Sunday, 20 July 2014

How To Open A Secondhand Bookshop By Mistake: ONE YEAR ON

So, the Little Shop 'officially' opened a year ago tomorrow. Last July I blogged about how it all came to be. One year on, Withnail Books is ticking away quite nicely, 'washing its face' as they say. It's true that selling secondhand books is a lifestyle choice rather than an empire-building exercise, but when that lifestyle means you live in the Lake District and surround yourself with old books all day, then it's a choice I'm very happy to have made. The shop already has its regulars, and now the summer season has started in earnest, I've started noticing holidaymakers coming back in again after finding us last year. A lot of this has to do with Other Adam's hard work developing The Brunswick Yard, where the Little Shop is, into the kind of place which causes visitors to tell him, quite unbidden, on a daily basis, how amazing it is.

I'm still a baby bookdealer of course, learning the trade. I must say that any and all of the other dealers I've met, either when they have dropped by the shop, or at the book fairs I've pitched out at, have been unfailingly friendly and happy to chat about the business. That makes sense though, as selling books is as much about who you know as what you know: you might not have a customer for a certain book, but with any luck you'll know a dealer who does...

Withnail Books has a few little specialist areas (a certain film of course, graphic novels, a bit of T. E. Lawrence and some Lakeland books) but it's mainly about being able to wander in and find something 'interesting', usually for under a tenner. That's the answer I always give to the question "What sort of books do you buy?" "Interesting ones." It's not a particularly useful answer, but it's the most honest one I can give.

One skill that I have honed quite a bit in the last year (and it's just as well) is being able to tell whether a book is one that will likely:

i) sell very quickly
ii) have to wait a while for the right person to come along, but will go eventually
iii) haunt the shelves forever and day.

There are some books that I just know when I put them out will not last the week, and they never do. Which books? Well, interesting ones...

Anyway, a hearty thank you to everyone who has visited the shop, or simply followed it via this blog, or on Facebook or Twitter. Chin chin!

Finally, I will leave you with the inaugural winner of the (drum roll...)

Withnail Books Bonkers But 100% True Customer Quote of the Year Award:

"I need a book with photographs of meat!"

(He went away happy.)

A first birthday present from friend of the shop Martyn Watson: T. E. Meerkat of Arabia.
So very, very wrong, it's right.
(As another friend pointed out, at least an Arabian meerkat is more believable than a Russian one!)

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