Lose Weight Fast, Open a Bookstore

If you want to lose weight, you should open a bookstore. It might not work for you, but I’ve dropped 20 pounds since this project began in mid-July. I doubt it is because of exercise, though I’ve carried more boxes of books than I could count. I think it is from not eating, which I often forget to do as the day passes while I am focused on one of the tasks that I need to complete if I am going to be ready to open the doors October 20.

faulkner biographyThis past week I devoted to organizing, sorting and culling books in the general fiction room. I have made the following two decisions and I am curious if they offend anyone: first, I am shelving some non-fiction books with the general fiction when it means keeping all the books by an author together. Lawrence Durrell, Annie Dillard, Tom Wolfe and Paul Theroux are examples of writers who have produced works of both fiction and non-fiction. It seems to me that browsers are more likely to buy books by these authors if they are shelved together, even if they violate category definitions. Second, when a book is about a writer, I am shelving that book with that writer’s own work. So, Joseph Blotner’s two-volume biography of Faulkner is not in the biography section, but with Faulkner’s novels. Again, this seems like the best way to interest a Faulkner reader in buying a Faulkner bio. But, perhaps I am overlooking some other consideration?

More difficult than figuring out where to put books is figuring out which books to exclude altogether. I unpacked about 75 boxes of fiction this week, some 2,000 books. This is in addition to the 1,000 or so books that I’ve bought one-by-one in the past two months or brought from home off my own shelves. But there’s only room in the store for about three-quarters of these books. I’ve pulled all the duplicates and boxed them to restock shelves later. But I still have to eliminate many books that just won’t fit. How to decide? I know what I like, but not having been in the business for 30 years, I am finding it difficult to guess about the reading habits of customers in general, much less North Carolina readers in particular.

Do people still read Mary Renault, Erskine Caldwell or James Michener, for example? A decent selection of Michener would take up about two feet of shelf space. And if I decide to wrestle a little shelf space back from Michener, which of his books get the hook? Remember, he won a Pulitzer for “Tales of the South Pacific,” but aren’t “Centennial” and “Hawaii” what most people want to read?

Also, I have innumerable books which, evidently, are self-published, and I feel a pang of guilt every time I remove one from a shelf and put it in the “won’t sell” box. Business can be cruel. At the grocery store, don’t producers pay for the privilege of getting their products on the shelf?

On Wednesday I met with one of the officials from our town’s planning department. He reported that our application for a matching grant to paint a mural on our north-facing wall had been approved. That means that sometime soon our wall will appear to be a giant bookshelf. We get to choose the books and the titles, with an eye toward local\North Carolina writers and history. That’s another set of decisions that has to be made, though for right now we plan to put a fresh undercoat on the store so we’ll look sharp for our opening. The mural will come later, at the convenience of the artist.

5 thoughts on “Lose Weight Fast, Open a Bookstore”

Comments are closed.