By Joe Waynick
It should be obvious that book dealers and used book store owners are natural allies. Then why is it so difficult for these two groups to see eye-to-eye?
I’ve been a full-time book scout since 2006. I pound the pavement every day in search of that elusive literary diamond hidden beneath a pile of cheesy romance novels. Very few of the books I examine pass muster for my Internet bookselling business. That’s because I’m a very picky treasure hunter.
Nevertheless, I pass over dozens, if not hundreds of books every day that would be perfectly acceptable in a brick-and-mortar retail bookstore. But for a long time I didn’t buy them because it was so difficult for me to get a clear sense of what bookstore owners wanted in my area.
Perhaps it was my fault, but it’s certainly wasn’t from a lack of trying. I canvassed owners of local book stores, making sure that I identified myself as a book scouter. I examined their inventory and asked them what type of books they currently needed. I told them I scout every day and that I had a good chance of finding valuable stock they could use in their stores. I even emphasized that I only want to bring them quality books they actually needed and not use them as a dumping ground for the junk I couldn’t sell online.
Still, the barriers were up and tight lipped shop owners merely stared at me as if they were talking to a new form of alien life instead of openly discussing their needs. That’s unfortunate because I could really help them with their business. For eight to ten hours a day I inspect books. It’s a simple matter to broaden my criteria to include titles tailored specifically to niche bookstores.
Why the disconnect?
First, book dealers have to understand that there’s a certain amount of apprehension about disclosing too much information about ones’ business to a total stranger. It takes time to build the trust necessary for a store owner offer somewhat intimate details about their operation.
Earning that trust and never violating the special relationship between retailer and dealer is critical for the mutual benefit of both parties.
The store owner must also do his or her part to nurture and protect the relationship as well. The owner must be willing to talk candidly about store needs and not send dealers on wild goose chases.
If you ask a dealer to find certain types of books, be prepared to buy them when they’re presented. Become known among dealers for acting with honesty and integrity and you’ll find yourself in the position of being flooded with the best quality books that can be found.
Perseverance Pays Off
Today, I enjoy several very strong relationships with local bookstore owners who look forward to my weekly visits to trade, buy, or sell books. I invested years in building those contacts, and I purposely limit the number of stores with which I trade so I don’t dilute my effectiveness. I also make sure each store caters to a different niche so I don’t have to choose which store gets my books because they all have different needs.
That doesn’t mean I ignore all the other stores with which I don’t trade. I buy from them whenever I can and I periodically interact with the owners in a positive way to deepen my relationship. After all, a store will occasionally go out of business and when that happens it’s nice to know there are other owners with whom I can partner.
If you’re a book dealer, join the local independent booksellers association and you’ll go a long way towards establishing yourself as a serious person to work with. If you’re a bookstore owner, be willing to educate dealers about the kinds of books your customers buy so the dealers can bring you titles you might not otherwise find on your own.
An alliance between trustworthy retail store owners and book dealers can be mutually beneficial and financially profitable for both parties for numerous reasons. Cultivate those relationships whenever possible and watch your business grow.
Joe Waynick is author of “Internet Bookselling Made Easy! How to Earn a Living Selling Used Books Online” (ISBN 978-0983129608). You can reach him at: http://www.internetbookselling.com/contact.html.