Publishers, as bookseller I would ask you: number your series

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I’ve grown a lot as a reader over the years, and to this day I’m divided between a fear of missing out and this stubbornness of being careful not to read what everyone else is reading.

However, since I started working as a bookseller in 2020 I’ve been trying to keep up to date with new releases, even though the publishing world is so huge and so many new books come out every week that it’s almost impossible to keep up.

Like any bookseller, I occasionally get vague requests for “a blue book on boats,” and although it’s always difficult when the customer doesn’t know exactly what book they’re looking for – and the information they don’t have to know. No bell seems to be ringing – it’s a joy to actually be able to find the book for her. I’m happy to say that I’ve managed to do it a couple of times.

And while I think I’m well versed in books, there are always subjects and genres that I can’t really help with because I don’t consume them and don’t know them that well. One of those personal struggles is with book series.

I’m not the biggest fan of series and have even written about it for Book Riot. For some reason, I prefer books that allow for immediate completion without having to wait or rely on further release.

I’m not against open endings as long as I know the story is complete and therefore I can try to make my peace with it. I’ve read a few series and I’ve enjoyed them enough, but I’ll always choose standalone series if I can avoid it.

In my line of work, however, I obviously come across several series and receive requests for them.

YA Fantasy is perhaps the genre with the highest number of series out there, and that challenges me on two fronts: the fact that, as I said above, I don’t usually pick up series, and the fact that I am not even the biggest fantasy fan. But they are popular and people regularly search for them. The same happens with children’s adventure series like the very popular Diary of A Wimpy Kid or The 13-Storey Treehouse.

My own lack of knowledge in these areas leaves me with a very specific problem: not being able to properly help clients when trying to find the right episode in a series. That’s a damn shame as it’s something that could so easily be helped by publishers adding a damn number to the books.

More than once I’ve had trouble finding complete information on multiple books, even with an online search. Which is frustrating because I really want to help customers and I definitely don’t want anyone to go home with the wrong book.

And yet somehow adding a number to the books doesn’t seem important to many publishers. Sometimes it is not even really clear that the book is actually part of a series, and the official websites of publishers or authors are not always up to date and do not always contain accurate, clear and undeniable information.

This leaves me quite embarrassed, feeling like I’m not doing my job right, and the customer disappointed that they can’t figure out or aren’t 100% sure what book to order next.

Of course, especially with the tools we currently have at our disposal, it’s not often that a client leaves without the information they came for. But if all series were numbered in the spine, it would make my job – and the client’s search – much smoother. I wouldn’t have to awkwardly google to find the right book, and clients with social anxiety or who just prefer to find things themselves wouldn’t have to ask me anything.

So this is a request and a cry for help: please, please! add the book number to your series. It’ll look really good on any bookshelf (check out Heartstopper and see how cute pieces look right next to each other and leave no doubt as to which book comes first and which book comes last), and it’ll be a reader’s life – and that of this bookseller – much easier to improve. Many Thanks.

Did you like this article? Check out this one on the art of book recommendation, this one on the best adult book series in each genre, or why everyone should read a book series out of line.

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