Confessions of a Book Store Shuffler
MADELEINE BRAND, host:
From NPR News, this is DAY TO DAY.
You go to your bookstore and you pick out the book right in front of you. Hmmm, you think. I didn't come in for a mystery set among monks in Nova Scotia, but maybe…
Why is that book right at your eye level? It's not an accident.
Novelist Francesca Segre has this explanation.
Ms. FRANCESCA SEGRE (Novelist): My name is Francesca, and I'm a book shuffler.
It all started when my first novel came out in March. For the first month after publication, my book was on display in the coveted new and paperback fiction spot at chain stores across the country. What a rush.
But when the month ran out, so did my novel's lease on that prime real estate. And the next new thing in paperback fiction quickly moved in.
The eviction hurt. My pride and joy had been tossed from the penthouse to the curb with a quick flick of the wrist. That's when my shuffling began.
I'd creep into bookstores right before closing and hunt for copies of my poor, neglected novel. When I found my books squeezed mercilessly between other novels on the bottom shelf in the back, I'd pull them out for some fresh air. A gentle caress, a quick check of the area to see if I was being watched, and I'd discreetly set my books back on a prominent shelf at eye level, cover out.
It was all I could do to resist sticking a yellow Post-It to the cover with the words, available to a good home, written on it. But after the satisfaction of the rescue, a bit of guilt inevitably crept in. I'd disturbed the carefully crafted order of the bookstore.
When I finally came out to my family and friends about my book shuffling habit, I found I wasn't alone. My mother and brother said they'd been moving copies of my novel to the front tables of bookstores for weeks. A friend told me he was in the habit of flipping books by politicians he hated, front cover down. A fellow writer admitted she once tried to push a couple of novels by a rival author to the side, but the books fell behind the shelf. Oops.
As I toured the country to promote my book, I confessed my shuffling tendency. Clerks at Powell's Bookstore in Portland, Oregon were under-whelmed by my admission. They said they'd seen it all, and that every shuffler has a different objective. There are the Christian conservatives who slide religious books into the New Age section. There are the Trekkies who rearrange volumes according to star date. And then there are the squirrelly book hoarders, who hide books around the store so they can buy them later.
A hipster clerk at a Border's in Los Angeles, told me the most flagrant shuffler he ever saw was a best selling mystery and romance novelist. She stormed into his store once, in broad daylight, and turned it upside down, brazenly propping up dozens of her books in all the best spots.
Really? I wondered. The audacity. At least I wasn't that bad.
I asked the clerk what he did about it. Well, he responded, the second she left, I put all her books back. I always do.
Then he looked at me with pity and shook his head: You book shufflers. It may be your compulsion to rearrange books, but me, it's my full time job.
BRAND: Francesca Segre is the author of the book, Daughter of the Bride, prominently displayed on bookshelves across the country.
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