Archive for the ‘shopdropping’ Category

There’s an article in today’s New York Times about shopdropping, or reverse-shoplifting. It’s described as “surreptitiously putting things in stores, rather than illegally taking them out.” There’s a picture of a T-Shirt that features three revolutionaries ( Karl Marx, Mikhail Bakunin and Che Guevara) wearing Santa hats. The point being the commercialization of radical ideas, or something like that. Is this a point that needs to be made? T-shirts with the iconic image of Che Guevara have been around for a long time.

One sentence in the Times article caught my eye. “Self-published authors sneak their works into the ‘new releases’ section” of chain bookstores. As an aspiring writer, I can appreciate the desire to get one’s work out there, and have people read it. I am also aware of the value of having a book placed on the ‘new releases’ shelves or tables at Borders or Barnes & Noble. It’s my understanding that publishers pay handsome sums to have their products displayed in this prime real estate at the front of the stores. Having one’s book prominently displayed where it can get maximum eyeball time is certainly alluring.

I wonder, though, how effective it is to place it there yourself. The self-published book will not be in the computer system of the chain store. What happens when someone takes a copy up to the register and tries to purchase it? Even if it’s marked “Free,” will the employee simply let the person take it? It hardly seems likely. I would think that a manager would be involved at some point. Once it is determined that the book is not part of the store’s inventory, wouldn’t the manager refuse to let the customer take it? Wouldn’t they then make sure that any additional copies are removed from the shelf or table?

At that point, the customer, who was actually interested in your book is, at best, disappointed. At worst, they’re embarrassed or humiliated. What are the odds they will buy your book now? Plus, there’s a good chance they’ll be spreading the story to their friends and family, and perhaps even their blog. Is there really no such thing as bad publicity?

Plus, if the chain store keep a list of authors who try to drop their books in their store, will that harm an author’s chances of having a book placed there if they get published by a mainstream publishing house? Would a publisher / editor / agent have a bad opinion of someone who tried shopdropping their book?

I don’t know the answers to those questions, but I’d really like to find out. If anyone has personal experience of shopdropping their book, or of trying to buy a book that was dropped, I’d love to hear about it.

Competition is fierce in the publishing world. I’m not surprised to read about authors trying unconventional methods to get noticed. Seems to me that shopdropping is the wrong way to go about it.


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