This is the cover of Janet Evanovitch's One for the Money:
I show you this to give you a mental image to carry with you for the story I'm about to relate. It's also important to know that this book is the first in a series, the titles of each book containing their series number. (i.e. Two for the Dough, Hot Six, Fearless Fifteen, you get the idea. They're very easy to put in order.)
And now – the story -
A woman comes up to me at the main counter in the store. She appears to be well into her forties.
Customer: I need a copy of One for the Money?
BookWench: Sure. Follow me, it's over here in the Mystery section.
Customer: Thanks. I'm new to this whole reading thing, so I'm not really sure how it works. Someone told me these Plum novels are really good.
(This is when the feeling of dread sets in. Anyone over the age of 20 who has never set foot in a bookstore and willingly volunteers, with pride, that they don't see the point in reading tends to lead to stories that make me cry. And, while I am happy that she's giving the reading thing a try, the lack of basic common sense that I know is coming is what truly terrifies me.)
I hand her One for the Money. Again – if you refer back to the picture, you'll see why this gets scary.
Customer: So how can you tell that this is the first one?
BookWench: All the titles have the series number in them. So One for the Money is book one in the series.
Customer: So where does it say one?
BookWench: Right here. In orange letters.
Customer (staring at the shelf full of numbered books): So which one is next?
BookWench: Two for the Dough. They all have numbers in the title to tell you the order. Like the fourth book is Four to Score. The seventh book is Seven Up.
Customer: So, can you print me out a list of the order they go in?
This is a common question for series that have odd titles and no numbering on the spines of the books. I usually refer people to the list of the author's previous works in the newer books to get a series order. I totally understand if you need the order for the 20+ Xanth novels, or the 17 Anita Blake novels. This was the first and only time that I ran into a customer that needed a listing for the Stephanie Plum novels. I showed this customer the list in the front of the latest book, pointed out (again) that all the titles had numbers in them, and then showed her that we kept them shelved in series order. (You try to make things idiot-proof and they build a better idiot.) Then I excused myself for some quality whimpering time.
Addendum to this story – James Patterson's Women's Murder Club Series is similar in its naming style. (1st to Die, 2nd Chance, 10th Anniversary, etc.) Today a woman came up to the counter to check the copy of one of the books she had just sold to us to see which one was the 6th. She had to check 3 times, and then write it down. She had previously spent 10 minutes staring at the James Patterson books in the mystery section unable to figure out which one came after The 5th Horseman. Seriously – whimper...then much drinking.
BookWench is currently reading Foundling by D.M. Cornish