When my friend said he didn’t do online shopping and asked where he could buy my book, I didn’t know how to answer. History Press said it was going to place the book with the national chains. Was it available in the stores here? The answer, I discovered, was yes and no.
At the local Barnes & Noble, I searched in the Virginia section, but The Last Lynching in Northern Virginia was not on the shelves. “We had one copy but sold it,” said a clerk, after checking his computer. “We have another one on order. Would you like to reserve it?”
My next stop was at the local Books-A-Million. Again, I did not see the book in the local history section. “We have two of them. They just came in,” a clerk said, after checking her computer. She and I searched the shelves but could not find it. “It must be in the back,” she said. Apparently the books were still boxed and sitting in the storage room. The clerk said they would need several days to move them to the display floor. “Check back this weekend,” she said.
I wanted to tell the clerk about Mr. Jennings, the manager of Clark Drug, where I worked when I lived in Southern California. Mr. Jennings patrolled the stock room, and if he saw a box of merchandise that he thought should be unpacked and moved to the floor, he marched us back there to get it. “You can’t sell stock that’s sitting back here,” he would say.
So now it appears that my partners in the book-selling business are one company with strict inventory controls and another that needs a lesson from Mr. Jennings. I wrote my friend and told him what I had learned and that I would sell him one of my copies. Sure, he said, bring it by any time.