Don’t Wait for Demand—Create It!
We all know that demand drives prices in out-of-print books and drives sales of new books, too, but how many of us realize that we can work to create demand? Let me take my example from my own bookstore.
Dog Ears Books in Northport, Michigan, has a small but concentrated selection of books on agriculture, both new and used. Farming might seem a strange specialty for a bookstore that survives year to year on the seasonal influx vacationers, but while it’s true that many more people walk into the store looking for summer beach reading, farming is near and dear to my heart, and I want to have a part in promoting sustainable agricultural practices. If this seems far-out and irrelevant to your store, think of your own favorite category, which might be easier to boost than mine. The question is still, how to do it?
Build a collection. There might seem no point wasting energy to create demand for a category if you only have three or four books, because when those books are gone, they’re gone, but if you are passionate about that subject, start looking for more. Get the word out about what you want. When people call asking, “Do you buy books?” have a quick, short spiel ready. My priority list starts with out-of-print Michigan history, followed by Civil War and World War II, and then nature field guides and agriculture.
Love your special books. Of course, you love all your books, but books in your specialty niche need to be showcased with particular attention. Cover them with archival protective materials, and give them a place of honor. Even customers without an interest in these books will notice this unique area of the shop and appreciate your attention to detail, and your overall reputation will be enhanced.
Publicize your specialty niche. When interviewed for radio or print, I naturally emphasize my Michigan titles, but I also get in a plug for my old farming books. You never know who among readers or listeners will be surprised and delighted by your unsuspected interest. (Encouraging word to new booksellers: journalists will contact you more frequently the longer you last in the book business. It takes a while.) And don’t forget connections to nonbook special interest groups whose members share your passion.
Cultivate your clientele. Some of the best sources for books and tips on your specialty are the customers for that specialty. You already share common interests, so it isn’t hard to develop relationships. Make it easy for these customers to remember you and keep in touch.
Creating demand for agriculture books means more to me than prices and revenue: I’m working to create increased demand for the kind of future I want to see. What do you love? Collect according to your passion, nurture and cultivate specialty clientele, and love your books and customers.
Dog Ears Books
106 Waukazoo Street
P.O. Box 272
Northport, MI 49670