What to Buy? What to Buy?

Dear LDS Publisher,

How do bookstores in the LDS market decide which titles to stock? What criteria do they use in deciding to order many copies of one title, just a few of another title and none at all of a third? How do they decide whether or not to reorder a title once it sells out? How do they make the decision as to what to display most prominently in their stores? In the case of the bigger chains, are these decisions up to the individual stores, or do ordering decisions come from the top? Thank you for your help. I love your blog.

A Naive Newbie

How do the bookstores make their ordering decisions? On the first night of the new moon, they meet at midnight in a secret clearing in the midde of the forest where they bury the latest copies of Deseret Book's catalog and Books 'n Things. Then on the night of the full moon, they go back and dig them up, give them a shake and order the books with pictures that aren't smudged by the mud and dirt.

Working in a bookstore is the one job in this industry that I have never done. And it's probably a good thing because I'd spend my entire salary on books and my family and I would be living in a cardboard box under the freeway.

However, based upon what they tell me when I call them up to beg for orders, it seems the bookstores make these decisions for several reasons:

1. Selling history. Certain authors and genres are pretty much guaranteed to sell well. They order more of those.

2. Current trends. If they see a trend developing, they'll order to support that trend.

3. Promotions. If a book is promoted well by the publisher, they'll buy it. For example, most bookstores will try to stock books that are being advertised in DB and BT.

4. Personal taste. If a book speaks to the buyer on a personal level, or one of their trusted employees, they will buy the book.

5. Bribery. If the publisher is offering a deeper discount, they will sometimes take a chance on a book.

Choice of what to display is based upon these same criteria. Also tie-ins to holidays or local events.

They will reorder a particular title as long as customers are walking into the store asking for it. Usually. Sometimes they intend to reorder and they forget. That's where a good distributor comes in--to make calls to remind them to reorder.

As for the chains, as far as I know, it's up to the individual stores. DB stores place their orders with the main office, which places the total order with us. We ship to their warehouse and they disperse them between the stores. If a title isn't in DBs database, then the individual stores usually do not order it--although on occasion, they will make an exception for a well-promoted local book.

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