by Chris Lowenstein

#125, 14 July 2008

Bookseller Catalogues
Why They are Important

Part I

Accidental Antiquarian Series

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Before I became an antiquarian bookseller, I thought long and hard about being an antiquarian bookseller. I read all I could find on the topic, and I listened to as many antiquarian booksellers as I could get to talk to me about the trade. I noticed one thing early on. Whether or not they had open shops, most successful booksellers issued print catalogues - compilations of books or collections for sale.

Booksellers don't get to keep the books they sell; catalogues are one way to keep a record of books collected. Catalogues also offer a chance to show distant customers what a bookseller has to offer. Catalogues, along with open shops, websites, and book fairs, provide a bookseller with an additional venue for potential sales. They also allow a bookseller to describe his best items, and if he can discover something new or unknown about a particular item, to showcase his scholarship as well.

I decided that, once I established a website and had a few book fairs under my belt, I, too, would write and produce a print catalogue. That was one year ago. I'm still working on my catalogue, and it's almost complete. This month and next, I'll share my experiences compiling it.

Before issuing a catalogue, a bookseller needs make several decisions. First, the catalogue might be a short list featuring 25 to 50 books, or it might list two or three hundred books for sale. I have seen one bookseller's catalogue that had an astounding 1,063 items offered for sale. Regardless of whether the catalogue is a compilation of high spots or an exhaustive list, I found it easier to determine the expected scope of the catalogue at the beginning of the process. If they are not showcasing general antiquarian books, catalogues should feature the best books in a particular field. When I chose my particular field, I made a list of most of the books I wanted to include in my catalogue. Then, I had to decide whether the cost of the books I needed and the cost of printing and mailing a catalogue would still produce enough of a profit to make the time and effort I spend preparing the catalogue financially worthwhile.

>>>>>Click here for page two>>>>

Questions or comments?
Contact the editor, Craig Stark

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