Monday, September 20, 2010

Wearing blinders....

When do I put blinders on? When do I admit that I simply can't keep up with all the new books and comics and graphic novels and games and toys and cards and anime and manga and card games and......?

Is it ever appropriate to be purposely blind to new stuff? Or benignly neglecting to reordering old stuff? To saying, No mas? Please, my brain will explode if I try to squeeze another title or author into it?

I think, perhaps, new books have been a tipping point for me. I used to joke that I didn't carry video games because the new volume of knowledge would splatter my brains all over the walls.

But I thought I could handle books because I'm very familiar with them; and I read a heck of a lot of them.

Little did I know.

Most books look pretty good. Most books have intriguing covers. Most of them are recommended by other authors who I trust. Same thing with boardgames. They ALL look interesting....

I have an in-store analogy to this phenomenon:

Every week, I get my new comics in, and every day I get regulars in to pick them up. Many regulars have 'subscription shelves.' When I try to get them to look at the 'new' arrivals, most of them demur.

"Don't have time."

"Can't afford them."

"Don't need to be tempted."

I used to be somewhat impatient with this attitude. What harm is there in looking?

The other day I got a phone call from a reputable publisher, offering to send me free samples of some of their titles.

I demurred.

The lady on the other end of the phone said, in a slightly sarcastic tone, "Well, you wouldn't want too much information, even if it's free."

And I felt like saying, "Exactly."

It's not just a matter of money and space. It's a matter of trying diligently to get the best stuff for MY store; the material that best represents what I'm trying to do and has the best chance of selling.

I'm not talking about whether the books worth reading, or the game is worth playing. I'm talking about selection.

I guess the new big word for independent booksellers is "Curating." We are supposed to function as quality curators -- the job of hand-selecting the very best titles and authors. Not just the mass market best sellers, but worthy books that need a nudge, for the discerning reader. A little individualism and idiosyncrasy welcomed.

Oh, I could do a "Cheat Sheet" method. Just ordering from the best-selling and award winning and 'best of' lists.

But these are the same books that are in stacks at Barnes and Noble, and at huge discounts.

It's not so much that I begrudge the hard work and energy it requires. I have a Five type personality, I'm an INTJ, and you couldn't find someone who enjoys this process more than me.

And it's not that I worry about the money or the space trying to keep up, though of course that's a concern.

No --- it's that I'm afraid of losing balance and perspective.

When I'm selecting material for the store, there is always a sense of: "This is right for my store. This fits. I have a place for this, and I know who might want it." Or maybe I just like a certain book, or I think, "This is the kind of book that every good store should have."

But like a kid with a giant bag of Halloween candy, it can all be too much. It all becomes just a huge mass of sugar. Until I throw up all over the carpet.

Oh, well. It may be that it's because I'm really at the beginning of the process of deciding which new books and games to carry. It seems overwhelming because I haven't quite figured out how to weed out the chaff.

I keep saying that I need to find a process to pick and choose which items to carry.

I suspect that it will, indeed, require some kind of filtering system. Something that passes through a buffering system.

I just haven't figured it out, yet. I think I probably can't wing it any longer. I need to work out a plan of attack.

Too much of a good thing.


Duncan McGeary said...

I suppose that's the human condition nowadays. What to keep, what to throw out. What to watch, what to ignore. What to buy, what to borrow.

Too much.

H. Bruce Miller said...

Have you considered delegating some of the responsibility by having one or more of your part-timers help you screen the new stuff? They'd probably be glad to do it if they got to keep the review copies.