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BookThink Bookseller Profiles
Judy Lanskey

#79, 14 October 2006

NAME OF BUSINESS: Legendary Books

My choice of business name reflects my ongoing interest in the legends of King Arthur. Ever since I read E.B. White's The Once and Future King, this has become an area of collecting for me. Long before I became a bookseller, I spent what I considered a small fortune to get a first edition copy of White's book. Lately, I have been caught up in reading the various theories as to the factual origins of the legends.

LOCATION: Madison, New Jersey



PART TIME OR FULL TIME: Both. I work at it full time, but as of this date, it is still yielding more of a part-time income. I regard my business as a work in progress and fully expect that 2007 will be the year for it to reach the level that I am striving for.

BOOKSELLING VENUES USED (IN ORDER OF IMPORTANCE): My eBay Store and Amazon just about tie, although some months Amazon is still slightly ahead. I also list on

SIZE OF INVENTORY: 1200 listings. My immediate goal is to get this number up to 3,000, hopefully before year's end. Currently, my sales hover around one sale per day, although I usually have a couple of months per year when I do better. Thanks to Craig's advice, I have raised my average sale price to $22-$38, depending on the month. By increasing both the volume of my listings and the caliber of the books I carry, I hope to increase the number of sales I have per day. At that point, my intent is to add Alibris to the mix.

SPECIALTIES: I have decided to specialize in vintage children's books, both since I find them charming, myself and because there seems to be a nostalgia market for them. In the beginning, I did not specialize and tended to bring home the types of books that I usually read myself - modern fiction. So, I have a large shelf of those. I have found, however, that they are slow movers. I do have luck from time to time with first editions, though. Aside from vintage children's books, I try to buy books that I have learned are profitable from reading 50/50 and the Gold Premium issues. For the most part, these are non-fiction titles.

WHY I SELL BOOKS: Like most of you, I have always had a deep love and respect for books and grew up surrounded by them. I lived in Manhattan as a teenager and often went on babysitting jobs. I used to enjoy browsing through the titles in people's bookshelves after their kids went to bed. Although most had large libraries, I remember being shocked by the total lack of books in some of the homes that I went into. No bookshelves, no books. The idea that people could actually live (and decorate) without books was absolutely unfathomable to me. Reading has been my only lifelong hobby, and I've always preferred it to television, even as a child. I rarely go anywhere without making sure that I have a book close by, and I am the type that could spend hours in a bookstore. So, in a sense, the choice of selling books was a natural progression for me. However, the actual motivating factor for starting the business was a desire to remain at home with my children after my divorce, rather than going into the workforce. The income from my bookselling business has given me the freedom to make this choice, and it has provided me with the flexibility to work around my children's schedules. It has also been a wonderful opportunity to introduce entrepreneurial skills to my sons, who are 13 and 14. Both enjoy helping out in the business and take pride in their contributions. They enjoy having their mom at home and available to meet their needs while both can see that I am doing something that I love and find fulfilling. It has truly been a perfect solution for us.

ADVICE FOR NEW BOOKSELLERS: Try to buy at least part of your inventory online, if you aren't doing that already. It gives you a chance to research a book, see what it is worth and what the sales rank is before you purchase. It is very difficult to do these things under pressure at an FOL or estate sale, even with a scanner, and especially if it is a pre-ISBN book. Try to make it a goal to add at least a few $50 or better books to your mix this way every month. Be willing to spend a little extra on these, because you know you can make a nice profit on them. I particularly like Craig's "riding the barrel" method of buying books just before the auctions are expiring on eBay. It is a way to sometimes get bargains for little more than the cost of shipping. [EDITOR'S NOTE: See issue #15 of BookThink's Gold Edition for an explanation of this technique.]

Also, when you're bidding online, check out the seller's other auction listings and see if they have a store. If they do and if they are a Power Seller, spend a few minutes trying to figure out their business model. Why are they successful? If any of their methods are in alignment with your goals and objectives, try some of them, yourself. After all, by virtue of being a Power Seller, they have already figured out some successful methods for their own businesses. I like doing this because it helps me to think outside of the box. At the very least, it may spark some creative ideas for you.

BEST BOOKSELLING TIP: Brand yourself. As soon as you choose a business name, either create or have someone else design a logo for you. If you have an eBay store, use a logo that will set your store apart. Just type in "eBay auction logos," and you will have at least a dozen options ranging from under $10. You let the designer know what you are looking for (in my case I told him that I wanted a Medieval/Camelot feel). Usually, you will be provided with a few different designs. After you settle on one you like and pay for it, you'll be provided with upload instructions. Within minutes, you'll have your very own logo. And, here's the best part: Now, you can easily use that same design to have bookmarks made. After all, it is already a rectangular shape and just perfect for bookmarks. I had mine made up on glossy, extra thick card stock so that they will be semi-permanent and survive many uses. I send one out with each order, no matter how small. It is my way of keeping my store name in the buyer's mind and hopefully will lead to repeat business. On the back, I have the name of the business, the web address, my email address and a line that thanks them for the order. I find them so useful that I don't even bother with business cards.

FAVORITE AUTHOR(S): I have pretty eclectic tastes and really have more favorite books than favorite authors, but I do like and have read most of the works of the following: Anne Tyler, John Irving, and Milan Kundera. It is a good bet that I would be happy with anything written by any of those three. But, my favorite books of all times are: The Once and Future King by E.B. White; Winter's Tale by Mark Helprin and The Hotel New Hampshire by John Irving (with A Prayer for Owen Meany running a close second).

FAVORITE QUOTE: Sorry to say, it is not a literary one, but it does help with my business and in managing my kids: It's Nike's slogan, "Just do it." Love that. Simplicity at its best.

Questions or comments?
Contact the editor, Craig Stark

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