Monday, May 29, 2006

Reading at the Parade

My normal activity on Memorial Day is to avoid attending the parade. This year, in a fit of maternalism, I volunteered to be the one to take the children to the parade. One of my motivations, I admit, was the hope that it would give me an excuse to sit and read The Swing in the Summerhouse by Jane Langton. We sold a hardcover copy of this on Saturday for $35 and I wanted to understand the buyer's effusiveness about the book, plus I enjoy dipping into children's fantasy now and then.

I sat in the shade of a stop sign and the kids sat on the asphalt ten feet away from me, in the 90 degree heat, so that they could forage for candy. Such dedication on their part. I spent most of the time chatting with a neighbor who lives a block away but we haven't seen each other in months. I waved to Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin as she sashayed down the street. I kept getting distracted by the cloggers, motorcycles, helicopters and man on stilts. During the few minutes I spent reading a chocolate kiss fell into my lap out of nowhere. When I looked up I spotted a woman a half block away already, handing out candy to us back row types.

I'm foiled again in my attempts to be well-read and probably won't be able to finish the book before I have to ship it. This means I won't find out about the magical powers of the swing or why Uncle Freddy started acting strange after Mrs. Dorian moved in next door. At least Fourth Daughter experienced the power of wielding a cannon this afternoon, as she and Third Daughter played in their inflatable pool (the cannon is hooked up to the hose). Thanks to the heat I didn't mind when a few sprinkles landed on me and my laptop.
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Monday, May 22, 2006


Well-booked is a new entry at Word Spy. It's an adjective and means, "Having access to a substantial number or a wide variety of books."

As a bookseller I am very well-booked these days. As a result I don't have much time to be well-read.
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Saturday, May 20, 2006

24,000 pounds

I calculated that, between April and June 10, we will have moved 24,000 pounds of books. I figure that we will handle each book at least three times. Once to remove it from the shelf to the box. Then move the box to the van. Then move the box from the van to the thrift shop/library/recycling center or to its new shelf, if we're keeping the book. Make that four times when I have to put down a box in mid-transport to accept a dandelion bouquet, or a crayon drawing, or to holler at a child playing with a stack of "bad books" (the books we aren't keeping) when she brings some of them back into the house, or to panic at the sight of a stack of books on the picnic table and wonder if they were left out overnight and try to remember if it rained or not.

No wonder we don't have health club memberships. No wonder, when I'm holding my 30 pound two-year-old, I sometimes forget I'm holding her and walk around and try to find her. Thirty pounds. That's nothing.
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Wednesday, May 17, 2006

$100 Day

I originally hoped to title this post "three 30+ books in three days." On Friday night I listed eight children's books, all of them worth more than $30. Two of them sold right away and I hoped a third would sell within three days. As I waited for the third $30+ book to sell yesterday, other orders arrived. A $15.00 book here, a $22.00 book there. I added it all up at the end of the day and it totaled $101.

We've sold $100 worth of books in one day before. I think, however, that this is the first time we've reached $100 by selling only seven books (with the exception of those few times we've sold a $100 book). When we began moving our books out of storage we decided to purge from our inventory most of the books that we have listed for less than $10.00 and to only list books if they are worth $10.00 or more. I remember when we sold 18 books in one day for a total of $87. It is much easier to package and ship seven books. Yesterday's sales were an affirmation of our new business model: sell fewer books and make more more money.

I realize, of course, that a $100 day to a fulltime online bookseller like Steve Weber or Julie Anna Schultz or Craig Stark is a mediocre day. But yesterday was a much needed boost during a slow sales period, and during a time where we have to expend so much energy moving boxes of books and pruning inventory and looking for matches so we can light a bonfire already instead of hauling all these books to Goodwill and to the library (alas, our city's ordinances don't permit such a thing, but it doesn't stop me from fantasizing) that it takes great effort for me to list new inventory and listing new inventory every day is very important for sales. A certain percentage of new inventory sells very quickly - even if that new inventory is priced at $30+, I'm happy to report. So I think I'll go list a few new books while the kids are still asleep and hope that third $30+ book sells today.
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Friday, May 12, 2006

Traveled 166 miles to buy two books

We rarely travel more than 100 miles to buy books. When we do we buy far more than two books and we buy the books for one purpose only: to sell them.

Last night we made a spontaneous trip to Harry W. Schwartz bookstore in Milwaukee. I could have purchased Eric Schlosser's new book, Chew On This : Everything You Don't Want to Know About Fast Food, online, saved myself the gas and three hours of driving in constant rain and spent the time listing books for sale online. But my 13-year-old daughter heard an interview with Schlosser on the radio yesterday morning. Immediately afterwards she asked to go hear him speak at the bookstore at 7 p.m.

The bookstore is 83 miles from our home. She rarely makes requests like this and, further, this is an activity that doesn't involve looking at a screen and doesn't involve shopping for clothes, so I agreed to take her.

Schlosser is also also the author of
Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal. I purchased a paperback copy of this book last night. He said he wrote his new book for children so that they can learn about the foods that they eat. He doesn't tell the children what to eat; he simply tells them what is in the food. Very eye-opening. He hired a fact checker to rip apart his manuscript and find any inaccuracies

After the talk Eric signed our books and my daughter talked to him very briefly about
The Meatrix. Then we drove home in the constant rain and sleet but it was worth it because my daughter was grateful and she will probably always remember the experience. We now have a signed first edition of Chew on This in new condition but it's not for sale.
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Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Yay Steve

I was pleased to notice that Steve Weber now has a monthly column about selling books on Amazon for BookThink's free weekly newsletter.

Steve also has a book, The Home-based Bookstore: Start Your Own Business Selling Used Books on Amazon, Ebay or Your Own Web Site. If you're new to online bookselling, Amazon is the best way to get started because it's efficient and not labor intensive. And to learn about selling on Amazon, Steve's book is the best resource. You can view the index and table of contents on Amazon and read sample chapters on his website. I especially like the cover. Look how neat that Ikea type work station is:

There are no books anywhere, there is no clutter, and there are no cookie crumbs on the shiny white floor. Contrast it with my work area:

I have an Ikea work station that theoretically could be sleek and shiny but, oops, there are stacks and crates of books. And, yes, those are cookie crumbs on the floor, deposited by our two-year-old daughter. I could have swept them away before the photo shoot but, well, this is a home-based bookstore and this is a blog about the experience of bookselling and those cookie crumbs faithfully represent that mission.

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Saturday, May 06, 2006


I thought up that term all by myself on Friday night, as I simultaneously surfed the internet, took Scrabble turns, watched an old Star Trek episode, engaged in light-hearted banter with a friend and drank wine. I highly recommend multi-slacking as a way to recover a bit from bookselling, parenting and all the other ordinary cares of daily life.

I had hoped that I was the first one to think up that term but, alas, a Google search revealed 600+ hits for that term. The term hasn't surfaced on Word Spy yet, however, so maybe I can help correct that and do my part to see that this term receives wider usage.
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Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Oppressed by good books

We have to vacate our main storage place by June 10. More than two thirds of our listed books are there in addition to 50 boxes of unlisted books. 50. Boxes.

Being forced to move is good, of course. We're pruning dead weight from the inventory, as I mentioned here. We're now no longer listing books that are worth less than $10. I try to go through one or two boxes each day and quickly look up each book and weed out the unlistable ones, so that we will have less than 50 boxes to transfer to the new storage place.

It's a weird feeling. I look up a book and actually hope that it's worthless so that we don't have to move it. But no. It seems that book after book is worth more than $10, sometimes much more and I have to keep it. I'm unearthing a lot of buried treasure. With all these books we wouldn't have to go to a sale for a year, maybe more, except that we will keep going to our favorite sales so we don't lose our scouting skills.

The $10+ books keep piling up by my computer, waiting to be listed. Oh the oppression. After June 10, though, I suppose sitting at the computer and listing books, instead of moving them, will actually feel like a vacation.
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