August 9th, 2012


Shelving Decisions

Tuesday night's ballet class has suddenly hit me full-on. Ouch. I thought the muscles in my legs were pretty good, but I'm discovering muscles I didn't know I had. It looks like I'll need to do some yoga today if I want to be able to get up and down the stairs.

On the other hand, once I'm done with the stuff that requires Internet today, it might not be a bad thing if I can't get upstairs. Then I can sit downstairs and do a lot of work. I think I've figured out the next part of the book, so I should be able to write for a few days before I have to do more thinking and planning.

I did finally succeed in buying myself a birthday present and in doing my errand shopping at Target, except of course I realized after I got home that I forgot a few minor things. But I did hit the school supply sale, so I have notebook paper and pens and spiral notebooks and note cards. I also got a couple of pads of drawing paper because they were calling out to me. I'm not sure what I'll do with them. Maybe I could try mind mapping or brainstorming with colored markers or something like that. At any rate, I just felt like they were somehow going to be essential for something, and they were cheap. I did resist the urge to go skipping through the school supply section, tossing items into my basket with reckless abandon, like in those "The Most Wonderful Time of the Year" commercials. Oh, but I wanted to, so very, very badly. I always loved school supply shopping when I was a kid because I was picturing my ideal school experience that was like something out of a book or a movie and that was probably about a decade out of date. I felt like my whole life would just click into place if I only had the right pencil box and binder.

While I was making the decisions of how to classify my new books and getting frustrated over the fact that the place where they were shelved in physical stores was the one place none of the readers seemed to be looking for them, a publishing news item came up about a publisher trying to create a new category but running into resistance from the bookstore chains in not wanting to shelve it that way. They were trying to create what they called the "new adult" category, which was a bridge between the teen young adult books and the regular adult section. That makes a lot of sense because in the past several years, YA has been one of the more profitable categories for both publishers and booksellers. But those readers do grow out of reading about teenagers. Are those huge swells of kids and teens who got into reading with Harry Potter and Twilight being retained as book customers? Adult fiction sales don't seem to be getting the kind of surge you'd expect, considering that the kids and teens who were in the right age range when those books were published would be mostly adults now.

Making that transition from the safe boundaries of the kid and teen sections to the adult section can be difficult. When you're 18-25 or so, you may not want to read about teenagers anymore, but you're also not all that interested in forty-something parents, and it's impossible to tell which books you might find interesting at a glance. The idea for the "new adult" category was to have books for readers in that age group, with characters in that age group who were doing things that happen with that age group -- finishing school, going to college, getting that first job, being on their own for the first time, etc. But apparently the bookstores totally resisted the idea of creating a new section. They thought these books should be shelved either in the teen fiction or in the relevant adult sections, I guess because they don't like making money or have no interest in retaining their best customers.

As a fantasy reader, I guess I had it easier in making that transition from teen to adult because the heroes/heroines of fantasy novels at that time tended to be very young. We had the late teen farmer/apprentice who gets chosen to go on the quest kinds of stories. In fact, a lot of the adult books I read as a teen have been reissued with new covers and shelved in teen fiction (I don't recall having a designated teen section when I was a teen -- books about teens were mixed in either with children's books or with adult books). I do remember standing in the tiny science fiction/fantasy section of the mall bookstore, which was probably smaller than my science fiction/fantasy bookcase in my house now, and flipping through the books to find those that fit my criteria. I wanted either a heroine I could identify with or a hero I could fall in love with, and I didn't want it to be an "old" person who was over 30. I can't imagine doing that in a superstore. The adult section can be overwhelming, especially if you don't come from a family of avid readers where your parents have already started introducing you to the authors they read. That was my other transition aid. I was in fourth grade when my parents started giving me the Alan Dean Foster Flinx books to read. In those early books, the hero was a teenager, and I'd have considered them good "new adult" reading as adult books that younger readers would enjoy.

Apparently, the chains were worried that the new adult category would limit who would buy those books -- that adults wouldn't shop there and that teens might not find it, and that's such a narrow range (never mind that they're the age range buying most of the books these days). That brings up another bookstore question: why not cross-shelve? They'd sell a lot more books if the books were easier to find. Create a new adult section and stock it with some of the older teen and younger adult books, and then also stock those books in their relevant sections. Once readers have found those authors in "new adult," they can then transition more easily to the regular adult shelves, and then the bookstore has secured a long-term customer. Because if I'm selling books and I look at the statistics about what's selling, I'm definitely going to want to do anything I can to hold onto that vast YA readership and make sure they keep buying books as they enter their adult years and have jobs and money of their own.

But alas, I don't rule the world and the bookstore chains are very mired in their old ways of doing things, resisting the changes that might allow them to survive. One advantage of digital publishing that I'm seeing is that you can "shelve" a book as contemporary fantasy, fantasy romance and chick lit. I've even been tempted to throw in paranormal mystery, since that's where my books seem to pop up in Goodreads and since most of the "people who bought this also bought" items for my books are paranormal mysteries, but since they aren't technically mysteries, mystery readers might be annoyed. I also don't think they're technically romance, but it does seem like a lot of readers view them that way, so who am I to argue?