It is easy to see why bookshop chains are failing.
Last Thursday saw the official UK publication of the eagerly awaited Manuscript Found in Accra, in the US Tuesday of this week.
The publisher having failed to set an embargo (better than actually forgetting as they did with Aleph), Waterstone’s and a few indie bookshops stole a march and had it on sale, and on display. But why not on display in the window?
Today, I had junk e-mail from Waterstone’s, usually I delete unread, but today I had a glance. Books I must read for April. No mention of Manuscript Found in Accra. Same for junk e-mail about ten days ago. I daresay publishers pay for a mention, not based on merit.
Thursday of last week WHSmith had it on display at half price, if you looked hard enough, but not on display in the window, and if asked, the staff not a clue what asking for. One store had three copies, another two copies.
I even took the trouble to speak to the manager in one of the stores and point out he had an international best seller.
Tuesday, I visited WHSmith. One copy of Manuscript Found in Accra, that was after speaking to the store manager.
Today, same store, not a single copy!
I asked a member of staff. She wandered aimlessly around the store with me in tow. No we don’t have, I will get some one to look it up. No, it is out of stock.
I am then told they have deliveries on Thursdays. Today is Thursday. And? We have not opened it up yet. And when was the delivery? This morning. It is late afternoon. And you have not yet looked at the delivery? We were too busy. I look around the store and see it is empty, staff standing around like zombies. Does your computer system not tell you what was delivered? No.
No one had a clue what I was asking for.
I walk out of the store in disgust.
We have seen many High Street chains go bust. I am surprised Waterstone’s and WHSmith are not among them. Of the two, WHSmith is the worst. The staff seem to be Asda or Tesco rejects and know nothing about books, the shops are shabby as though in a pound shop.
Last week Manuscript Found in Accra was number 28 in their charts, this week, one week later, nowhere to be seen, I wonder why?
The publishers are to blame. Writers need to take a stand. Fine you may offer my book to a chain at a big discount, but you must offer the same discount to the indie bookshops. But having said that, many of the indie bookshops (if you can find any) are crap too. I rarely go in bookshops, they are depressing. Usually piled high with celebrity crap. A very rare exception is P&G Wells, an indie bookshop in the back streets of Winchester, a joy to visit, as bookshops used to be.
Note: Manuscript Found in Accra, opened at No 2 in Barnes and Noble on day of publication. Maybe unlike WHSmith, they made it readily available.
Note: Manuscript Found in Accra, opened at No 2 on Amazon. Which only goes to show the demand and where it could be in WHSmith if they got their act together and actually sold books!