This week the Must-Have Mom Manual went on shelves at Target stores nationwide. Stephanie and I have known it was going to happen for several months, but until I saw it sitting there on the shelf with my own two eyes, I wasn’t ready to really believe it. You see, Stephanie and I have been working on this since oh, back in 2005. Yep, four years. When our first book, The Mommy Chronicles came out in 2005, we asked our publisher about getting the book into Target. We were naive enough to think they might just pick it up the minute it came off the press. Uh…no. Our publisher informed us that Target is a tough nut to crack. We’d need a track record first.
So we brushed our slightly bruised egos off and decided to go after Babies R Us. Stephanie visited stores all over Atlanta and I hit up the ones in Charlotte. We’d walk in, book in hand and ask for the manager. No one had heard of The Mommy Chronicles and they told us that a large media buying company in Chicago oversaw their national book purchases, however they could occasionally bring in books locally for store events. I called the media buying company and the Babies R Us buyer informed me that in order to get the book on the shelves we had to prove it could sell. The track record thing again. It’s a chicken and egg dilemma – how do you get a track record if you can’t get the book in the store? We came up with a plan. In order to prove the book would sell, Stephanie and I worked with local store managers to hold book-signing and speaking events at various stores in Atlanta and Charlotte. On more than one occasion we stood just inside the store entrance and accosted customers as they walked in the door, giving them bookmarks we’d printed with funny quotes from the book. It was a humbling experience – I mean, when Stephanie and I got the book deal we’d envisioned ourselves jetting off to appear on Oprah, and here we were spending a Saturday in Babies R Us selling copies of The Mommy Chronicles out of a cardboard box and getting sore feet from standing all day. But it worked. We sold enough copies to convince the big buyer in Chicago to stock The Mommy Chronicles in Babies R stores all over the US. We asked our publisher to approach Target again. Surely if Babies R Us was stocking The Mommy Chronicles, Target should be interested. After all, the only place pregnant women spend more time than Babies R Us is Target.
We heard nothing for a while but then got an email from our publisher that Target had ordered The Mommy Chronicles – and a bunch of them. Stephanie and I were ecstatic. We told everyone we knew about Target, Target, Target and to go look for the book in stores on x date. Of course, I was there the morning of with butterflies in my stomach searching the shelves for The Mommy Chronicles. No book. Hmmm. I asked a clerk, who punched the name into the hand-wand thingy. No record of The Mommy Chronicles in any store. I got a sick feeling in my gut. Later that day we found out that there was an order processing issue and the wrong ISBN number had been keyed in. Our book had not been ordered after all. I spent the next month explaining to everyone that no, the book was not in Target stores after all.
Fast forward to early 2009. The Must-Have Mom Manual is about to be published in May. Stephanie and I get word from our publisher, Ballantine, that Target is interested in carrying the book, but that we need to move up the on-sale date to April. Stephanie and I fall all over ourselves saying, Yes! Yes! Move up the date, give them whatever they want! So the book releases a month earlier than planned on April 7th and once again I’m standing in the book aisle of Target and no Must-Have Mom Manual. Stephanie checks her Target. It’s not there either. We contact Ballantine. Target had backed out a few weeks earlier and somehow word had not gotten to us. Publishers don’t like to give authors bad news. Once again I spent the next month telling everyone, “No, it’s actually not in Target after all.”
Then in July our editor emailed us to say that the sales rep at Ballantine kept after Target and that she had confirmation that The Must-Have Mom Manual was on the October 11th plannogram (that’s the store’s quarterly layout of merchandise). Books had actually been ordered and a second print run was scheduled just for Target.
Still, I was afraid to get my hopes up. But this time when I walked to the books section of Target, there it was, sitting pretty on the shelf with the likes of Jenny McCarthy and What to Expect When You’re Expecting. It’s really there. I saw it with my own eyes. Guess the third time was the charm.
As you can tell from this long, drawn out process (and story) Target is a tough nut to crack. (And you can probably see why I title my blog “Roller Coaster Ride.”) But it’s so worth the effort because books get more prominence just by being in Target since the stores carry only a handful of parenting books. And all books are displayed face out on the shelf, something that rarely happens in a Barnes & Noble, unless your last name is Grisham or Conroy. So in a sense, getting your book into Target is getting it out to the world – especially the mommy world. Finally, The Must-Have Mom is really out there in the big world. I hope the world likes it.
Sara Ellington is the author of The Mommy Chronicles: Conversations Sharing the Comedy and Drama of Pregnancy and New Motherhood (Hay House, 2005) and The Must-Have Mom Manual (Ballantine/Random House, April 2009) now available at Target!