It’s surprising how many authors don’t knowÂ this handyÂ bit of info, something I learned about a decade ago.Â If you ever wonder how many of your books were stocked in your local Borders bookstore, just flip over a copy and look at the Borders barcode sticker on the back.Â Here’s an example, which I’m copying from the back of THE KEEP by Jennifer Egan, which I recently bought from Borders:
EGAN JENNI 8793900Â Â 7#
D5A 4196690Â Â Â 83007
There are some mysterious numbers there,Â butÂ you only need to focus on two of them:
The 7#Â tells you how many copies came in that particular shipment.
TheÂ 83007Â tells you the date the copies came in.Â
These are really useful numbers to know.Â Store clerks areÂ reluctant to tell you how many copies of your book they’ve sold.Â (In fact, I’ve heard that they’re forbidden to give out that information to authors.)Â But they will happily tell you how many copies they have in their store at the moment.Â By looking at the sticker, you’ll know how many copies the storeÂ brought in,Â so you’ll be able to calculate how many they’ve sold.
If yourÂ book has been selling well, the store will re-order more copies, so you may find different stickers on copies thatÂ cameÂ in later shipments.Â Â Let’s say you find some books with 7# on 8/30/07 and others withÂ 5# on 9/15/07.Â This is really good news.Â It means thatÂ two separate shipments came in, and the store got a total of 12.Â If there are onlyÂ four left in the store, you know they’ve sold at least 8 copies.
The store may have sold even more than that.Â If all the books in a particular shipment sold out, you won’t find any of those stickered copies left in the store.
Important note: This tip is only good for the Borders chain.Â Barnes and Noble doesn’t use this sticker system.
And another tip: check out Jennifer Weiner’s terrific blog.Â She’s up-front and rightfully annoyed at the New York Times and the “literary” establishment.Â I’m with her!