The next big thing… or the end of civilization?

Rare book dealers have a certain image in pop culture.  They are generally a bit eccentric, standoffish, erudite, and curmudgeonly.  Librarians have a somewhat similar image, but generally are more aimed at facilitating the wide dissemination of knowledge.  The book dealer is much more personal.  They may only share their best material with a special … Read more

Literary trash to enduring classic

It’s hard to predict what books will be considered “classics” decades after their publication.  Books hailed as literary masterpieces by critics often clutter up thrift shops and rummage sales a mere decade later. Things derided as utter trash end up being required reading decades later since they made such an outsize impact on the pop culture of the time that they can’t be ignored. Series that exploded and produced movies, TV, and tie in products often end up as these accidental “classics”.  They’re so big they can’t be ignored.

It’s a bit harder to predict the arc of individual books than series, just because they have fewer chances to take off. A single book is like a bullet, a series is like a shotgun blast.  The series has better odds of hitting, just because it has more chances to take off.  The same holds true for prolific short story writers or poets.  ONE of these might take off and lead people to the rest.

Of course everyone prefers tales of struggling writers that later were hailed genre defining.  We love Edgar Allan Poe and H.P. Lovecraft. They fit our romantic ideal of the tortured artist who is not recognized until after its too late. We like our authors lives as dramatic as their tales.

We don’t love successful, prolific authors until such point as we can forget forget about their more obviously commercial nature.  Many people look back at the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boy series as classic children’s series they want to share with their children… and ignore they were written by a commercial syndicate employing ghost writers to turn out books following a very specific commercial formula.  The same people that hail the early syndicate books from those series often heap scorn upon the modern continuations of those same series… even thought they’re still doing very much the same thing they were doing 50 years ago.

Charles Dickens published many of his books as serials in newspapers and magazines before collecting them as books.  Many of them he didn’t fully complete the story before begin the serial, so changed around characters and plots in response to feedback from readers.  If he was writing today, he likely would be writing episodes for a blog or for download to an ereader as a subscription… and poo-pooed as a hack that can’t get a “real” book published.

Read more


Nothing sends customers into a tizzy faster than a missing package.  Once it leaves your hands, there’s only so much you can do to find one of these waylaid packages.  Tracking SHOULD tell you where it is, but if it wasn’t scanned in at a step, it can appear to vanish in transit.  Or sometimes it even shows as delivered, but your customer still doesn’t have it.  International shipments can be particularly difficult because tracking doesn’t really work very well once it crosses the border… if at all.  At that point, the customer can often the package a lot faster than you can playing phone tag.  They just need a little reassurance that it’s not gone, its just temporarily mislaid, and here’s how to get it.

Here’s some common ways to resolve common “where’s my package!?!” woes.

Read more

International Shipping: How Long Does It Really Take?

The shipping estimate on the USPS website is lovely, but its not actually guaranteed for most shipping classes.  For First Class mail, estimating when it will ACTUALLY arrive vs when the the USPS says it will can be frustrating.  Having shipped hundreds of packages overseas, here’s how I estimate when the overseas customer should be looking for it. This doesn’t guarantee this is when it will turn up… but it gives a narrower range than the 4-20 the USPS lists.

This is the estimate for First Class.  Priority is usually a little faster, but not guaranteed. Start with one day.    You’ll  add days for where it originates from and where its going TO.  If you don’t immediately recognize the destination, look it up on the internet.  Keep in mind this is BUSINESS DAYS.  Make this clear to the customer as well.  Holidays don’t count as “days” for the estimate!

Read more

Using SKUs to streamline packing and shipping

If you use any type of inventory software, it probably asks you for a SKU or stock-keeping unit for each item.  SKUs are different than the UPC or the ISBN as they are assigned not simply to a specific title but to a specific ITEM.  You can easily have two books with the same IBN… but two different SKUs because one is new and one is used.

Many programs will just generate a general code for it.  However, it may be worth doing custom codes to streamline order pulling and packing.   You can pack a lot of info into those short little codes so as soon as an order comes in from the internet, you know exactly what to do before even touching the book.

First off you need an individual number string to assign to a book. Consider how many books you list per month. If its less than 100, you can use two digits. Less than a thousand, 3 digits, less than 10,000 4 digits and so on.

Read more

4 questions to ask when ordering textbooks for customers

If there’s one type of book I will hold a party for when it goes totally to ebook format, it will be the textbook.  They change so frequently and are so specific they’re pretty well not worth carrying in a general shop.  Leave textbooks sales to those that specialize in it.  However, if you have a brick and mortar shop you’ll often have students in at this time of year looking for books.  Generally if they’ve come to you, its because they’re hoping you can get it cheaper than the local college… or the local college didn’t order enough textbooks for the class, which is a surprisingly common occurence.


In either case, they want the absolute BEST deal you can get them, which can be tricky when so many kids are familiar with the internet already.  You CAN often find them a great deal…  but you can waste a lot of time doing that if you don’t ask some specific questions up front. Get some additional info from them at the time they’re asking for the quote.  Here’s the questions you need to ask students looking to have you special order a textbook:

1. What is the ISBN?

For the love of god, get the ISBN.  Textbooks have so many editions and books with similar titles by the  same author that its really the only way to be sure its the RIGHT book. Don’t even start the search process without it.  Tell them to find it out and call back if they don’t have it.

Read more

Do it yourself bookshelves

There’s tons and tons of commercially available book displays out there, but that doesn’t always mean you can find QUITE what you wanted. Or at the price you wanted.  Instructables is a website full of do it yourself projects, illustrated with photos.  Some of them are brilliant, easy  projects… some you look at them and are pretty sure this person is way handier than you and if you tried it you’d be looking at a trip to the emergency room.  Bookshelves are a favorite project and there’s some fascinating takes on them.    Click the link to see the instructions on how to make them!

Bridge of books












Read more