Where, Oh Where, Has My Little Book Gone? Where, Oh Where, Can It Be?

I remember the days before Facebook.  Yes, I’m that old.  I remember when I pondered questions of great importance and wished I had someone to turn to for answers.  No email, no Facebook, no Twitter.

Wish no more. 

Recently I received an email from an unhappy reader.   She had a discount coupon for Fortunate Harbor, but she couldn’t find it at her local booksellers.   Surprised, I decided to post about this on my Facebook page and see if anyone else had experienced a problem, because my own trip to Books-A-Million had turned up an interesting conundrum.  While they had one copy of both Happiness Key and Fortunate Harbor, the books were shelved differently, one in romance and one in fiction/literature.

Odd and interesting.  A reader would have to be well-informed, highly motivated, and willing to stand in line for help to find both books. 

The responses to my query were disturbing.  A number of readers reported not being able to buy the book in small towns at all.  Some in larger cities found they couldn’t buy it where they most like to buy books. Some gave up.  Yikes.  And some, like me, found the series in two different parts of the store.

I emailed my publisher and got a quick, helpful response.  First, book distribution is an elusive butterfly.   Books land here, they land there, depending on time of day, phase of the moon and reports on who buys what and why.  It turns out that some of the biggest discount department stores, which sell many, many books and are essential for climbing bestseller lists, only carry Fortunate Harbor in some of their stores.  This is a judgment call about how well trade paperbacks (the larger size) do for them.  Happiness Key wasn’t carried in those stores either, not until it came out this summer in the smaller mass market edition. Next year, with luck, you’ll find Fortunate Harbor in smaller format there, as well.  So depending on where you live, you may find it or you may not. 

Target, on the other hand, carries the book in all its stores–which was also reported to me by my readers, who found it easily there. 

Both Barnes and Noble and Borders ordered healthy numbers, so finding it there should be easy. 

Should buying a book be this difficult?  Well, who am I to say?  There are so many books, and only so much shelf space. Fortunate Harbor is doing well, despite not always being right where we’d like to buy it.  I appreciate every chain and bookseller who gives my work a chance and takes time to note customer enthusiasm or reorder when stock gets low.  I appreciate every reader who takes the time to look for my books or buys them on a whim because she likes the cover or back copy and is willing to give an author new to her a chance. 

And those of you who asked bookstores who had no copies to order some or more?  You get a special crown in book heaven. 

Thanks to all who wrote to inquire, complain, or simply commiserate.  I’m happy to report that both Happiness Key and Fortunate Harbor are out there in healthy numbers.  And if you click on any of the links in this post they will take you to different places where you can also buy them online.  However don’t forget your local independent bookstore, who like that metaphorical butterfly, lives a life filled with dangerous predators.  Indies can use all the support we give them.  Here’s a great mystery bookstore just to get you started.  Tell them Emilie Richards sent you.


  1. Becky in Georgia on July 17, 2010 at 5:13 pm

    I was in Baton Rouge, Louisiana visiting my Dad. I found copies of Fortunate Harbor in the
    Sam’s Club. I did not find it in my own Sam’s Club outside Atlanta, Georgia.
    Looking forward to next week when I’ll have time to begin reading it.
    Thanks for bringing us such wonderful stories! Love your books!

  2. Diane Chamberlain on July 18, 2010 at 2:18 pm

    What a great post, Emilie. My readers report similar problems in finding my books, and I don’t think it’s simply because we write for the same publisher. Distribution seems to be more art than science. I’m always grateful when readers let me know the snags they run into finding our books. . . and I appreciate it so much when they persevere! I’m glad you let the publisher know, since the problem really needs to be addressed on that level.

  3. Debbie Haupt on July 20, 2010 at 12:32 pm

    Emilie, I remember when Happiness Key came out, I went to Books-A-Million and couldn’t find it on the shelf, so I did wait in line and they checked their computer for if they had it in stock (yes) where in general fiction, then I remembered trying to use the coupon that you gave us and it didn’t work with the bar code, but they did give it to me anyway. I guess my point is, if a reader wants a book bad enough to make a trip to the retailer to purchase it, he/she will stand in line to inquire where it is if they can’t find it.

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