From the Editor

by Craig Stark

#16, 12 April 2004

As many times as I've said this before, I don't believe this can be overstated or repeated too often. If you're book-stupid and refuse to get book-smart, it won't matter how many hours you put in, how many sales you attend, how many books you list, how many anything. Bookselling will be hard. In many cases it will prove undoable.

Week after week, every Friday and Saturday morning, I get up in the morning darkness and go out to sales. So do 100's if not 1000's of other buyers in my area. I've been doing this for a number of years now, and you know what? When I first started, I thought most of the people I ran into were full-time dealers, and to hear them talk, it seemed as though they were doing quite well. I confess that I even felt somewhat intimidated. However, as I began to run into some of them regularly, get to know them better, etc., two interesting facts began to emerge. One, I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of them who are actually, verifiably doing this full time and making good money. Two, the ones who aren't doing well are either book-stupid, pottery-stupid, jewelry-stupid, or something-stupid.

To put it bluntly, they don't know their stuff. Jacks of all trades and masters of none. Sure, they use their instincts in making buying decisions and are right a good part of the time - and experience improves their percentages - but for the most part my instincts are good enough to pick up the same junk they do, and I'm not talking about books. I'm talking about stuff I don't know the first thing about. I know because I've stood in line with them, waiting to pay, and looked at what they had in their hands.

The problem with their buy-anything approach is that the things they look for are things anybody could recognize the potential in - the very things that get grabbed in the first few minutes of a sale. This wouldn't be a problem if there were dozens of sales you could be first in the door at every week, but this number is more likely to be 1 or 2. If you aren't smart about something, if you can't go to a sale an hour or two late and find things of value that were overlooked because they didn't have jump-out-and-grab-you appeal, you're almost certainly going to suffer from a chronic shortage of good inventory. Certainly there was a time - call it the Golden Age of eBay - when it was relatively easy to find inventory and resell it readily and profitably. This isn't the Golden Age. The 1990's are gone. Iron is more like today's reality. With a thin coating of rust.

So, if you're interested in getting book-smart and aren't sure how to proceed, I urge you to read BookThinker's Premium Content in this issue of this newsletter. All BookThinker newsletters attempt to meet the need for pertinent knowledge, but this issue in particular details a simple, proven method for raising your bookselling IQ to a level that will almost guarantee success. Before we get to that, however, let's take a bookseller's look at the National Park System.

NOTE: Gold Edition replaced regular Premium Content on August 2, 2004. Learn how to subscribe.

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Contact the editor, Craig Stark

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