Any problem areas in your bookshop?

Back on Board & Discussing Problem Areas

Well, yes, I’ve been very quiet of late, and I do apologise.  I haven’t even had time to look at The Bookshop Blog for the past month.  We’ve just passed through the busiest time of the year here in town, and now I’m all about replenishing titles at the moment, so it’s back to the hunt for me.  I had some good luck through January, with a couple of good lots come in through the shop, which kept the stock fresh and moving.  I seem to be staying on top of most areas on the whole – there was for a time over November and December I felt I was buying more books than I was selling – but there are sections I struggle to keep up with.

Do other booksellers have these persistent problem areas?

Science Fiction
How do you keep science fiction stocked?  I find that when my science fiction titles sell, they don’t sell one by one, butGun With Music practically by the metre!  And I find it very difficult to source ‘fresh’ sci-fi/fantasy titles.  Does anyone have a practical suggestion for an Australian bookseller?  I heard from another bookseller the other day that she had a competitor in her shop (and there is an unwritten bookseller’s ‘code’ that we sell books to one another at 10% off) trying to purchase her collection of Dr Who novels.  She actually refused the other bookseller, on the grounds that they are hard to find, hard to keep on the shelf, and to sell them for 10% off when she could easily sell them to the summer tourists would seem like a poor business decision!

Science fiction/fantasy readers seem to collect and continue collecting.  They don’t seem to trade their books in, or sell them.  I assume there are plenty of bookshops out there who simply don’t stock sci-fi/fantasy, but I feel that as this is often an adolescent market I’d like to keep the genre, in the hope that I’m encouraging younger folk in.

Another problem area is cooking.  It seems to be very difficult to obtain decent cookbook titles.  These aren’t something people readily give up, and it seems one needs a deceased estate, or a relocation abroad to move these titles, and even then I’d suggest that friends/relatives would get to the goodies first.  Good ones rarely come up in op-shops.  Sometimes there are nice remaindered cookbooks, but even with a remaindered price they can still be fairly expensive.

And of course, Art
Nobody – nobody – seems to give up their art books.  Not their decent ones anyway!  I have many copies of general art history – ie. textbooks – but not too much in the way of good art.  And the minute I do get a decent title – I recently had a Beardsley – it’s gone within a day or two.  I have purposely put at a higher price any decent art books, in the hope that I can build up a good collection, but there just doesn’t seem to be much of it around.

I am curious to hear if other booksellers have these problem areas, and if they’ve found ways around them, or if they have completely different problem areas.

Looking forward to this year – our oldest child is doing ‘big kindy’ this year, which means he’s gone for two days out of five.  My husband has rearranged his working week to work Tues-Thurs, so I can advertise and consistently (apparently the key) have the shop open Friday – Monday 11-4.  We’ll keep our good helper, Emily, on for as many Sundays as she’ll do for us so we can have one family day a week, and with luck this will mean a good year.

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  • Hmmm. I smell a possible swap. I’m an online bookseller only and I can tell you that art books are tough to sell online. Lots of penny books and stuff that just never sells. Same with cookbooks — unless you’re talking older, collectible cookbooks, most of the cookbook market is penny books. If you weren’t on a whole nother continent, I would glady pack you up a box of art books and cookbooks for ultra-cheap.

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  • I feel your pain! I have an open shop in Front Royal, Va (USA) – Page Master Used Books – been in business 14 years now. I have similar problems re-stocking particular areas in the store. Civil War titles are one that I have just about given up on!
    What I have found is that many subjects are regional – for example if want to purchase really good science fiction – I have to attend events & sales north of where I live, for westerns I have to head to Indiana, my Christian fiction search takes me to states in the south. Cookbooks are always a problem for me as well – I try to attend the larger library sales to look for those.

    Are we supposed to complain when we’re selling so many books that we have re-stocking problems?

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  • Hi Jo: Science fiction fans DO sometimes sell their collections, often just to make room for more,or because in fanspeak they have ‘gafiated’ (ie lost interest, temporarily or permanently). The problem from your viewpoint is that they will usually sell to specialist SF dealers rather than general bookshops, either B&M shops, mailorder/online sellers, or to dealers with stalls at conventions – an important part of the SF bookselling scene. General book collections will either be all SF or no SF, you either love it or loathe it.

    • Hi Mike thanks a bunch for stopping by and taking the time to comment, hope we hear from you again!

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  • I end up restocking a lot of my science fiction through library sales, which I understand are not common in Australia. Science and fantasy basically seems to boil down to you have to go to it, not wait for it to come to you. You’ll have to actively seek it out, it won’t just show up in the shop.

    The majority that comes in comes in when people move. They decide the have to downsize the collection to fit in the new space, or the cost of moving it jsut isn’t worth the hassle for things they haven’t read in awhile. Or they discover in moving that they’ve got two copies of the same title.

    To try and get more in, you might want to try partnering with a real estate agent and see if they’re willing to hand people that are moving flyers stating you buy books. You might be able to get them to do so by agreeing to occasionally help them ‘stage’ new homes with books. They’ll often add books as part of the staging process to make a new home look more enticing, and some fancy looking books help a lot, even if they’re not actually valuable. (for example, a partial set of encyclopedias. If doesn’t matter if part of the set is missing when it’s just used for show)

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