someone at barnes&noble may just be my new best friend

My world as a writer turned upside down today.

I visited one of the last remaining independent bookstores in the English-speaking world, to do what writers do in between digging out tiny slivers of chocolate from beneath the space bar on their computer keyboards and sharpening pencils just in case a young person shows up at the door and politely asks, “Excuse me, could you show me what is a pencil?”

That, of course, is to visit the bookstore and turn one’s own book from the spine-out position on the shelf to the more highly regarded face-out position — preferably de-facing the book of someone eminently more successful than oneself in the process. It’s unclear what benefits actually accrue to said writer, beyond a momentary smug-flush triggered by having pulled a BIG ONE on the global publishing industry while also delighting in one’s own propensity for sophomoric self-amusement. The life of a writer can be desolate; one must seek joy where one can.

However, the enjoyment factor plummets immediately upon discovering that one’s book is not only not in the overtly submissive spine-out position, but is nowhere to be found on its regularly-assigned shelf, upside-down on the floor nearby, under the sink in the bathroom, or on or near any other shelf within a 7-foot radius. The shock and awe is not at all tempered by the possibility that the book is MIA because someone has actually paid money for it and has taken it home to read!

Needless to say, the author/writer has no choice but to find a very young and sweet store employee who carries the very same curiosity for all things old-school (including author/writers over the age of, say, twenty-six), as the polite one who shows up at the door to ask, “Excuse me, could you show me what is a pencil?”

“Have you stopped carrying the book, or has it been ordered?” politely asks the author/writer.

“We sold one in December,” says the earnest bookish one. “Would you like me to order one for you?”

“Hmmm,” says the author/writer, leaning in over the counter with a gripping smile. “No thanks, I’ve already read it (coincidentally, at the same time I wrote it!) You know, I am in a position to drive people into this bookstore (and, in fact, would pick them up at their front doors and pull them in via rickshaw if they were in a buying mood!), but if you don’t plan to carry the book, I will have to send them to Barnes & Noble instead.”

“Hmmm,” says the staffer.

“Who might I talk with to learn whether you plan to continue carrying the book?” The adjective “gripping” no longer refers to the author/writer’s smile, but to the relationship of her fingertips to the edge of the counter.

“Oh, that would be (insert name of someone you can never reach), but he’s on vacation.”

The author/writer heads to B&N, where Someone (1) remembered the author from an interaction eight years ago, including the fact that said author/writer’s hair was now of a different length; (2) directed the author/writer to the Mother’s Day promotional display upon which copies of her book were piled; (3) said “Well, of course, it’s your book!” when asked discreetly whether the author could slip her blog bookmark into the copies; and (4) brought over the Autographed Copy stickers and invited the author/writer to sign her books.

Oh, goodness. What is one to do when one finds the higher –service quotient at the big store down the road, and not in its expected habitat at the indie location? The author pulls out a freshly sharpened pencil, and writes on the wall one-hundred times: Someone at Barnes&Noble may just be my new best friend…Someone at Barnes&Noble may just be my new best friend…Someone at Barnes&Noble may just be my new best friend…


cover of WWWWords of Wisdom for Women, by Rachel Snyder, now available on the Mother’s Day Gift Idea display, quite likely at a B&N near you. If you’re as lucky as I was, Someone will take good care of you when you get there.

7 thoughts

  1. Dawn B,

    It’s people like you who will keep the big box boys from taking over every little corner of the Earth! Pssst! to anyone reading this: Niwot Cycles in Boulder County, Colorado, is a wonderful, family-run business that caters to everybody of every age and every size, who wants to get on a bike and ride! Visit Niwot Cycles in the Blogroll to the right; then come on and visit Dawn and her brother Andy, in person!


  2. Retail survival in this big box world will depend on someone taking an interest and remembering. It is, after all, what we all want and need. It is one way that our little town of Niwot can stand apart if we choose to do so.

    You are wonderful to know and always an inspiration. Thank you for your time last Tuesday am at our little networking session.


  3. I’ve just received a sighting from the Barnes & Noble in Encinitas/Carlsbad, California.

    Mark reports, “Yahoo!!!!Strolled through my (now) favorite barnes and noble only to see your book, front and center on the main table…I grabbed several to send to the women who have assisted me in my journey, and some who did not even know they have helped me. Timing is perfect, I am on the road in a couple weeks and always like to keep an extra in my briefcase to offer.”

    Thanks, Mark, for your continuing support.


  4. Dawn,

    Great questions! Given your particular talents, though, I’m guessing that you already know the answers…


    I love your story; I was raised on Lamb Chop! And, of course, I enjoy real-life, human interactions. For reasons contractual and otherwise, it doesn’t make sense for me to personally sell the Words of Wisdom for Women book. (And yes, I did just split that infinitive!)


    Knowing you, I’m sure that your son not only knows what a pencil is — he knows how to wield it well.


  5. Luckily I got my autographed copy at the Niwot Market (hint, they need another copy to sell).

    PS My 13-year-old son just asked me for a pencil, knowing, in fact, what it was. He didn’t even mean “mechanical pencil” which is the cool thing, I hear. There is hope!


  6. How convenient! Now I can go down to the local B&N and get my own autographed copy of the book without having to “bother” with speaking to the author (or the other way around).

    It saves on the aggravation and amusement of such interactions as the time my (then 2 1/2 year old) daughter was utterly horrified when Sherri Lewis autographed her Lamb Chop puppet. My daughter demanded that Sherri cross her name out (it was NOT her puppet) and put my daughters name in its place. then they had a long conversation on whether or not it was ok for Sherri to be present in real life or only on television.

    Poor Sherri Lewis was on an exhausting tour of Target stores, trying to revitalize her career, apparently impoverished by not getting reasonable royalties off her original TV shows. (You know how it goes).

    She thought my daughter made her day.

    You have this blog for interactions with your readers, but I hope you get real life interactions with them as well.


  7. And WHY don’t you want humor listed among your many talents?!?

    And what is up with posting at the END of the day instead of the beginning?!?



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