My Dear John Letter to Valencia Borders or What I Learned About Selling

Warning: Major Snark Alert

I had to go to Valencia Borders today to pick up a copy of Lost: Season 4 for the hubby. What could have been a mere annoying experience turned into material for my blog, so I'm grateful. Sort of.

By comparing my experience to that of an author at a book fair, I came up with a pretty good list of things to avoid if you want to introduce readers to your book.

When I first entered the store, a shiver ran down my spine--the same shiver you'd get if you wandered into a ghost town on foot with a dead cell phone battery.

There wasn't an employee in site. I know, because I checked upstairs and downstairs. And that brings me to my first point.

Don't chat with the vendor three tables down while potential customers pass on your book because nobody's home.

I eventually tracked down a living being behind the cashier counter. She had been off helping another customer. I'll call her Debbie, because that's what it said on her nametag. She was young and freckled with a cheery attitude. She's the herioine of this story.

I told Debbie that I needed someone to unlock the video display, and she called out to an employee who was stocking magazines. I'll call her The Dark One because she had black hair and she was mired in a muddy swamp of indifference.

The Dark One told me she'd find a mysterious "someone" to get the keys and help me, and she went back to placing new magazines in pretty rows.

Don't make your customers wait while you take care of incidental business.

While you're lining up your books and thinking, "If I can only get that cover flush with the edge of the table, I'll sell oodles of books!", your potential customer is thinking, "I really hate to buy a book and mess up her display. It seems so important to her."

I went back upstairs and waited long enough to wonder if the 40% coupon I had was worth the effort. There is a Barnes & Noble just down the street, and there is always someone in their video section ready to help me. And I get 10% off on my coffee.

The customer has options.

I went back downstairs and asked Debbie if someone, anyone, could help me. The Dark One stayed neatly hidden behind the shelves.

About five minutes later, Debbie came up. She told me she'd get the keys. She had another customer in tow who she was helping. True to her word, she returned, apologized for the delay, and released my video with her magic keys. And then she rang me up.

I didn't go to B&N because of the coupon. I knew my husband would flip if I paid full price, but my case is rare.

No one needs to spend money on your books.

Now, it's possible that The Dark One wasn't authorized to handle the magic keys. It's also possible that she suffers from a severe disorder that precludes her from mingling with customers or leaving her magazine stand.

My humble apologies to Debbie if my irritation leaked out my ears and infected her. And if you're wondering why I specified Valencia Borders, I didn't want to paint all Borders with the same brush.

I did learn one other truth.

Debbie should be running the store.


  1. I'm still chuckling. I swear, Jackie, you can turn any experience into a joke, a story, a book or a humorous blog post. If I go to the Valencia Boarders, I know I will definitely seek out Debbie, but I will never go to buy a video.
    Also, the way your turned it into a lesson on how (not) to act at a book selling event was clever...and funny.

  2. I think it was Philip Roth who said, "Nothing bad can happen to a writer. It's all material." You verbalized so effectively an experience that many of us have had, and I, at least, got a good laugh. But the lessons are serious, and thanks for the reminder. Great post!


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