Between Friends, the Joy of a Bookselling Mentor

Here is a terrific post from a new contributor to The Bookshop Blog – Roberta Nevares

If you have some time take a look at her blog The Poet In You

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From The Book of Hours

I am a relative newbie in the world of book selling, my dear friend Nora who encouraged me to travel down this path is not. In fact, book selling is nearly all she has ever known save for a very short stint as a barista with a well-known coffee chain. This brief foray of hers was put to an end with an intervention by loved ones. Nora finally relented to their fervent entreaties to, “be done with this torturous career path”, an occupation that had resulted in a traumatic and recurring nightmare in which she found herself seated opposite the half-rabid coffee swilling author Balzac wagering on the ever popular card game, Piquet. In this dream Balzac could not be restrained from leaping up and shouting, “Carte Blanche!”. Nora would then be obliged to prepare yet another demitasse full of brew by manipulating a very complicated piece of 19th century machinery, glass tubes and metal parts would sputter forth a few pungent and very black drops of a full bodied dark roast for the never sated author. Ah, the stuff nightmares are made of. Intervention behind her, she shrugged off her apron and stepped back into the world of book selling.

This dear woman was my first and primary teacher, a mentor if you would have it so. We’ve lived in different cities now for more than a decade. My “tutelage” has been by phone and email. In the beginning, the only experience I had was as a customer and fan of used bookstores, their decline was a subject we spoke about often. I loved finding an out of print or hard to fine title, even one with a dedication in a flowery script would have me buzzing. As a bookseller, I had no experience. I had a barrage of questions, all of the most obvious ones: what to buy, where to buy it, how to sell it. Five years later the book related calls are fewer and the need for consolation much less. When I feel that I’ve let something get away from me I remember the signed Kerouac that she let go for a song. Now we commiserate more than anything but she is still my go to girl in times of crisis.

There are so many sources of information, the key is to be open to them and to value them especially when they come from the first hand experience of your book selling peers. I know that most booksellers don’t like to give away their hard earned lessons because those lessons, they’ve come at a price.

Book selling blogs have also been a great source of information. Sometimes I will find answers to questions that I didn’t even realize needed answering. One of the blog posts that I am most grateful for having found was right here on this site. It’s Tom Nealon’s post titled, Don’t Get Hung Up On Your Buying Mistakes – Sell And Move On. I swear, I think he wrote it just for me. After reading the article I finally started purging boxes of books. It has made a huge difference, both psychologically (I no longer have those foul books taunting me) and physically, it’s opened up a lot of shelf-space. Also, The Home-Based Bookstore: Start Your Own Business Selling Used Books
has recently made a comeback and has some pertinent posts for booksellers.
Book selling blogs have an appeal that the forums on ABE and Alibris do not. I am looking for and value constructive first hand experience, not doom and gloom.

My sources of motivation aren’t always other booksellers and they are not always online. I sometimes think of a veterinarian I once worked for who ranted when he found a box of product that was not on the shelf. “These aren’t going to sell sitting in this box in the office,” he railed. And he was right. When I see a box of books that I have yet to post I think of him in all of his annoyance. When I really need motivation I think of a Coach Bob Hurley at St. Anthony’s High School in Jersey City, NJ. He challenges his basketball players to give it their all and be their best. When my husband and I first watched this on CBS  I laughed and said, “Can you imagine if I had that guy here coaching me on book selling? WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING WATCHING TV????? POST THOSE BOOKS. POST ‘EM!!!!!”

In my very short history as a bookseller I have found that advice, inspiration and motivation can come from almost anywhere. If I have any advice to give it is to love what you do, do it well, and get those books out of the box and on your shelves!

Roberta Nevares
Bertski Books

The Poet In You

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Discussion

  1. prying1

    Wonderful posting Roberta. Once again through The Bookshop Blog I feel as though I’ve made a a new friend. (Is that Kumbaya I hear in the background?)

    One statement you made however I disagree with. “I know that most booksellers don’t like to give away their hard earned lessons because those lessons, they’ve come at a price.” I’ve found the opposite to be true. I’ve sent a scan of a signature to another seller to verify if it matches a signed book they have, requested edition information & even questioned another seller about a buyer seeking a rare volume we both had listed (yes he knew the buyer and the buyer was legit). I’ve found booksellers to be friendly, helpful & free with their knowledge. I’m sure there is a cranky one out there but I have yet to meet him.

    I really want to thank you for posting the video of Hurley on your blog. – http://daisychain.typepad.com/the_poet_in_you/2009/04/motivate-me.html – Quite inspiring. It would be great to have him as a life coach but since we don’t I guess we will have to lean on each other for support, for a push and for inspiration. I appreciate this, your first posting and hope you will write some more for us.

  2. Dave

    Motivation and listing books. I buy my books in bulk and may have 30 boxes of books to go through and list online. After a few hours I fade and look for motivation. Sometimes it is simple like “my house is a mess with all these boxes” and others I may need to actually pause and remember how much I love books and love having the chance to sell them and be around them

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