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Book Sellers and the Gothic Romance
#1
In my quest for gothics, I've been learning quite a lot about book sellers and their gothics. They're a peculiar bunch -- the sellers, not the gothics.

A few sellers don't even know what a gothic romance is (I didn't know either until just a few months ago, but then I'm not working in a book store either!). I get so frustrated with them when I give them an example name of one they must surely know, like Holt, Whitney, Coffman, etc., and a light goes on in the seller's mind and all of a sudden they think they were the only ones that wrote gothic romance.

I've had some sellers tell me -- when I show them a few sample covers of gothic romance, "Oh, when I get those, I just throw them in the recycling bin, because I used to carry them and tried to sell them and kept marking them all the way down to a quarter, and finally I'd have to throw them out because nobody wants them." Can you believe that? So I actually did find one gothic in one of the stores where a seller told me that, and she still charged me! I thought, didn't you just tell me that you throw these books out?

At the other end of the spectrum, you have those sellers that will not bend with their prices. What I do is, because I'm collecting them, I'll check out local bookstores and if they have a substantial collection of gothics, I'll ask if they would be willing to sell them at a bulk price if I took most of them. One lady said, in her own words: "Nope! $2.50 minimum!" I thought, lady, nobody is going to buy these old books for $2.50 each! Unless they're a more obsessive collector than I am, that is.

I called another seller on the phone to save me a trip. I'd been to his store already and because he had a huge overstock of books, he kept his vintage paperbacks on an upper floor of the building. This room was almost like an attic, full of other junk, so understand, unless a customer specifically asked for a older title, they would have no idea the room existed because it was not "part" of the store. There must have been thousands of vintage titles in that room, and I'm sure gothics were plentiful.

So I called this guy and after I made my proposal, he turned me down flat. Now, what in the world is he planning to do with all those books? If he is not willing to sell them to me at a reduced price, how is he going to sell them at the regular price if nobody knows about them? I know that it is his business, what he does with them, and I know that a seller wants to gain a profit on their books -- at the very least, get their money back (maybe they shouldn't pay so much for their gothics!)-- but really, you know as well as I do that most people are not going to pay a lot of money for an older book (many people are turned off by the smell, I personally love it).

So now, in conclusion, I'm convinced that in those stores where the sellers won't work with me, their gothics are going to remain unpurchased for a long, long time. They'll probably ultimately end up in the recycling bin.

I'm sorry to have gone on so long, but I've been away from the forum for a while, and I've had a lot of experiences in my quest for gothics.

By the way, do you have any idea why the guy with the hidden books would want to know where I was from and my name? Odd. . . odd. . . these sellers.
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#2
So, having spelled all this out, it's easy to see that those sellers that are willing to work with me, and those that have no qualms about recycling their books, probably didn't pay for them in the first place -- they were donated.

But the fact remains at the other end of the spectrum -- those sellers that are determined to earn a profit on the gothics they paid for are ridiculously overpriced. Perhaps they should not have paid that much for them in the first place! I think it's amazing that even if they have books stacked to the ceiling in their store and coming out of their ears, they will put them in storage before they come down on the price.
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#3
I can so relate to this. When I was growing up, second-hand bookshops were a dime a dozen and one could usually count on low prices for anything that wasn't stored behind glass. Used paperbacks generally sold for about the same price as a candy bar.

As internet markets squeezed out the independent bookshops (I watched them start to fold, one by one, in the late '90s), prices crept up to compete.

I have also known many a used bookseller who fit the stereotype. Quixotic, curmudgeonly, asocial, often with a suggestion of Asperger's, they tended to look pained when approached with a question. Salesmanship seemed to them a necessary evil, to be dealt with as one deals with any distasteful chore: grudgingly and with a minimum of grace. Such characters wouldn't look you in the eye. Their domains were typically unfettered by any pretense of order; frequently the only thing that forestalled a state of complete chaos was the fact that the unshelved books lay on the floor in stacks, rather than in heaps and piles. Threading one's way between the teetering towers and claustrophobic alleys of books sometimes required the agility of a contortionist. Occasionally, the stock was organized into sections by genre, but you were lucky if alphabetical order prevailed over any of these sections.

And yes, I'm familiar with the staunch bookseller who refuses to give a discount for a tall stack -- or sometimes even a whole box -- of books brought to his counter. My usual response was to shrug and walk out of the shop. Nine times out of ten the bookseller would call me back, and agree to my offer -- if only to spare himself the task of re-shelving all those books.

I think that many used booksellers start out as romantic individuals who imagine that selling books and keeping a quaint shop would suit them as a profession -- only to find that it doesn't. Book people are book people, and usually not people people or business people. Having to deal with customers and business matters tends to take the glow off what seemed, from a distance, a rosy proposition.

Of course there are exceptions -- and when you find them, it's like heaven.
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#4
I have another story to share.

About 15 months ago in my quest to find gothics, at one of the many, many book stores I had stopped at, I found about 30 of them on the bottom row in the romance section. So I proceeded with my offer to the owner: "If I take most of them, will you sell them to me at 2/ $1?" She says: "Oh no, I couldn't sell them for that."

So I left the store, sort of keeping it in the back of my mind that perhaps in a year or so I'll come back and make the offer again on the books. I knew they'd still be there, because you know, they just don't seem to sell. Especially at the prices the owners want for them.

So yesterday I was in this town again and I saw what I thought at first may be a new book store because I'd never seen it before. But the name sounded familiar. So I went in and discovered that it was the same store described above. The lady had moved. I looked around the store for those gothics, sort of already knowing I wouldn't find them. So I asked the lady about them. She remembered me. She said she donated those books when she moved. Then she added: Sorry.

Doesn't that beat all? She couldn't sell them to me for .50 each, but she had no problem just giving them away less than a year later. I hope she thought about me when she was giving them away.

I'm telling you, book sellers are strange people.
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#5
Funny that I had a similar experience this week. We were in New Hampshire, revisiting some old places we had been to as well as discovering new ones. During our travels, we discovered a used bookstore in the mountains. I inquired about the pricing and was told that everything was 50% off the list price on the book. This is not an unusual scheme, as most used bookstores do this. I was happy to discover several older books, whose list price was under $2, most under $1. When we got to the counter, he tells us that there is a $1 minimum on all books; therefore, anything that is less than $1 when the 50% was applied, was automatically $1. I was so angered on principle that I turned down his offer of 2 free books.

We later went back to a used bookstore that we frequented when we lived out there. Happily, he priced his older books at $0.50 to $0.75. Now you can see why we frequented his shop.
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