Monday, February 7, 2011

The Bookstore

Since trying to get published, going to the bookstore is a very different experience for me. It's no longer a place for wandering around in ignorant bliss, breathing in the smell of books, stumbling upon a diamond in the rough. I have no time for this. The book store is research. The book store is serious frickin' business.

Do not get in my way. Do not pass GO. Do not collect $200. I am off to the new fiction table and you will not stop me.

Here's how it goes down. I begin by touching every single book on the table. I try to determine what genre the book is just by looking at the cover. I laugh haughtily because I'm right about 95% of the time. My research so far has shown that women's fiction titles depict a woman on the cover in 1 of 3 positions:

1. facing forward, her face like a blurry Monet.
2. in shadowy profile
3. with her back to you and one loose strand of hair caressing her bare neck

There is often a bird somewhere on the cover, pecking at something. I urge you to try this. Once you start analyzing, you will very quickly see what's what. You will be able to walk into any bookstore and find the exact genre you want after only a 1 second scan. Unless, ya know, you're sane and you want to actually enjoy yourself in the bookstore, then I don't encourage you to do this.

Then, I read the back cover. At this point, 1 of 2 things happen. I begin to sulk as I determine that the book is absolute crap and that the future of publishing is going down the toilet and I'll never get published if this is the rubbish the book world wants. Or, more often, I begin to sulk that there are so many wonderful writers with unique and brilliant ideas and I'll never get published if this is the quality of fiction that is out there.

If I'm intrigued by the back cover, I read the first paragraph. At this point, I begin to sulk that are so many wonderful writers with brilliant prose and I'll never get published if this is the quality of prose that is out there.

If the book is similar in any possible way to the genre, topic, or writing style of my own projects, I quickly skip to the acknowledgements section of the book. I pull the Android out of the messenger bag and begin to type their agent's name in the notes app on my phone. Random/Useful fact: A lot of times, that agent is already in the notes for a previous entry. It's nice to make that connection.

Once I've successfully done this to every book, I stand at the table, stare off into space, and make a serious mental list of all of the reasons those books have been published and mine have not (it's a sick, sick game, I tell you). Usually, I'll set aside about 4 books I want to buy and then purchase 3 of them. (Because 4 is just too many. I mean, seriously.) Without fail, I will refuse the Barnes & Noble members card, because it's just not worth it. There is no chance, absolutely none, zilch, zero, that I'll ever buy a book again. Right? ;-)

Then, with the whole ordeal behind me, I go to the young adult section and do it all over again.

Ya know what's even crazier? I LOVE IT. I love every single second of it. I don't miss the aimless wander. I don't miss getting lost amidst the stacks (that's what old libraries and used book shops are for.) I have a purpose. A goal. To see my book with all of those books. And if I want to be there, I have to know it better than anywhere else.

I've highlighted all of the sulking and self-pity that goes on as I analyze each book. But it never gets me down. In fact, it's just the opposite. An adrenaline rush like you wouldn't believe. The book store is where it's all happening. Where books are going out into the world.

How do you shop at the bookstore?


  1. This is great! You are really doing your research! One day your book will be there and then talk about a rush.

  2. Much the same when I am in a bookstore, and for the same reasons, but at the moment in children's books. It did amuse me as you captured the whole proceedure so well .... I am sure that you will be up there on the shelves one day. I confess that I have not tried the 'genre test'; that made me laugh - the cover descriptions, in particular.

    Perhaps we shall all arrive on the bookshelves - in time!

  3. To be honest I haven't been in a bookstore for a long time, I have to order my books from Amazon now.

    However, since committing to the fact that I now am a writer, I'd probably be doing exactly the same as you do! In fact, I think I might try your genre test, to see if it works. This is a great post.

  4. I *love* this post. I do just about the same thing. Hit up the YA section, pick up all the books I've already read about on the blogoverse. Check if it's debut. If it is, check agent, see if it's on my list. If not, read the back cover, see if I'll like it. If so, buy. Buy anything else that captures my eye.

  5. Ahhh, the flip to check out the agent. I've begun flipping through to see if their agent is one that has rejected me. Oftentimes, it is. *sniff*

    The first thing I do when I enter a bookstore is take a long, slow, sweeping look across the store and think, "All these books already out there; how does mine stand a chance? Why am I even bothering?" And then I ogle the new books, throw a mini pity party in my head, sigh wistfully as I eye all the gorgeous glossy covers, wonder if there's any way I could ever even get a job at a bookstore (I've applied at several throughout my life; no one has so much as offered an interview), and then park myself in front of the writing books to see if there's anything new that could possibly help me become one of those names on a glossy cover anywhere in the store. :)

  6. When I go to a book store, it's like going to church...It's like a sancutary. I feel so at peace there. I love touching and looking at the books...dreaming of the day one of my books will be on the shelf....sigh.........

    Have a great week!

  7. i browse the bookstore probably like you USED to! :) i'm so glad you still love it so much either way tho, melissa.

  8. Love how you've noticed the top three things on a cover.

    I always read the back cover and flap, too, but more often, I know what I want because of someone's book review. Saturday I was in the book store and absolutely overwhelmed by the number of YA titles. How would one choose? I went straight for a new book by an author I already adore.

  9. Oh holy cow, this post has me laughing my head off. Uh, yeah, pretty much what you said times a billion. Ugh. :)

  10. Boy, can I relate to the change in book store perception. I kind of miss the old days when I browsed the aisles of B&N without a care in the world. Those were good times . . .

  11. This is fantastic. I'm going to have to try your system and see how I do. Like you, going to a bookstore has taken on a entirely new meaning. I used to go in, hit the magazines first then proceed to the fiction. Now, I don't even bother with the magazine racks. Instead, I go the the shelves of newly released fiction and see if anything is like what I'm trying to get an agent for. I have loads of books I've purchased at home but have yet to read so I try to curb my book buying whenI go into the various Barnes and Nobles I visit. So, I usually add the title adn author's name of a book I like to a list in my iPhone or I take a picture of it. Thenm I proceed to the Buy 4 for 3 table and see what I've put on my list that is now in paperback.

    Oh yeah, when I go to the New Releases shelf I also check to see if there's anything by anyone I know or had a writing class with. That would be really great and make me happy for them. It would also give me loads of hope and belief that I might walk into a bookstore one day and see my novel on the shelf.

  12. I love wandering bookstores, too. I could spend hours in there. I like your idea of looking for similar books and then recording the agents. I've never done this for books I haven't, but I think it's a good idea (since I can't possibly read everything that might be like my current WIPs).