The Big Book Cull

While I am having my new website redesigned I thought now might be time to have a clear out. Get rid of the books that have been sitting there for, well some of them may have been there for a few years – don’t judge me, I just got busy!

This job is going to be big. I have tried to do this before and it all went horribly wrong. I almost felt like I was parting with one of my children! I had paid money for almost all of them, and I kept thinking – every time I put a book in the To Be Donated pile, that someone might buy it. If I just relist it one more time it will go. This occurred with approximately 90% of my To Be Donated pile.

I acknowledge this is another area I am not terribly good at.

When I first started out, and I had sold all of my old books, I would go up to my local shopping centre and trawl through the book departments searching for new stock to on-sell.

The particular shop I would go to has a couple of bargain bins which I now know were remainders but back then they were cheap treasures, and I just couldn’t believe that nobody else had thought of doing this. So I would walk out with trolley loads of books. All very cheap, and almost completely unsellable! I was indescrimanent. I didn’t care that I hadn’t heard of the author. Look, they have 5 copies – it must be a REALLY good book. I’d better buy all of the copies just in case they sell well.

Or I would go into the shop and look at a particular author and think to myself “I had that one at home and it sold so I’ll get it again”, only to find when I got home that I had 3 copies already and it was another title from that author that sold really well (not the 3 copies I had). The title that never, ever appeared in the bargain bins.  I managed to do this quite a few times but seem now to have managed to retrain my brain.

I’ve since learnt the value of Google searches, EBay completed sales, Abe Books and other various book search facilities. They are educating me on what sells well, and what doesn’t (although a quick look in my excel spreadsheet should have told me that J)

I’ve learnt to have a list in my bag (which I’m currently transferring over to my phone) that has my most sold books. I also have access to a list that was compiled by many wonderful sellers (thank you again) of their most sold books/authors. I tend to refer to that on a very regular basis.

But I digress.

I wonder how others make the decisions on when it’s time to start lightening the stock load. How do you make the choices on what stays and what goes?

I guess you know what has been sitting on a shelf for too long so they would be the first ones to go. The recent post by Louis Gereaux, Improving Inventory Turnover In Your Bookshop, gave some excellent advice on stock inventory and what a good bookstore should aim to turnover in a given year.

But then the unexpected (and sad) happens. We’ve just recently had a few very prominent authors pass away and people have started buying their books again. I realise that this is usually only short lived and the ‘rediscovery’ of the author doesn’t tend to last too long, but some of the titles written by these authors may have been on the To Be Donated pile. They may have been sitting on the shelf for a few years – and will now probably sell.

This does not, in any way, help me with my dilemma on what to donate and what to keep.

Perhaps I might just keep them all for a few more years and hope some of these authors (usually the obscure ones of course) rise to some sort of prominence so I can offload them at a great price? Or maybe I should just send my list of unsellables to Oprah and see if she can include one of the authors in her Book Club?

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  • Amanda, I feel your pain. We recently moved house and I did a HUGE cull of books that I knew I would never get around to selling. Gave away at least 60 boxes of books to other sellers. One has a second-hand bookshop and several sell either online or at markets. I hope they sell ‘my’ books and I hope they make good money from them. It was a great feeling, seeing them all go.

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  • Catch and Release has to be an important part of a bookseller’s toolbox, not to mix metaphors. 🙂

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  • Many of our culls are currently going to Operation Paperback to make troops serving overseas happy. http://www.operationpaperback.org/

    I have a donation jar next to the register to cover some of the postage. Lots of folks through their change in. I get their monthly “special requests” e-mail which has much more specific requests and requests for filling libraries on bases.

    Having somewhere specific to send books and specific areas to focus on stripping out titles makes it easier to part with them. They’re going somewhere and doing something, not just going to the dustbin.

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  • The first time I bought a store from a gentleman who was retiring after 35 years in the book biz I learned the value of The Ruthless Cull! I just keep telling myself that its ok to donate them to Goodwill.

    My rule of thumb is to completely turn over the stock every 6 months. There are, of course, exceptions to this rule. But we try hard to stick to it. You’ll find that it makes you much more selective about what you’ll buy – you learn that a pretty cover does not mean a quick sale. Every price sticker in the store has the date on it of when it arrived – thats how I know when its time for it to leave!

    Amazon has a great little tool – a sales rank that will tell you how many copies of any book has sold, how often etc…

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