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Take a close look at the labels on each of these three shelves at the Corpus Christi Barnes and Noble:

  • Sexuality, LGBT, Family & Friends, Death/Grieving
  • Death and Grieving, Self Score Tests
  • Success

Death and Grieving is sandwiched between Sex and Success. Does anyone think that a widow is going to get down on the floor to look for a book on death and grieving? How would she ever find the shelf? It’s not even alphabetized by subject. Terrible marketing. What is Barnes and Noble thinking?

A young man was perusing the shelves when I stopped by to check out Death and Grieving. (I knew the shelf existed somewhere in the upper right-hand corner of the store, so I was searching for it.) He turned his back to me while he scaned the pages in the book he had picked up. I tried to get closer to Death and Grieving without getting on my hands and knees. I certainly did not want him—or anyone else—to think I was stooping to check out Sex. I am not sure which of us was more ill at ease.

One essential part of a book proposal is an analysis of your book’s competition. Agents and editors want to know where the book will go on the shelves at Barnes and Noble. When I researched Books in Print and the Amazon best-seller lists, I confirmed my suspicions—there are few books out there for widows (all 11 million of us) and even fewer recently published ones that have sold well.

No wonder books on grief aren’t selling. No one can find them between Sex and Success.

And just possibly Barnes and Noble sales would improve (WSJ reported here on the bookseller’s declining sales last week) if they arranged and displayed books in some sort of logical fashion for real people.