In a previous post I mentioned a Booksellers’ Boot Camp I’d read about where sellers of antiquarian and secondhand books learnt so much about the antiquarian and secondhand book trade.  Some of the topics they learn about are:

How to Handle Books
Mail order/online bookselling, including ethics and traditions
Acquiring stock
Wrapping and Shipping
Technology for Booksellers
Database Creation and Management
Cataloging
Pricing

from bookthink.com

I read this article with great interest and a lot of envy, I couldn’t help thinking how different the industry in Australia would be if we had a conference of this nature so I did some research online and I found the Australian Booksellers Association have some training and it looks really useful information.  They teach things such as Loss Prevention, Helping Your Team to Help You, How to Set Standards For Your Team and Making Money From Kids (no, not stealing from children but learning about children’s literature), as well as having a whole host of networking opportunities, a Trade Exhibition and so much more.  I did some more research and found nothing for antiquarian and secondhand booksellers and certainly nothing for online booksellers.  All of the information I know about pre-loved books I’ve learnt on-the-job.
When I find a new website the first thing I do after I’ve signed up and had a good look around is to check out the forum and see what people are saying, a busy forum can be a good sign of a good website, or it can be a bad sign if everything is negative.  I generally head straight to any part of the forum that has a vague mention of books, I’m sure there’s a reason but it escapes me just now.  Anyway, this particular website was eBay, a website that needs no advertising from me so I hope our editor won’t link to them.  This is where I got my start with selling books.  I’d sold my old electronic diary through there and got a much higher price than I’d expected so I was wasting a bit of time trawling listings when I found some magazines for sale and I just happened to have them on my shelf.  I looked at them and thought about the money and the magazines and the money and the magazines, eventually the money won and I listed them.  I spent my time selling magazines and reading the forums, eventually finding something I wanted to say.
The books board (as we call it, although it’s supposed to be for books, music and sport, is almost entirely composed of book people) was full of very knowledgable and friendly people who were perfectly happy to share their knowledge and advise about prices and listing tips.  They accepted me as one of their own despite my lack of knowledge and experience and they taught me so much, they also accepted me when the Melbourne people decided to meet up for the lunch for the first time.  It was a lovely afternoon and we spent the entire time talking about eBay and books, we still meet occasionally and most of the conversation is about books and selling online as most of us now have our own websites.

One of the problems with being on a forum such as the eBay one is that the moderation is fairly strict and there are certain areas we’re not able to talk about.  We’re also not able to talk about the price we’ve paid for our books as it’s not good form for the customers to know this kind of information, they tend to get upset if they find out we’ve paid 50c for a book when they’ve just paid us $200 for it, it tends to leave a bitter taste in their mouths.  We’ve had a couple of false starts and thanks to one of our number we now have a forum we can call home where we can talk to our hearts content about the topics that matter, such as pricing, what we’ve paid, websites and all sorts of other things.
I just wonder, though, if it would be a good idea to have a Secondhand Booksellers Bootcamp in Australia.  There are so many things still to learn and while some of them are similar to the things taught by the Australian Booksellers Association, there are tricks of the trade that are not used by those selling new books.  I can’t help wondering how this would change the industry, I’m not going to speculate, but I do ask for comments here.  Do you want a Secondhand Booksellers Bootcamp in Australia?  What would you want to learn at one?  How much would you expect to pay?  There are actually more questions than I have answers for as some of the questions would include whether we also need a roof body similar to the Australian Booksellers Association or whether they’d be able to take on the task of such a bootcamp, or indeed, how do they view online sellers of secondhand books?

[editor’s note:  Our friends at Bookthink.com have an excellent article describing the Bookseller’s Seminar in Colorado]


Suzie Eisfelder
Suz’s Space
Your online home for pre-loved books and part-work magazines
Website:  www.suzs-space.com
Blog:  suzsspace.wordpress.com
Twitter:  twitter.com/SuzsSpace

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Suzie Eisfelder

Suzie Eisfelder

3 Comments

  1. I think a Bootcamp (or something of a similar but less american name) is a GREAT idea. There are many subjects that could be listed and the combined intelligence and experience of the Booksellers would be tremendously helpful to others. I have tried to get some networking going in my area with very little success. My experience has shown me that 2nd hand booksellers are often poor!!!, rather introverted and protective of their own patch. I have always thought that networking and sharing was a great idea and would probably be beneficial to all however I havent found a way to do it yet. A conference perhaps-(bootcamp sounds like participants are beginners that need bullying into shape)- where subjects such as some you have listed above would be great. It needs to be low key and probably inexpensive in order to attract participants. Where are you located Susie?

    • Sorry for not checking back to find these comments. There hasn’t been a lot of interest in this as yet, but I’m prepared to think about it some more and offer more questions on this blog for future consideration.

      I’m in Melbourne so anything organised by me would have to be here and I’m aware it would have to be done on a shoestring as most of us don’t have a lot of money to spare on things like this.

  2. I’d be keen, certainly, but I think Maggie mentions some very good points. Low key and inexpensive… Perhaps separate online sellers and B&M sellers… Somewhere central…

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