Hey, booksellers….c’mere. Yeah, you….and you….and especially you. Sit down here for a minute. I want to have a word with you all about trade (dealer-to-dealer) discounts.
Welcome to the first all-new issue of The Standard in nearly three years. From dealer discounts to African bookstores, book reviews to member profiles, business concept to business titans, our hope is that this issue is indicative of the scope and quality of the coverage The Standard will carry going forward.
If, like me, you haven’t been born into a family that boasts generations of booksellers, if bookselling isn’t in your blood, you can always learn from the past. Reading the memoirs of those booksellers who came before us can be as edifying as it is entertaining. There are many to booksellers from which to choose, but two in particular can inspire and educate: Leona Rostenberg and Madeleine B. Stern.
Even in non-English speaking countries there are numerous reasons why I like to visit bookshops. I am always interested in and am often surprised by what English language books actually get translated into foreign languages. If there is an English language section, I like to see what the shop thinks will appeal to English speaking visitors. If I am lucky, I can pick up an English translation of a foreign author or local folk tales that is not easily obtainable in the U.S.
Despite its utility, in my experience far too few book dealers understand the idea or importance of turnover for their business. Indeed, as I hope to demonstrate, there are few numbers you can know about your business that are as immediately useful and practical as your turnover.
The ABAA’s first official webinar took place on Tuesday, May 17, 2011. IOBA member Kara McLaughlin was there.
Did I mention that we didn’t know what we were doing? The problem was, that we both had studied English Literature (I’d even bombed around graduate school in Albuquerque to the tune of 38 credits), so far from recognizing how little we knew about the book business, we thought we might be experts.
I used to think that the worst aspect of selling online were the commissions paid to online venues like Amazon and ABE, and a concurrent loss of autonomy to the same players. But, it takes time to build up a clientele that one can call one’s own. As I branch out and make more contacts within the trade, I am finding that the 15% to the online venues feels comfortable compared to the 20% expected by colleagues. But one has to keep these things in perspective; since it has long been the case that most book sellers make most of their sales to other book sellers, and one needs to keep churning one’s inventory, the challenge for me right now is merely maintaining the cash flow to sustain myself in the trade.
For those of you who would like to request a dealer discount from a fellow bookseller who you’ve never bought from before, and who is a complete stranger to you.