How do you present yourself?

Another post from William Smith at Hang Fire Books

William has a terrific blog himself, definitely one worth bookmarking!


When I attend sales by private owners, I’m often faced with the question of how to present myself and explain what I do. If the seller contacts you through your shop or a directory listing, a simple business card will suffice. But when you show up at an estate/garage/stoop sale and start amassing a huge pile of books, some potentially awkward questions will come up–usually politely phrased versions of “Who in their right mind would want ALL of those books?”.

I’ve found that the most unvarnished answer, “I sell books online” is usually interpreted as “I’m taking advantage of you”, and the book prices will suddenly triple.

A better response is: “I’m buying stock for my bookstore” or “I own/run an online bookshop”. These sound much more legitimate and can lead to some fruitful follow-up questions that may win you new customers or contacts.

But sometimes–when I’m cranky or just want to move it along–I use these:

Q: “Oh, are you a teacher/scuba diver/home brewer/judo master?”
A: “No, but I have a friend who is.” (often true)

Q: “You sure do like to read'”
A: “Yup.” (also true)

How do other booksellers handle all the questions?

2 thoughts on “How do you present yourself?”

  1. It never fails that I get asked these questions (happened this morning). I look forward to it. I always bring a stack of business cards with me as often once I explain that I own a little bookshop the folks running the sale are more than happy to let me leave a few on the table.

  2. It has been a long time since I hit the garage sale circuit but I don’t recall anyone ever being curious about why I wanted to buy their books and I never felt I had to present myself in any particular manner. I am and have always been a book nut and maybe they recognize that aspect in me and want to avoid getting too involved.

    If it happened to come up that I was a book dealer it never seemed to make a difference one way or the other.
    They were just happy I wanted their books and that I never quibbled about their prices.

    I would think it strange if someone asked me to stop giving them money for something they have advertised they are willing to sell.

    Do you want to limit your sales by interrogating people about their choice of reading or why they buy far too many of your books?

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