Been thinking about what's working at my bookstore.
First of all, I'm concentrating on quirky books. Because of my location, I'm selling books mostly on impulse. The locals will never come around to seeing me as a bookstore. It doesn't matter what I do. So I have to sell to people who walk in the door and see books and think, "Bookstore!"
But what are those types of people looking for?
Not the ABA (American Booksellers Association) style books, the New York Times bestsellers, the books reviewed by NPR. At least, not as often.
Instead, I'll sell a worthy book that been around for a long time but not everyone has read. My clientele for books is mostly tourists or locals who are wandering around downtown, and it seems they want something different--something they didn't know they wanted when they walked in the door.
I can see the difference when I hang out at Herringbone Books in Redmond. Brandon has a steady flow of people coming in the door with specific requests. That is, it appears the majority of customers there aren't there to browse, but to find a particular book. Often it's bestsellers, books they've heard in the media, or books that friends have recommended.
Whereas at Pegasus Books, if they are looking for anything specific, it's usually something offbeat. I don't know if this is because my bookstore already appears to them to be a strange place, but generally I don't get asked for the bestseller of the moment.
Which I don't mind.
I concentrate on the backlog of great authors that people have either heard of or once read. Vonnegut, P.K.Dick, Murikami, Bukowski. Or classics that they've always wanted to read. Or cult books that they have heard about but never seen before.
For me, the quirkier, the better.
Oh, I've decided to carry the mainstream bestsellers, at least some, but they sell rather pathetically compared to their reputation.
What's great about buying books that are just a little to the side of the books that most bookstores sell is that it makes my store unique. One of my criticisms of ABA model stores is that they are all pretty much alike in what they carry.
Anyway, once I identify a quirky book as a good seller, I keep it in stock. So my job is to keep adding to that list.
For instance, I stumbled upon a deluxe hardcover version of Edith Hamilton's "Mythology." (A book that's been around since 1942.) I'd carried the paperback almost from the beginning and sold it a couple of times. But damned if the much more expensive version hasn't sold a bunch of times.
Or the deluxe version of "The Princess Bride."
What I've concentrated on is buying the most interesting version of a book. For instance, some of the old classics are being reproduced in their original format. These versions are dripping with nostalgia.
Another trick is to look for classic books with cover art done by current indie artists. (Often the same artists whose graphic novels I've been carrying for years.) So, for instance, a funky cover of Jack Kerouac's "Dharma Bums" by 'Jason.'
Finally, I try to carry books that are offbeat. I was visiting Artifacts bookstore in Hood River and I asked my usual question. "What book is selling that I wouldn't know about?"
I was directed to, "How to Talk to Your Cat about Gun Safety."
OK. I was doubtful, but why ask the question if I'm not going to follow through? Amazingly, I've sold that book over and over again based on the title alone. Those are the kinds of books that I'm looking for. Ones that stand out on the shelf, either because of the title, the art, or the general weirdness of the idea.
So I started off with a general idea of what people might be looking for based on years of never having a used book version of that request. Over time the list of books that are quirky but sell has been steadily growing. I'm certain that there are still tons of titles that will fit this category, and I'll discover them little by little. All of which makes the store that much stronger.
Plus it's fun.
And finally, I make a real effort to carry more the usual amount of genre books--especially SF and Fantasy, Horror, Mystery and Suspense. I'm very knowledgeable about these genres, and have read a bunch of them that I can recommend.
I just like books. I've always had a wide range of interests--and I've always been interested about where certain authors and titles fit in the scheme of things. It a big puzzle that I'm trying to decipher and it's a fun challenge.
And so far, it's paying off.
3 days ago