Saturday, May 22, 2010

"The Book Spine Was So Beautiful, I Had To Buy It"

I've been working at a bookstore so long, looking at displays at other bookstores and libraries is second nature. When I was at the library about two months back I was very happy to see Olugbemisola Rhuday Perkovich, debut middle grade novel Eighth-Grade Superzero on display. It's a great book, and I was excited to see that my local library added it to their collection, especially since all libraries are hurting financially. Not only do they have it but it was there for everyone to see. When a patron (I believe that's what library users are called) walks in, it doesn't matter if they haven't heard of Eighth Grade Superzero because its there waiting to be picked up and glanced at. I took the long way but I've finally getting to the point. Books on display. Its so important for books to be featured throughout bookstores. Books that stay in section do not sell. Customers can't browse book spines. I have seen some nice ones but I have yet to hear anyone say "the book spine was so beautiful, I had to buy it"

When in other bookstores or libraries one of the many things I notice is how many books by authors of color do they have on display in the store, especially in the front. I've actually been checking for Black authors since high school. Back then it was a question of how far back do I have to go before I hit Baldwin, Morrison , Shange or Wright. Now, since I've broaden my reading I do it for everyone.

The next time you go to the bookstore take a moment to notice what is and isn't on display. How many female authors of color do you see? You can take it a spent further, how many of these authors aren't well known? Please comeback and tell us what you noticed.


rhapsodyinbooks said...

Yes yes yes, display is so important! In my library (which wouldn't dream of getting Eighth Grade Superzero or Coconut Moon or anything else - I put in requests every month!) - there are ALWAYS people hanging around the display of new books and checking them out. And then checking them out!


Gerbera Daisy Mom said...

I work part time at our local library, and make it a point to put authors of color on display. Currently my responsibilities include Easy/Picture books for children -- so I use the tops of our bookshelves for such purposes. We also have several display A-frames thru out our space, and do my best to get authors of color on those as well. I recently recommended One Crazy Summer to a parent of a elementary school student. I haven't seen it checked back in, so I'm hoping she's reading it! It was fantastic!

Doret said...

Jill - Are your local bookstores any better.

Gerbera Daisy Mom - Thanks. A visual presence makes a big difference. And welcome, always nice to see new commentors.

I loved One Crazy Summer.

Lorin said...

In the major chain bookstores, I know the publishers pay to have their books displayed at the front of the store. It seems to me that the pressure once again needs to be on the publisher - its not enough to publish these books, but to give them accurate covers and then promote them.

sel said...

Thank you for this post. I read somewhere recently that, as Lorin said, publishers pay to have their books displayed in prime spots. To be honest, personally, when I walk into a chain bookstore like Borders or Barnes & Noble, I head straight for the shelves, either completely ignoring those displays or only glancing at them on my way out. My personal experience is my guide - I've found that I tend to enjoy those books less than the ones I discover on the shelves, either by surprise or because I've heard/read about them from various sources I trust.

I've seen authors of color's books in these bookstore displays but they are often the usual suspects: e.g. Jhumpa Lahiri, Toni Morrison, etc. That's great - we've come a long way - but I would love to see displays with new, up-and-coming, or less well-known but equally literary authors.

My public libraries do a better job than the bookstores, but then I've also been fortunate to live in mostly university towns brimming with diversity. When a significant percentage of your patrons are from one ethnicity or another, there are more likely to be diverse requests as well.