I finished my first week as a bookseller by closing up and dashing to a wedding, late of course, but there, nonetheless. Instead of disapproving looks from the on-time guests, and censure from the bride, I was welcomed with understanding and enthusiasm. I am the Quixotic bookman, tilting at windmills and Nooks and iPads, and slack must be cut. I get the same treatment in the store. I can’t count how many people told me this week how happy they are that there’s finally a bookstore in Pittsboro. It’s as if I’d opened the only health clinic in a remote wilderness. The customers are thanking me for opening my store as sincerely as I thank them for stopping by. But they also note how “brave” I am to be entering the bookstore business, by which they really mean “nuts,” and certainly, deep down, some of them mean “stupid.” But that’s nothing I haven’t thought myself over these past three months.
After a strong first day on Saturday, there was little business Sunday through Tuesday. Things picked up by the end of the week, and Saturday produced 35 sales which, if repeated every weekend, are enough to keep me open. I have been trying to systematically calculate what books and what categories are most popular, and after a month or two, I’ll draw some conclusions. But I suppose I can make some assumptions about my customers based on the fact that of the hundreds of books that left the shop last week, only one was a romance novel. Perhaps the romance readers haven’t heard about the store yet, but I sold a lot of history and literature this week and I answered a lot of questions about interesting books and recorded three pages of varied book wants. It took about three days for the new books coming into the store to accumulate beyond my ability to keep up with them. Buying them and pricing them is one thing, but finding shelf space is another. I tried to fill the shelves before I opened, and for the most part I did, but I’ve added another four or five hundred books and by this time next month, my store may look like the Collyer brothers’ apartment. Besides that I still have 10,000 books in storage that I need to get into the store sometime. If it sounds like I perhaps need to suspend book acquisitions, I can’t disagree. The idea of an employee is still a little down the road – filling in a w-2 form and other accompanying work may be too much in the early days. Still, if a box of cookbooks finds its way into the store, I can’t imagine not at least looking through them – who knows when I’ll finally find the elusive “Kosher Cooking in Ireland.”
We are preparing now for next Saturday’s grand opening, which means that we need to come up with 30 or 40 copies of Daniel Wallace books for the signing. He’s published four thus far, including “Big Fish”. Two are out of print, which makes finding quick copies difficult. “Big Fish” is still in print, as is his newest, “Mr. Sebastian and the Negro Magician.” We can order “Mr. Sebastian,” from the publisher but, sadly, it’s cheaper to buy “Big Fish” from Barnes and Noble than the publisher. The signing event model works better in a store selling new books, but if the author loves books, he’ll have more fun surrounded by our experienced, twice-loved books and our stacks of rare, forgotten or unusual treasures.