What's up , Wal-Mart?
Wal-Mart's book policy, that is. There are two Wal-Marts in my general vicinity, a regular store in the next town, approximately seven miles away from me; and a Super Wal-Mart right across the "circle" - the main circular road I come to first when I leave my home. The next town is overwhelmingly white, although in its defense it is smack dab in the major shopping area, right across from a large outlet mall. This store has stocked the Kimani Romances almost from the beginning, plus all the other Harlequin-Silhouette lines and the Arabesques. (This is more than I can say about the Borders across the street, which has stopped getting Arabesque and gets Kimani titles sporadically.) I'm happy to say that both my titles released earlier this year were carried there until they sold out.
The Super Wal-Mart closest to me is located in a city where Latinos rule . . . 47% of the population. The department signs are in English, with the Spanish translation appearing directly below (Cosmetics/Cosmeticos.) There is, nonetheless, a large number of black shoppers spending money at this store. This store's book section is sadly lacking, initially with older titles from St. Martins and Avon. This is nice for St. Martins and Avon authors - any writer will tell you it's a wonderful thing to have your backlist featured - but a lost opportunity for authors with newer books, even the authors whose older work was being sold. I asked the rep from Levy about the limited selection, he told me, "Books aren't going to move in this store." (He was a young white man, and I suspect he has his own views about what blacks and Latinos spend their money on . . . drugs, anyone?) I told him they would if they brought in some newer titles to mix with the older ones, and that they are probably losing customers to the nearby Kmart, who stocks both Arabesque and Kimani Romance (but no trade paperbacks). He didn't seem convinced.
This store's selection remains uneven at best. Sometimes they go for months with no Blaze titles. I have yet to see an Arabesque on their shelves. And although they stocked the Love Everlasting series by Harlequin from Day One, Kimani Romance, which launched several months earlier than the soon-to-be discontinued Everlasting, was nowhere to be found.
Things have picked up a bit, although the book selection continues to be uneven. A few Kimani Romances have drifted in, after a shopper posted a note publicly asking for them (all right, it was me.) The Kimani Romances, many of these from earlier in the line as well (they started by carrying just one title, to my amazement), certainly seem to be vanishing at a quick clip, and they are promptly replaced by additional, more recent titles. The last time I was there, they probably had six different Kimani Romances. Those older titles they started with are being replaced with more of the same as they sell . . . although they still haven't brought in newer work by Francis Ray and Brenda Jackson. (I also don't see my own If These Walls Could Talk it's probably time for another anonymous note.) But they are carrying the TRU line of books for adolescents and young teens, and also a good number of romances by Urban Books, even if the Blaze line has disappeared again. The books are clearly moving (I'm in the store enough to know that!). I guess that Levy rep has had to re-think his position.
Still, this whole thing strikes me as weird. Wal-Mart clearly did their study of demographics before building this store. Maybe the people at Levy should do the same. They'd sell a whole lot more books. Kmart is the only store in this city that sells both the Arabesque and Kimani lines every month, and Wal-Mart is the only place in the neighborhing town.
Where do you buy your books, romance or otherwise? Do you find everything you need at one store, or do you have to go to more than one place?