releases out on shelves on Tuesday itself, so I wait until Wednesday to go book hunting. I had several books in mind for this trip, so I set out over my lunch break.

I was able to get the new What Happens in London (already almost sold out!), but no sign of this month’s Betina Krahn novel, Make Me Yours, which I had forgotten to order from Harlequin at the early release date in June and now plan to get in store in July. In addition, no sign of City of Souls, the latest book in Vicki Pettersson’s Signs of the Zodiac. This last book was one I planned to rip into as soon as possible to see what happened to the characters next, so I was very disappointed not to find it on shelves.

After trying 3 different places, I finally got my hands on City of Souls, but no sign of Make Me Yours. I can understand stores selling out of books. After all, that’s rather a good thing. It means people are actually reading and keeping good authors in business. It’s when stores don’t have the books out by their “on sale” dates that I get irked. After the drama surrounding the various Harry Potter releases, I know that Bad Things can happen when books get laid out early. Authors don’t get credited correctly for their sales on bestseller lists, the store can get in trouble, etc… Much ink was spilled over that issue a few years ago, and I don’t intend to revisit it.

But what about the flip side of the equation? After all, if stores don’t get their new releases out by release day(or even release week), authors will also miss having their names credited properly for bestseller lists and other such data collection. Books tend to get their best sales numbers in the weeks immediately following release. Also, from what I’ve read, selling a lot of books in a short amount of time is what gets one on the bestseller lists and if an author’s books are being laid down in stores in rather haphazard fashion, it must be hard to build this velocity. So it would seem fair to say that timing is important with regard to getting books on shelves. When the new releases are allowed to age to the point of staleness before being placed on shelves, one would think that sales ranks would be hurt, and I don’t see authors or publishers liking that very much.

One bookstore near my home is generally good about getting books out, but the store by my office normally just has its new books stacked several layers deep on a cart behind the information desk on release day. Even worse, they often just sit there for several days. I suppose if you have a hankering to play Book Jenga, you can try your hand at sifting through the stack, but it’s a rather daunting task – and you’ll be shooed away if the desk attendant catches you!

In addition to possibly hurting authors and publishers, as a reader, not having a book available on its release date frustrates me. Sure, the occasional distribution glitch occurs. However, when it becomes a systematic problem, something is wrong. Readers on our forums have often complained about this problem, and I for one can sympathize. When publishers and stores state a book will be out a certain date, playing a game of city-wide scavenger hunt in order to find a store that has it for sale should not be required. I’m not asking for a Harry Potter-style midnight release party for every book I want to read, but having it on shelves on time would be very nice indeed. Authors want us to read their books, so stores should at least let us be able to find them on time. Can you imagine what would happen if, for example, the new Harry Potter movie was slated for release on a certain Friday, but when Friday rolled around, theaters hadn’t bothered to start showing it yet?

I know we have readers from all over the world here. What have your experiences been? Do you see books appearing on their stated release dates or are you out there playing the waiting game with me?

-Lynn Spencer

19 thoughts on “Release Date – oh, Really?

  1. I’ve just noticed this phenomena as I switched from Borders to Barnes and Noble. I live in the Bay Area, so lots of choices for me. I’ve always been a Borders person, since they took over Waldenbooks, which was awesome for romance novel fans.

    However, Borders doesn’t give the extra paperback discount that B&N gives, so I finally bought a B&N membership since I do spend over $250 a year on books. ($25 for the membership is 10% of $250…)

    Well, since I’m a day of girl for certain books it’s frustrating. I went out on July 1 for the June 30th releases, assuming they’d be shelved, and NONE of them were out yet.

    They found the new Julia Quinn pretty quickly in the back, but then I acted like a bit of a book diva (I need my Loretta Chase, and it’s the same publisher, so you must have it…) in order to get both books. BUT, it was a day after release and they were NOT on the shelves yet.

    I’ve never had that problem at Borders, plus, Borders always makes them easier to find. B&N creates a bit of a book scavenger hunt. It’s all well and good to stock new releases on the new release shelves, but there are at least three separate shelves, and they don’t bother putting at least a couple in the romance section as well for one stop shopping, I have to wander the store and often ask for help finding a book. (Which, as someone who’s been going to bookstores for years and years, seems pretty silly to me, and wouldn’t be a problem if they’d just put a few in the section that they belong in.)

    Jenn

  2. I have several Borders very near me and I shop at each of them. If a book isn’t out, they offer to go in the back and get it for me. It’s never been a problem.

  3. I do the same as anon101 — I order online.

    But reading these comments makes me realize that book chains are really losing out on money when so many readers have the same frustrations with buying new books. One would think in today’s economy that every effort would be made to get the product out on the floor and exchanged for cash.

  4. I always order online due to never being able to find books on the bookstore shelves when U go. I order a lot from deepddiscount.com, Amazon, and pre-order from Bamm.comm saves gas, time, and money.

  5. I don’t buy many books, but I do keep an eye out for some of them in stores. The only book I can remember being put out a bit late was Elizabeth Hoyt’s To Beguile a Beast. Maybe it was sold out. I happened to walk by two days later and it wasn’t there either. I think it took them about a week. However, that particular Borders was on time with Jennifer Ashley’s The Madness of Lord Ian MacKenzie. I bought the one and only copy they had on the shelf on its release date. Maybe they stick one of each new book on shelf on its release day, but don’t really prepare the stock until a week later.

  6. Tinabelle, I, totally, agree with you. I have a Sony reader and have exactly the same problem as you do with your Kindle and it is very frustrating. I think what makes it such a pain is that even when the publisher has an e-book division with a “contact us” link, the publishers are still not timely or proactive about responding to questions regarding when and if the e-book version will be available. I have emailed both Sourcebooks re: the e-book version of the Grand Sophy and Simon and Shuster re: Meredith Duran’s latest to no avail. It almost makes you wonder if they are trying to maximize the paper book sales market with the initial book roll-out and leave the e-book market as an after-thought.

  7. I have experienced many of the problems discussed here in the past, but since I now purchase almost all of my books in electronic form for my Kindle, I have a related problem. I have learned that the print release date and the electronic release date are NOT one-in-the-same for many books. In fact, it is impossible to even find out when the Kindle version will be released on many books; it is a mystery. It could be days, weeks, months, or maybe never. Sometimes you can pre-order for the Kindle and the book will be automatically downloaded on the publicized release date. I LOVE when that happens. But too often it is the other way around. I love e-books but wish the publishers or whoever deals with this would get their act together. I long for the day where all books in all forms are available on the release date.

  8. The only place to buy books where I live is WalMart and the grocery store. They put out new books on a certain day of the week, so sometimes you have to wait a week for a new release.

  9. For the most part my local stores are good about having the books in the stores on release day. Now that isn’t the same thing as having them on the shelves on release day. I have on more than one occasion sent an employee hunting in the store room because a book that was supposed to be out wasn’t quite.

  10. You have no idea how much I envy you all your options. I live in Puerto Rico and the ONLY bookstore that sells romance is Borders. I usually have to wait, and wait, and then wait some more for new releases to become available. I don’t know if this is the fault of the local store or if it’s due to shipping delays. Either way, this is inexcusable. I want may books by their release date and not one day later.

  11. In the area where I live, we don’t have a big bookstore (Bamm, etc)(HORRORS!!!) so we have to rely on our local Wal-Mart for books and it SUCKS!!!!Sometimes, it takes the lady 2 weeks to get all the new releases on the shelves and then she put out 2 or 3 authors at the time. Now, I’m talking romance here, not the other authors. Most of the authors she puts only gets a total of maybe 6 books each, so you better get ‘em quick! I’ve gotten so frustrated, I’ve started driving a 100 miles every couple of months and shopping at my “local” BAMM! Then I purchase a gift card to use between actual trips! Complaining to Wal-mart at the store has done no good – I think another call to customer service in Ark. is in order. Everyone have a great 4th of July.

  12. I’ve also noticed the unreliability of Borders, B&N and Booksamillion in my area of putting the books out on the right day, I’ve seen them too early, and too late. So now I always call the store about 3-4 days before relase day and ask them to put it on hold for me.

    This happened recently with the newest Sookie book “Dead and Gone” I called maybe 2 days before relase day asking it to reserve a copy. I was put on hold over the phone for about 10 minutes, the lady comes back and says, “Yup, I have it right here. You want to pick it up today?” To which I stupidly responded, “Well, isn’t it not released for another two days?” Then she put me on hold AGAIN while she checked the release date and then told me, yeah, i couldn’t get it for another two days.

  13. I had a recent opportunity to speak to Sue Grimshaw (head romance buyer at Borders) and she said that their new CEO was making it a priority for the stores to move books from the back onto the shelves by the dates they are supposed to be released. They want to be the go-to store for romance readers in particular, who are aware of release dates and will go looking for books they want. If your local store isn’t measuring up to that edict, I’m betting a call to customer service wouldn’t be a bad thing.

  14. One great thing about Chapters.ca is that you can actually see how many copies of a book are available per store. There are times when the books haven’t made it to the shelf, but my experience is that a staff person will take the time to search in back for it. Some releases are late, Dangerous Lies by Lucia was a week late, but that’s rare…and some releases are early.

  15. I don’t know if it works the same way in the US, but I assume it’s similar to our Canadian chain bookstore situation, in that the only books that make it onto those “new release” tables and shelves are the ones for which publishers have paid the store a co-op fee. A book’s availability and position in a store, in other words, depends on the publisher’s wilingness and ability to pay for it, as co-op fees can be pretty hefty. Usually only the big name authors get backed in this way by the publishers, and the stores would then oblige by making sure the books get out there and displayed. Authors who aren’t lucky enough to get co-op’d get shipped in much smaller numbers and shelved when the stores get around to it, and on the regular shelves, not up front or on tables. That could be why you’re having trouble finding some of the new releases, if they’re not by big-name authors.

  16. A year ago, after getting fed up with the local Borders not having books out on their published date or even within a few days to a week afterward, I started ordering everything off of Amazon, and subscribing to their Prime feature, which charges a yearly fee (can’t remember how much, but about $50-$75, not sure) which sends everything via UPS 2-day delivery. It’s worth it. If a book is available early, it’s sent out then. Otherwise, the book arrives two days after the publication date. By just cruising the Amazon website, you can see which books are coming out and add them to your cart or save for later (closer to the publication date); you’re not charged until they ship it. I find this most convenient and satisfying. BTW, I received the latest Meredith Duran this past Monday, and the Julia Quinn, Loretta Chase, Mary Jo Putney books all arrived July 1 (the publication date was June 30). Also, you can have them send the books as they become available and not wait for the whole order to be ready.

  17. All of the Borders stores in my area used to be good about getting books out on the release date. Then something changed in the last year. Now I know that the Borders by my work won’t have the book out for at least a week after the release, and the other Borders won’t have it out for 2+ weeks.

    But here’s what really ticks me off: they have the books in the store in the back, they just don’t get around to unpacking them until well after the release date. Every time this happens the employee just says, “Come back in a week or two; we’ll probably have it unpacked by then.” What?! Hello, you’re running a BOOKSTORE! Why can’t you get the books out on time? It is frustrating to no end.

    I can (usually) count on Walmart and Target to get books out on time, but they only carry the major releases. So when I wanted to pick up the new Jennifer Ashley book, I had to wait more than a week after the release to get it from “the quick Borders” (the one that gets releases out only a week after the release date).

    And of course I wonder about how this impacts the author’s sales figures. Part of the reason I’m buying the books on the release day is to help the author’s sales figures (thus leading to future contracts), but that won’t happen if the store waits 2 weeks to get books on the shelves.

  18. All very good points regarding vendors. I’m trying to figure out the publishers!

    For instance, Jessica Bird’s “Billy and Mac’s stories are coming SOON!” sequels to The Billionaire Next Door have just quietly disappeared. I make a point of bringing this up wherever possible because I don’t want to be quiet about it. Does anyone know whatever happened to that trilogy???

  19. In terms of the chain stores, I think that Borders is generally on time with their release dates. On Tuesday, I went to the Borders store near where I live to see if “Loving a Lost Lord” by Mary Jo Putney was on the “new paperbacks” stand. It was there, as was “Don’t Tempt Me” by Loretta Chase and “Bound by Your Touch” by Meredith Duran, two other books that had been on my radar. I’ve gone to Barnes & Noble on the scheduled release date for other books only to discover that the book(s) I was looking for weren’t available for sale yet! At any rate, I am happily delving into “Loving a Lost Lord”–so nice to have a new historical by MJP!!

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