Oh! I admit there are certain types of books that come into the store that truly excite me. And I openly admit they are hard for me to put on the shelf but I do. I know! How mature. Here is one that just came in. Isn’t it awesome? It fits perfectly in the hand. Has enough wear that puts it over the edge of greatness. The title is “Field Book of Wild Birds and Their Music: A Description of the Character and Music of Birds, Intended to Assist in the Identification of Species Common in the United States East of the Rocky Mountains,” written by F. Schuyler Mathews. It is a revised edition (1921) printed by G. P. Putnam’s Sons. Why aren’t more books like this published now?
Last month I hosted a small group of VABA members who also have a storefront with regular hours. As opposed to just selling inventory online from home. We all have books we sell online but we are dedicated to maintaining our stores.
Interesting sharing our stories: how we got into the business, what brought us to our current store location, pitfalls of having a storefront as well as the joys and of course, dealing with customers. The good, the bad and the funny. I didn’t take many notes like I wanted to because I was so caught up listening. I did take down a title of a book one used bookstore owner wants to write: “How to Make a Small Fortune in the Book Business.” We laughed out loud. Yea…um…it’s a joke. We are only wealthy in and through our inventory. We only make money when the books sell. So…making a small fortune…it can be done but the books that could make us a fortune don’t sell very often. All around our biggest expense is our rent. And rent is what can break owners to close their storefront. We are pretty dedicated to hold out.
The really good thing for me was that I discovered I am running my store on par with those who have had a storefront for many, many years. I was able to walk away from the meeting with the confirmation that I’m doing okay with pricing and quality of books. I’m feeling the quality is increasing.
It was a great meeting and I was honored to host the first of what I hope to be many more. I should have taken a photo of the group but like I mentioned earlier I really got caught up in our conversations, wanting to be a great hostess, and also was a tad nervous because I look up to them all and I want to be accepted as a used bookstore lady.
Here are some additonal bulleted notes that I did manage to jot down:
- Occasionally run a zip code survey. If anything, great to see where customers come from – visitors to the area. (shades of my old profession)
- Get off my Amazon boycott and start listing my online inventory through the website. Unfortunately that’s where most people go when looking for a book. Most online sales are generated there. (rats!)
- Radio! A great story was told by one bookstore owner of running an ad for some time and then removing it because no one ever mentioned it. Then several years after it had been dropped, people started coming into the store singing the ad jingle. Needless to say, he started the radio ad up again. So now I’ve got to come up with a cool jingle.
- Store owners can have a passion for collecting books but keep it out of the store. In other words, don’t bring anything into the store you won’t sell. Once it comes into the store it has to be for sale. I have a good story on that: I wanted to buy a book in a used bookstore but the owner really didn’t want to sell it. He started quizzing me to see if I was worthy to purchase it. Yea, I walked out and went online to make the purchase. It was before I bought this store. Customers don’t like to be tested.
- Other misc notes: jacket protectors, free box near the door, better signage, develop a VT brick & mortar used bookstore (car) trail.
Excited to set-up a display in the National Bank of Middlebury’s window this morning. Right on Main Street. Grabbed furniture from home, books from the store and misc other stuff from both places. There was so much I wanted to include but really, really, really disciplined myself to edit it all down. Wanted it to be clean – uncluttered – so it would have more of an eye appeal.
Of course I created a character who lived in the space. Pretty interesting when I picked out a couple of books and realized I actually based it on a real person – not just someone within my head – my mother-in-law. So I sent Rusty into fiction and told him to pick out books she would have read and he came up with the selection found on one of the shelves. I think she’d be proud that we thought of her in such a way.
I also included a couple of my favorite books within the display. Taking a gamble that no one will inquire about them. I know I couldn’t sell them. Yea, I know, very selfish! But hey, that’s one of the perks of owning a used bookstore! 😉
I am so excited about 2012 with all the changes that have happened here in the store. For one, the new location. I am very happy here in Middlebury’s Marble Work area. Just a few steps from Main Street. Not that far from the previous location.
Just for the record, only one person has complained about the store’s new location. I just chalk it up to her being a cranky old lady. 🙂
I’m still settling in. I thought I would have been done by now but I’m not. Seems every other day a friend comes by to bring in new inventory so I’ve been dealing with those boxes. I have gone to the storage units. I’ve opened the doors and well, looked in and then closed the door. I don’t know why. Some day I’ll tackle them. Hopefully soon. Got some great books in those boxes.
Took a couple of days and went book scouting. That is so much fun! And no sooner than those books got unpacked and shelved they were sold. Makes me feel good. I’m knowing my customers.
Stop by. Poke around. And remember you can find some of my books online by visiting Abebooks.com or Biblio.com. And while you are at it check out the VABA (Vermont Antiquarian Booksellers Association) website: http://www.VermontIsBookCountry.com.
Life as a used bookstore owner. What is it like? Well, isn’t it just about everyone’s dream to own a used bookstore? It’s everything you think it would be and then some. Hard work as well as enjoyable. Heavy boxes to cart around. Cleaning books before they hit the shelves. Sorting into categories. Pricing. Shelving or storing until there is an opening on the shelf. Sometimes moving shelves around to accommodate the books. Tending to customers. Seeing what is needed.
I really enjoy the older books – their covers, pages. I shop in the non-fiction sections whenever I go into a used bookstore. Just to see what would jump out at me. It was always a surprise but always what I needed. Well, you know, didn’t really need but had to have.
Purchasing this store I wanted to create a space that I would want to shop in. So this store is really a reflection of me. I know some stores sell merchandise that they know would sell but not so much represented who they were as a person. I don’t think I would enjoy that. Probably make money but not happy money.
So I’m plugging along enjoying the space I am in. Enjoying all the books around me. In boxes, on shelves, in piles awaiting my attention.
And thinking of ways to re-purposing pieces – letting my imagination go. Fun. And creative.