Monday, October 02, 2006

Sometimes it pays to show up late for a library sale (Or: A Primer on library sales)

Normally I show up on time at the beginning of a library sale. Bookselling is my job, after all, and I figure that I need to be there when the largest number of books are available. Or do I?

Let's look at the cons of showing up on time. Library sales attract dealers and they tend to show up early and stand in line. I have never managed to arrive early enough to be the first in line. The next time U2 goes on tour and I want someone to stand in line for me for several hours to buy tickets I think I will hire a bookseller. Anyway, the presence of these dealers can be a distraction. The dealers in my area are civilized, for the most part, and rarely do I see a scan monster, but even so I find myself looking at their stacks of books and watching them as they work. "He's buying THOSE books? HAHAHA!" I'll think. Then I'll second guess myself and wonder if he knows something I don't. Sometimes a dealer will have a stack of highly eBayable books and I kick myself for not getting to those shelves first.

The physical presence of all the other dealers plus the normal people who are there simply to find reading material (imagine that! People actually goes to sales to find something to read! Maybe I should try that sometime!) is also a nuisance. Sometimes I'm forced to reach over someone's shoulder to pluck a book from the shelf. There's much stepping on toes and bumping into each other. Also, dealers and other buyers will often carry around stacks of books for an hour or two and ultimately reject many of them and leave them behind for the workers to reshelve. You never get a chance to lay eyes on those books.

So, last Friday, I went to a library sale that had begun the evening before. The library is 25 miles from my home and it was tempting to skip it because I was unable to go to the sale on opening day because I actually had a life that evening (kids to feed, a meeting to attend). I went on Friday anyway because I like road trips and even if I find nothing it helps keep my scouting skills sharp.

I had the place to myself, for the most part. Aaaahhh. I could work at my own pace and in silence. Except for the chatter of the library workers, who said there was a huge line the night before and several dealers, one of them a woman with five kids who spent the entire three hours there scoutpal-ing everything with her oldest daughter. Oh. I see. So every book I touch at this sale will have been handled, and rejected, by another dealer. There's probably not going to be anything left. I'm wasting my time. Eventually I forced myself to change my thoughts. "I know things other dealers don't know. Surely I can find something."

I looked at the large print books and there was a D. E. Stevenson book there! I didn't need to Scoutpal that one to know it was valuable. If you are a bookseller, grab your scouting book and write down that author's name. Her novels are extremely scarce and in demand. I have it listed on eBay right now for $49.99 and there is a bid and a couple of watchers. There were also two large print books by Georgette Heyer. They are now listed on eBay for 14.99 each and I sweetened the deal by saying that if you buy both both the shipping will be free. They picked up bids immediately.

OK, so I had three books, worth at least $80. I glanced at the children's section but figured the mom with the five kids probably cherry picked everything. I was right. I went back to the non-fiction and looked at the bird books. I've loved bird books ever since I read The Burgess Bird Book For Children to First Daughter eight years ago. Whenever I list a bird book on eBay it sells, but good bird books are hard to find. I saw three bird books that I had never seen before. The books are large (13 x 10) with gorgeous color plates. I paid a total of $6.00 for the three books. These were books that, if I didn't sell them on eBay, I'd be happy to keep them in my own library. Whenever I feel that way about a book I find in the field I buy it. If you like birds, take a look at the pictures in my auction (item # 160036710118). One of the books has a plate of the white-throated sparrow, my favorite bird, so that cinched it for me, and I was sure to include that in the listing.

OK, so where was I? Oh yes. Library sales. One of the library workers said that someone had brought in a bunch of bird books earlier that morning. She said that people keep coming in and donating books even though the sale started the night before. This is an important detail to remember about library sales in small communities. Once the library sale starts and the signs go up, people drive by and notice. They think of the boxes of books in their garage or the books cluttering their shelves and the next day they haul them in. After the start of the sale. After the other dealers have come and gone. Heh heh heh.

Bottom line: when you are at a library sale remember that you know things other dealers don't, even if you're a newbie. If you're there when it's crowded, focus on your specialty, your strengths. Don't waste your time doing a lot of desperate ScoutPal lookups on books you don't have a clue about. I came away from that library sale with six books for $9.00 and all of them have picked up early bids (oh how I love early bids!) and will sell for at least $95, so sometimes it's not a bad thing to leave a sale with only six books. In other words, think quality, not quantity (unless, of course, there's a box of 75 science fiction books all written by the same author and in that case think quantity and cut yourself a deal). And don't forget to show up late.
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2 Comments:

Blogger Mimi said...

Very cool to know your thought process.

4:40 PM  
Blogger GuusjeM said...

Great scores! I was at an all all kiddielit FOL sale on Friday and there was a clueless woman scout paling everything. She left emptyhanded. Kiddie lit is the worst thing in the world to scoutpal.

5:49 PM  

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