Roll up your sleeves and get to work bookshop owners

Having recently returned from our annual Christmas camping trip, I decided the time has come to make my plans for this year.

To start treating this hobby as a profitable business.

To stop procrastinating and start doing.

I have a website that needs some major attention. I have neglected it for a few months now and need to refocus my energies on getting the books listed so the customers will buy them. When it was first launched I was full of enthusiasm and would stay up til all hours of the night writing and rewriting my listings. Reading everything I could about writing good SEO. Understanding Meta Words.

I actually felt like I was cramming for an exam, so it really comes as no surprise that my interest went into major decline after a few months.

I also need to give my eBay store an overhaul, and see if the numbers are working for or against me. I had made a decision around the middle of last year (around the time the new fee structures came in, along with Best Match becoming the default search) that I was going to close my store there and just run a weekly auction. But then eBay came along and offered us sellers free listings for a month, an “offer I couldn’t refuse”. So all of my energy went in to listing madly for the 2 days the offer was available for, which brought me to Christmas and then 2 weeks holiday, so I am now thinking I might hold on to my store for a while longer, at least until I get my “website groove” back.

While away on holidays, I discovered a small side effect to my new found bookselling business.

I now cannot walk into a second-hand book shop in a small coastal town and be out in 5 minutes with an old classic under my arm.

I, apparently, don’t shop as a book buyer anymore. I am there firstly as a seller, secondly as a competitor and lastly as a buyer – in fact, sometimes I don’t even buy a book.

I actually feel a little like a spy when I walk into a bookshop. I can feel the owner’s eyes on me, because obviously they must know that I am a fellow bookseller and I’m checking out their displays, prices, stock levels (if I can somehow manage to get my eyeballs around that corner where they keep all of their storage).

They must be able to tell that I am tut-tutting under my breath at the price they have put on that raggedy, tattered copy of The Interview With The Vampire. Surely they can’t  possibly expect people to pay that amount? Oh, look. Somebody has just bought it. I have a copy of that at home. I wonder if I can do that too? Would people buy it at that price?

I can never go into a bookstore again as just a customer.

And enthusiasm for my book business has come back with a vengeance so look out Book World!

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  • Welcome to the New Year/Decade! One of the best things about moving into a New Year is how it serves to reinvigorate us and our attitudes toward the things central in our lives.

    The “cramming” you did during your startup has served you and us other booksellers well. You and your contributors have built a website relevant to anyone in the book business who is interested in improving themselves and their book stores.

    It was a gradual process but as we continued to computerize various facets of our daily operating procedures during the last eight years I came to realize what I had thought was a very simple business is mindboggling in its complexity.

    It has been many years since I took the time to check other stores’ prices and inventories. There never was a point I felt we were competing with other used books stores – maybe it was because my early reading pointed out that the only factors preventing the book business being phenomenal had to do with people frivolously wasting their money on accumulating “more” – more furnishings, more houses, more cars, more gadgets, etc. – wasting their time on spectator sports and draining their energies internalizing sensationalized media reports on things they can/will do little to positively effect. Only rarely, while on vacation, do I enter a bookstore as a buyer of inventory for my stores. We will never have enough Napoleon Hill, Lobsang Rampa, Tesla, books on philosophy and architecture, books on snakes, turtles, logging, etc. When I enter another bookstore I want to talk with the other bookseller (usually they are not around) about the book business as they see and understand it. I also want to experience how the store “feels” and what they are doing right that could be incorporated into our stores.

    If we all buckle down, do what we have to get done every day and turn off the news? media that is perfecting its design to distract us from our own lives this will be everyone’s best year ever.

    Our greatest ally is a bookseller who is doing his job well.

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  • Excellent posting Bruce and an inspiration for all of us ‘hobbyist’ booksellers.

    I too have found my time diverted by so many things that distract and most often are unprofitable. Not unprofitable in just money but in chewing up time (the computer card game ‘Spider’ comes to mind.) and as the adage, “Time is money” does make a connection these diversions have had a big effect on my book sales.

    Thanks for the kick in the rear.

    P.S. Right time of year for this “Roll up the sleeves” title. In the spring and summer I wear short sleeves.

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    • Paul – this was actually written by Amanda Dixon. I forgot to change that while publishing the piece. It has been corrected. Many thanks to Amanda for joining our group and sharing her stories.

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      • Well Bruce I have to wonder if Amanda wears army boots.

        Thanks Amanda! I still feel like I’ve been kicked in the rear. I have been looking critically at the systems I currently use with an eye to make better use of my time thereby listing more books. One thing I’ve found is my bookshelves by my computer need rearranging. HEY! Here is a 1937 book on ‘Motion and Time Studies’! Maybe that will help (…wanders off reading the preface….)

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  • Forgot to mention – George – Good comment. I love your website!

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  • This article was precisely what my shop needed!

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  • LOL it has been years since I went into a bookstore or anywhere that sells books as a reader.
    There doesn’t seem to be a switch to turn the inner bookseller off.

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  • Isn’t there a bit of remorse at not being able to play the customer role anymore? I always wondered what happens to people who “do what they love” when a part of that love involved going someplace else, or filling a certain role. Do you really “lose” it?

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  • first, gotta love this website. the arthemia theme really fits well on your site.

    I have the same experience as you. as a seller, the competitor in you comes out. and it really feels guilty when I visit a brick and mortar store just to check out the prices. I know that they are not aware that I sell the same items but the guilt is still there. 😀

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