All posts tagged Bookselling

Frankly, if you’re not a book collector, you will find this post boring

Published August 4, 2017 by The Merida Review

There is nothing more exciting than a new empty bookshelf. You can just look at it and imagine all the great books you’re going to fill it with. Right?

Well, it’s raining bookshelves around here!

I have both my personal book collection which are mostly downstairs, and the books I sell, those live upstairs in one of the (former) bedrooms. (I hate to think if I ever move!). My personal books have been out of space for a while, I have piles on the floor. The books for sale I have shelved, in alphabetical order by author, cause I have to be able to find them asap if someone has a question or if one sells, and I was nearly out of space so I was on the lookout for cheap shelves. I’ve been buying the old metal shelves people keep in their garages or workshops, cause they go really cheap and – if you get the old ones – they’re really sturdy and can handle books.

I usually wait till I need one before I buy one, one usually turns up when needed, or maybe I’m just not paying attention and miss them when I’m not looking to buy them. Maybe they are always there! Whatever. I was helping my kids sort out stuff for an auction (a relative’s estate auction) and spotted some shelves in the garage and promised them they’d be coming home with me, but only if they could look tired and rusty and sell for cheap. I was only going to buy one, but ended up with 3. I had to rearrange the book room to fit them in and it’s looking quite impressive, or at least I think so. I showed my son and he seemed to think my motley collection of shelves looked rather pathetic, but he wasn’t imagining them with books on them. I’ve been on a buying streak lately, I think I’ve already got enough to fill one. They just need to be typed into the database, which is rather slow going.

Then I was walking dogs and someone had tossed an old wood shelf in the trash. Really. I mean oak. Gees. I hollered over and asked if it was ok if I took it and they said sure, so I hustled home and got the car. You can’t get cheaper than free! And then my son showed up with one of those pressboard Ameriwood shelves that someone had abandoned at the auction (you know, you buy a whole row of stuff to get one thing and just take the one thing and leave the rest for vultures….).

So, five. I have five empty bookshelves scattered around my house right now. Whatever shall I do? Heh, heh.

* * *

The other night I was at a library book sale at a small town library, and the only scanner people there was an older couple, quite old – I think they were new at it, cause they were discreetly carrying a few books at a time over to the corner where the Mr would scan them. I could’ve offered them some ideas as to technique (from observation, not personal experience), but that didn’t occur to me till later. I was really struck by the idea of this older couple getting into the book scanning business. It seemed all wrong. I wondered if they were taken in by one of the “You can make XXX dollars a week!” ads, and invested big bucks into a class and the scanner and the service that does pricing. I wonder what future they have. I mean, if nothing else, carrying books! The scanner people I’ve rubbed up against do huge amounts of traveling to go to various charity sales. They’re aggressive! And this was a polite quiet older couple. When I left, the Mrs was standing by the curb with a couple cloth shopping bags of books while the Mr went to fetch the car. My heart went out to them.

I will probably never see them again. I don’t know exactly how the scanner business works, it’s supposed to be way easier than what I do, and faster returns. I spent some time investigating it when I moved back to the states and decided to get back into bookselling. In the end, I realized that you couldn’t do both, deal in antiquarian and first edition books AND run your little scanner thing. They are two different mindsets. Plus it’s expensive to get started because you need the equipment and the subscription to the pricing program. I couldn’t picture me driving all over Ohio to go to library sales, really. I go to a few. My kind of bookselling takes a lot of knowledge, experience; you gradually get a feel for books. And I’m slowly building up for the future. The more books I get now, the better off I’ll be then. That couple didn’t have the time to wait. They’ll be lucky to have 10 more healthy years (call me cynical). Say five. That’s not much time to learn the ropes. I just don’t know.

But oh well. They’re total strangers. What can I do?

Meanwhile, I’ve been going up and sitting in the bookroom – it looks amazing with stuff rearranged and one new wall of shelves waiting to be filled. It cheers me up. I’m tired of being broke, but eventually I’ll be really glad I stuck it out. This starting a business thing can be a bit tedious sometimes. I have a really long list of things I’m going to buy whenever it is that I start taking more in than I’m spending. When I sit in there, it reminds me that I did it before, I can do it again, I just have to be patient. Books are out there waiting for me. This will work!

Then again, there are probably people looking at me and thinking how old I am and wondering why the heck I am trying to get a new business going and thinking I don’t have enough time left in me to reap the benefits.

Gosh, that’s a rather sobering thought. I guess I should take back everything I said about that older couple and just wish them the best.

You go, guys! I hope you find lots of books!!! I hope you make lots of money! I hope you show all those skeptics what’s what.



Heaps of books around here

Published July 24, 2017 by The Merida Review

I bought a bunch of books a couple weeks ago at two charity rummage sales (two! two charity sales in one weekend!). I don’t usually find much at this kind of sale, but I did that weekend. Children’s books at the one; since I am relearning the business, I am buying things I’m not familiar with, taking chances, so newer children’s books than I would normally buy, paperbacks, even. The other sale had a mass of old fiction, from the late 40s and early 50s – a period I’m not very familiar with, really. I don’t tend to like the writing from the 50s. Too terse, too clinical. Kind of rapid fire. I like older stuff, long lush rambling sentences, lazy deep unfolding characters. But I am in bookseller mode here, the I will buy anything I think I can sell for more than I buy it for mode and lots of people like that period. I think. Someone must.

It wasn’t only fiction, it was fiction in hardcover in pretty decent condition with fairly nice dust jackets. It wasn’t book club – well, some were – and there were lots of first editions.

Honestly it looked like someone else had bought the lot, pulled out the things they thought were worth something (I wonder what those were?) and donated these. Whoever it is, however, didn’t know how to tell first editions. I don’t, off the top of my head, I know a few publishers, but I generally try to carry a little first edition guide with me. I didn’t have it that day, however, so I bought a few and went back the next day with my guide. G P Putnam’s Sons, for instance, a first edition isn’t marked, but later ones are. So if it says nothing, it’s a first. Oops, I just let out a trade secret.

If you look on ABE, you’ll notice a dearth of first editions by authors published by Putnam. Because the new breed of book dealer doesn’t know, doesn’t care to invest in a guide, or because they are so busy scanning books with their scanners? Famous authors are different! But there are authors who have a small following, people who want to collect firsts by them because they believe in them. Someone might make a movie of one of their books. Or they might be republished with a big fanfare and then people will be scrambling for firsts. Or perhaps they just like them.

People like me, who are nickel and diming it, while I’m trying to get the business going, look for areas that fall between the cracks. Not popular enough for the established dealers to know about and nothing that the scanner dealers would take a chance on. You want to get in at the beginning, when it’s a rising trend just beginning to happen. Once other dealers know about it…

However, popular enough that it sells.

I think my fiction is going to be a real SLOW sell. But I got it cheap, so good investment, I think. Those 70 year old books aren’t getting any younger, you know, and the condition is pretty nice.

I am glad I’m almost done working with them, though. It soon became apparent that the former owner smoked. I didn’t notice the first couple of days – is my nose dead? – but after a few, I did, and now all I have to do is picture the books and I smell it.

Something else about the 50s! The incessant smoking!

One of my friends said Wouldn’t it be great if your books (meaning the books I write) would sell enough so you didn’t have to do anything else (to make a living)? and I’ve been thinking about that. I can’t even picture it. Me making enough money from writing books to live on? You’ve gotta be kidding. Right now I’m at the stage where I’m looking forward to the time when my used book business generates enough so I can just do that and write my own books. And not have to do all the crazy side jobs.

I really love bookselling. I love the thrill of the hunt, the high when you find a really good book (and yes, there was one gem in that collection). I don’t usually love putting on the dust jacket covers, but I do with these, because they are so old and so rare and the djs are in such nice shape. Once they get in their covers then they’re preserved, will stay that way. And I love the way they look on the shelves. I love old fiction. I wish they were older, of course, from a period where I really love the writing! But hey, church rummage sale, cheap, starting my life over again, I’ll take what I get.

All I need is for the stuff to start selling. Hey, people, anybody want to read some Peter Bourne? Pamela Hill? Mika Waltari? I’ve got em here! Nice copies, too. Just a little smelly. Which should go away, eventually.