Authors: Your book tour tip of the day

It’s surprising how many authors don’t know this handy bit of info, something I learned about a decade ago.  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.  Here’s an example, which I’m copying from the back of THE KEEP by Jennifer Egan, which I recently bought from Borders:

BORDERS  $13.95

EGAN JENNI 8793900   7#

Fiction/Lit  2214

D5A 4196690    83007

There are some mysterious numbers there, but you only need to focus on two of them:

The 7# tells you how many copies came in that particular shipment.

The 83007 tells you the date the copies came in. 

These are really useful numbers to know.  Store clerks are reluctant to tell you how many copies of your book they’ve sold.  (In fact, I’ve heard that they’re forbidden to give out that information to authors.)  But they will happily tell you how many copies they have in their store at the moment.  By looking at the sticker, you’ll know how many copies the store brought in, so you’ll be able to calculate how many they’ve sold.

If your book has been selling well, the store will re-order more copies, so you may find different stickers on copies that came in later shipments.  Let’s say you find some books with 7# on 8/30/07 and others with  5# on 9/15/07.  This is really good news.  It means that two separate shipments came in, and the store got a total of 12.  If there are only four left in the store, you know they’ve sold at least 8 copies.

The store may have sold even more than that.  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.  Barnes and Noble doesn’t use this sticker system.

And another tip: check out Jennifer Weiner’s terrific blog.  She’s up-front and rightfully annoyed at the New York Times and the “literary” establishment.  I’m with her!

8 replies
  1. tuttle
    tuttle says:

    Almost every media outlet from newspapers to television inform us of all the little trivial things Paris Hilton or Lindsay Lohan eats and wears (or doesn’t wear)on a daily basis…..
    and yet all this time I never knew about that little code!
    I also enjoy looking in the front pages at the copyright information where you can find those little numbers 76543210 which (I think) means that that particular title has had 7 print runs.
    (Stephen King paperbacks are particulalry interesting since many of them are well past the thirty and fortieth reprintings!!!)

    So anyway THANKS for that bit of info–good to know!

  2. knaster
    knaster says:

    Hi Tess,

    Is there anything that you DON’T know?
    Every blog is informative, educational and downright to the point.
    You’re right about B&N. Walden’s does not use this system, either. I was at a Walden’s about 1/2 hour ago. I went as your “spy”. (only you and I know about this).
    Enjoy your last leg of your tour, and when it’s finally over, breathe a sigh of relief and take some time for yourself. Don’t worry! We understand!

  3. Craig
    Craig says:

    My bookstore doesn’t use any of those stickers but if you were to ask them nicely I bet they would tell you.

  4. ButterflyKisses
    ButterflyKisses says:


    You’re books are sooo awesome. I doubt that you have any other 13 year old that creates an account on your sites very often, but I’d like to tell you that your books are truely amazing.
    I’ve only read one for a book project in school, which I happen to be completeing right now, and it truely kept me on the edge of my seat until it was finished. The romance, the thrill, the mystery, and the medically involved criteria completely had me sucked in for 3 days… My friend stared at me in disbelief when I read Bloodstream that fast.
    Even other books take me longer than that, and a regular 300 book took for a solid week to finish, I haven’t read this much in a long time, not since 7th grade at the beginning of last year in September of 2006, so thank you for giving me my reading back.
    I hope you have some more books to come out that are this intriguing, I think I’ll ask for a few of your books for Christmas, but if you get this, just e-mail me, and maybe I can give you an update.

    lotsa luvs,


  5. therese
    therese says:

    Interesting information about the bookstore end of the business. I love your insights into the publishing world.

    Thanks for pointing the way to SnarkSpot! and another author to read. It’s a great blog and perfectly explains why many readers have become very tight with their book dollars. I’ve put her on my list to read.

    I will look through celebrity books occasionally but have never bought one for myself. I may read the “Hoff” authobiography, if his editor becomes mine. 🙂

  6. april
    april says:

    Interesting. I never knew that.

    Sidenote: Jennifer Weiner’s blog is great. I don’t read it regularly, but I always wonder why that is. She also has signed in my area and is one of the three authors ever that I went to by myself – most authors I drag someone along with me for security.

  7. Elisha Yates
    Elisha Yates says:

    I just completed “The Keepsake” and have obviously missed something along the way. At the end of the novel, it was stated that
    the police misidentified the remains of Jimmy Otto because he was intentionally ID’d
    by his sister Carrie. The body was actually
    Bradley Rose. Kimball Rose wanted to protect his ill wife with the knowledge of their son’s death, so he let her believe the
    body was of Jimmy Otto. The reason I am confused is that the police used a DNA swab
    from Cynthia Rose to identify that body. A
    swab from C. Rose should have clarified that the body was Bradley Rose, not Jimmy Otto.

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