The sad truth about most
brick-and-mortar bookstores

Pre-ordering PANDEMIC in hardcover is the best way to help, since you asked ...

PANDEMIC is out one week from today, and as always when I have a new release coming out, my kick-ass fans are asking me a two-part question: what helps you the most, buying from Amazon or buying in a store, and which is better for you, eBook, hardcover or audiobook?

Short answer: pre-order the hardcover.
(if you’re seeing me on tour, buy from that bookstore that day, please)

Why? Two reasons. First, all pre-sales “roll up” to the first week of official sales, which is the number reported to the New York Times bestseller list. Second, because the book will probably not be in your local store on the day of release, or even the first week of release. That means your purchase won’t count toward the authors efforts, and it might mean a wasted trip for you.

For up-and-coming authors who really go after the bestseller lists, fans not only want the book, they want to know how they can help you win. Most fans don’t give a crap about the vendor, don’t care about the difference between brick-and-mortar and online vendors, they just want their favorite authors to succeed.Typical question from a fanMost authors I know (including me) would love to drive traffic to brick-and-mortar stores, but the sad truth is that most physical stores are overwhelmed. Publishers in the US release around 300,000 new print books every year. That is a massive number. Bookstores usually focus on one thing: making sure new releases by existing bestsellers are on display. Stephen King’s new book? That will be on the shelves on the day of release, if not earlier. An up-and-comer like the hard-working Chuck Wendig? Not so much.

Chuck Wendig

“I’ve gone to my local Barnes & Noble twice now since my latest, THE CORMORANT, was released, and it hasn’t been on shelves either time,” said Wendig (pictured at right). “Nor have other new releases by other authors that came out same day as mine. Some workers at the big chain told me on Twitter that part of it is that the books are probably there — they’re just in the back in a box, and haven’t been put out on shelves because the stores are frequently understaffed.”

Chuck is a successful author, but he’s not a household name. He did what a lot of authors try to do: drive traffic to brick-and-mortar stores so his fan base could get their books and help these bookstores stay in business. Bookstores matter, a lot, and every one of them is struggling to some degree. But, those fans that Chuck sent to the store? Out of luck.

When I released ANCESTOR in 2011, I put most of my energy into telling my fans to get the book at a physical store on the day it was released. I thought I’d be a hero for the bookstores and contribute to their cause. Know what? I got hundreds of emails and Tweets that said the book wasn’t in stock. Most of the staff didn’t even know it was out. A few staffers found it in the back of the store, not yet on shelves, but even more stores didn’t even have the title in their computer system. All of the effort I put into driving store traffic? All wasted. I didn’t get those first-week sales, and — more importantly — I had wasted the time of hundreds of my fans.

Think there’s a little space issue in bookstores? Yeah, just a bit.

“That’s why pre-ordering is incredibly valuable,” Wendig said. “Stores have limited shelf space and limited staff. They have to make decisions — sometimes hard ones. That decision is easier when people call the store and want to pre-order. That sends a message to the stores that this is a book worth stocking. It also sends a message to the publisher and, by proxy, the author. Best of all, it’s a win for readers, who get to have their book when they want it, from the store from which they want to buy it.”

So, if you want to be part of PANDEMIC’s success, you should pre-order. If you want to contribute to your local economy and pre-order from a bookstore, awesome, but make sure you ask them if it will be in on Jan. 21. If they can’t promise you that, then as a consumer your best option is to buy from someone who can promise that: namely, Amazon.

The hardcover counts the most toward the New York Times bestseller list. eBooks count some, but Audiobooks do not. The hardcover bestseller list counts just that: hardcover sales. The eBook list is counted separately. Bajillions of eBooks sell every day, Placing a $10.99 eBook on that list for someone at my level of sales is impossible. But, there aren’t as many hardcovers out there, which means I’m in the running. So if you really want to help the cause? Pre-order the hardcover, and do it today. 

That being said, what matters most to me is you getting the book in the format you want. It’s your money and your time, end of story. I’m here for you, you’re not here for me.


*If you’re seeing me on tour, books bought from bookstores will count. But, best bet is to pre-order the book from that store so its waiting for you when you get there (in case they don’t report the sales in time to help with the bestseller effort). 



About The Author


  1. christopherjmcwhite_yahoo_com

    So Scott, the questions I have:

    1.Pre-order at Borderlands? Done; and the staff on the phone yesterday when I confirmed my card number sounded pleasingly frantic btw.
    2.Buy a copy at the tour stop? I’m thinking yes on that too for my son.
    3.But how about an e-copy? GFL pre-orders came with a free e-version. Is that available with Pandemic as well? I ask because I want to help you out A LOT, especially with pre-order NYTimes lists and all. But if buying the e-book doesn’t help on the latter, does it at least help with the former?

    1. scottsigler

      PookiesLoveChild: That’s great you patronized Borderlands, they do a great job. If you can buy a copy at the tour stop, please do. And this is a Crown Publishing book, not one from Empty Set / Dark Overlord, so sadly @ARealGirl and I have no control over the eBook/hardcover bundle. It’s common sense to us, but the big publishers disagree.

  2. Calamine Curt


    Just pre ordered the hard copy. It will sit on the shelf waiting for my daughter to grow out of Dear Dumb Diary while I enjoy the audiobook, but I’ve been waiting a REALLY long time for this, so I’m happy to help in any way I can.

    Speaking of waiting….Where are the Ancestor and Nocturnal sequels. Not even going to mention The Cryptic. You’re a worse tease than that girl in high school. 🙂

  3. Todd Taylor

    Good to know.

    I was going to ask nearly the same thing:

    “Besides directly slipping money into your pocket, what helps you the most…?”

    Trying to get away from paper, still considering which option to choose. Whatever form, it will be read! Soon!

  4. Martin Stones

    Are you coming over to us in England for a book signing at any time? If you make it to Leeds, Yorkshire there’ll be a pint and some pork scratchings waiting for ya…..

      1. Lachlan Walford

        FDO why are you so good at what you do. Not only do I have the hard Cover of Nocturnal, but the podcast and the audiobook… its that good.

  5. Aaron Melzak

    Got you covered, Scott. I have pre-ordered the hardcover and the ebook from Amazon and will be using my Audible credit for the audio book as soon as they list it. 🙂

  6. Ken Hensel

    Thanks Scott! However, I pre-ordered the ebook on Nook months ago. I strictly read ebooks now because it keeps my place automatically and I can change the text size when my eyes get tired. Plus, it kills no trees!

    Cheers, and please keep writing!


  7. BigJohn

    Great article. You should “pin” this somehow so that it’s easily accessible.

    It must be a good feeling to have your most frequently asked question be, “How can I give you more money.” There’s a lot of supportive fans out there who want to help you succeed.

  8. Bryan James

    I’m also coming to the Chicago event, and intended to buy the HC there w/o a pre-order to 1. support the store for having you 2. increase your day of reading sales since at least last time you were in Chicago you got a cut of that days sales I believe.

    Now I’m wondering if I should call and try to pre-order it, the only problem is I’m driving ~8 hours and if the weather turns to crap I won’t be able to make it so then I’m in trouble because my book is sitting there while I’m in Wisconsin.

    1. scottsigler

      @CyberCowboy: Dude, I’m humbled you’d drive eight hours for this appearance. I’m sure the bookstore will have copies for you. If you like, call them at 312-362-8795 and pre-order from them. Boom, dead, done.

      1. Bryan James

        No worries, this is actually my second trip to Chicago to see you (and I missed you in Minneapolis because my wife had to have surgery that day.) Was a blast last time and it’s given me something to look forward to since you announced you were coming back (you had said the last time in Chicago might be your LAST time.)

        1. scottsigler

          @CyberCowboy: As far as eBooks go, just pre-order it and be done with it. No worries. And last trip to Chicago was going to be the last time, but then I went and based PANDEMIC in that city. If you’re going to destroy a place, it’s common courtesy to visit there first.

    1. scottsigler

      @Combat_Cook: Damn, good point. I added an asterisk to the article. Best bet: pre-order from that particular store. The book will be waiting for you, and I’ll be sure to get that sale counted for the cause. But if that’s a pain in the ass, just buy it there an all is well.

    2. A Sigler

      Indeed they will. But since that’s only eight stores on the tour, this advice is for everybody else.

      You can safely assume the stores on the book tour will have plenty of books that they (and we!) would love for you to purchase.