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Started by HerrWalrus on Oct 12, 2017 5:58:09 PM
Diary of a Bookseller

I thought this entry may be of interest - in particular the comments btl

BuddhaPest - 13 Oct 2017 18:00:46 (#1 of 99)

What subject is your biggest seller, HerrW?

HerrWalrus - 13 Oct 2017 18:05:31 (#2 of 99)


Not so many books unfortunately. Probably sell more childrens' book by number. By value history. Worst sellers are sport and computing.

thisonehasalittlehat - 13 Oct 2017 18:06:03 (#3 of 99)

People who like sport don't read innit

BuddhaPest - 13 Oct 2017 18:07:12 (#4 of 99)

Do you get many remaindered books?

TommyDGNR8 - 13 Oct 2017 18:12:09 (#5 of 99)

My (now retired) bookseller friend reckoned true crime outsold everything else put together.

HerrWalrus - 13 Oct 2017 18:16:07 (#6 of 99)

We get the odd proof copy in amongst donations. Normally try and discourage dumping of dross, although at least we now sell on a few boxes (for pennies) to an internet operator. We are trying to move onto selective buying from other friendly booksellers, and collections from people moving/downsizing. Far better to buy a good book or two to display in the window, than 200 action thrillers or chick lits that no longer sell at all.

No point at all taking on remaindered copies for a shop our size.

HerrWalrus - 13 Oct 2017 18:20:26 (#7 of 99)

Every bookshop has a different market makeup. We find true crime or sas-type stuff poor sellers, although their shelf position isn't great. Otoh we sell religious titles on a regular basis, and it's often a poor seller in other shops, or so we're told. Mind, body, spirit are big sellers too.

RosyLovelady - 13 Oct 2017 19:06:47 (#8 of 99)

A local second hand seller (those were the days) once told me that he really preferred to get poetry and philosophy books to sell because they were always in demand at a nice price for him.

uranrising - 13 Oct 2017 19:37:32 (#9 of 99)

Our best local bookshop has said the worst-selling subject is books on music.

I don't know if sports-lovers read but cricket-lovers do.

I used to sell books to university students. The students who bought least in their field were the student teachers. Know-alls, if you ask me.

HerrWalrus - 13 Oct 2017 22:31:17 (#10 of 99)

The sports books we do sell every so often tend to be either football or, surprisingly, boxing. Small numbers in either case. Cricket books, whether biographies or tour histories, never sell. But as I stated, different shops will have a different clientele with different desires. Music - not the best seller, but not the worst either.

thismorning - 14 Oct 2017 17:34:17 (#11 of 99)

Do we know who opened the first used book store, where and why. The most recent used book store in my town of Forest Grove, Oregon lasted about two years. Owner very intelligent, Ph.d in literature, now lives in North Carolina with a man who hunts turtles for a living.

solomongursky - 14 Oct 2017 17:40:29 (#12 of 99)

now lives in North Carolina with a man who hunts turtles for a living.


HerrWalrus - 14 Oct 2017 17:41:28 (#13 of 99)

We had a customer in today looking for penguins..

browserbutton - 14 Oct 2017 17:50:49 (#14 of 99)

The china shop next door had an unwelcome bovine visitor and came round asking if we had a picador.

RosyLovelady - 14 Oct 2017 17:52:07 (#15 of 99)

How did that pan out?

uranrising - 14 Oct 2017 20:17:08 (#16 of 99)

Do we know who opened the first used book store, where and why.(?)

I think it's very likely that we'll never know, especially as they come and go with tremendous frequency.

thismorning - 15 Oct 2017 02:32:36 (#17 of 99)

Kinda precursors of the cupcake store-bubble..btw in local newspaper I saw this morning two more life long friends are opening a "light little cake" shop in our area...they are "very excited".

browserbutton - 15 Oct 2017 05:22:51 (#18 of 99)

As well as being an architectural gem in its own right, the Livraria Lello in Porto attracts visitors from all over the world because there is story that JK Rowling was inspired by the interior of the bookstore for her description of Hogwarts library. Whether or not that's true, it is the only bookshop I've visited where I had to queue for half an hour to get in.

RosyLovelady - 15 Oct 2017 09:33:46 (#19 of 99)

Wow, an even longer wait than the one for the Birkenstock shop in Covent Garden in the mid-1990s.

dreams99 - 16 Oct 2017 13:27:52 (#20 of 99)

HW - I have tons of duplicates to bring up to you some time. Probably too many for one trip.

HerrWalrus - 16 Oct 2017 15:47:52 (#21 of 99)

That'd be great, thanks.

FestinaLente - 16 Oct 2017 16:26:33 (#22 of 99)

Does your bookshop have odd little haunted corners, staircases that end in blank walls, bookshelves that shift to reveal more bookshelves, and mysterious black holes where customers get lost in time?

Snarlygog - 20 Oct 2017 18:07:03 (#23 of 99)

This is the place to get lost in, wonderful place to roam.

FestinaLente - 20 Oct 2017 18:35:38 (#24 of 99)

Oh, yes, definitely, Snarly. I'd pack a couple sandwiches and spend the day!

HerrWalrus - 20 Oct 2017 19:32:57 (#25 of 99)

This chappie from Portsmouth seems a bit of a character..

Tomnoddy - 20 Oct 2017 19:55:16 (#26 of 99)

#24 - only if there's a toilet. I love books and bookshops but they send a signal directly to my bowels.

RosyLovelady - 20 Oct 2017 19:59:50 (#27 of 99)

Blokes will use anything as an excuse for that sort of reaction.

uranrising - 20 Oct 2017 20:06:28 (#28 of 99)

Absolutely, Tom.

I think a law ought to be passed that all bookshops and record and dvd shops must have toilets on their premises available to customers.

FestinaLente - 20 Oct 2017 20:09:02 (#29 of 99)

I'd vote for that!

HerrWalrus - 20 Oct 2017 20:31:43 (#30 of 99)

Is a customer someone who purchases something? As opposed to a browser...

As it happens we never prevent someone using the facilities in ourr shop if they are caught short (always surprised that certain pubs and restaurants make a big issue out of this). We find normally people will buy a card or a takeaway drink as appreciation, although we don't insist on a purchase.

uranrising - 20 Oct 2017 20:39:43 (#31 of 99)

I was including browsers, cos browsing is where the trouble starts. Don't know how many secondhand bookshops even have facilities.

HerrWalrus - 20 Oct 2017 20:44:03 (#32 of 99)

There are browsers and then there are time-wasting racist browsers who wasteour time before they go to the pub. I missed one of them the other week, who verbally abused a Polish girl having a tea in our shop. I have a suspicion who the culprit is...

HerrWalrus - 21 Oct 2017 14:48:46 (#33 of 99)

Bracing ourselves for complaints at the end of next week. We close Monday to Thursday due to our nuptials. I'm sure people who never use the place will complain that we were closed..

deadmanwalking23 - 21 Oct 2017 15:36:00 (#34 of 99)

Looks like my local independent book shop in East Dulwich may close unless someone can be found to take it over when the current owner retires.

FestinaLente - 22 Oct 2017 19:44:07 (#35 of 99)

Congratulations, HerrW! I hope you have a lovely book-themed wedding.

LobsangRampa - 24 Oct 2017 20:02:07 (#36 of 99)

People who like sport don't read innit

Not true!

My father-in-law believed his dislike of sport somehow enhanced his qualifications as an intellectual. Possibly this view is quite common.

I'm as intelligent as fuck and I love sport.

LobsangRampa - 24 Oct 2017 20:05:13 (#37 of 99)

And congratulations HW!

Yersinia - 24 Oct 2017 20:08:38 (#38 of 99)

MM reads a lot of cycling books. He reckons cycling lit is more extensive than many sports due to its long-term association with journalism.

LobsangRampa - 25 Oct 2017 13:08:27 (#39 of 99)

Very little cycling fiction out there. I can only think of Tim Krabbe's The Rider which is ok to good. Lots of non fiction; most of which follows the standard arc of the sports biography. Our hero is introduced as he crashes, injures himself or has some kind of physical or emotional disaster. Is it all over? Then a few chapters of childhood/early sporting career. Then picks up the story after the crash and onwards and upwards to triumph.

But there are some great exceptions. Almost all of William Fotheringham is good as are David Millar's two books. (I know I'll think of loads more as soon as I hit the post button.)

But then you's expect cycling to have loads of documentation. It's a sport that appeals to nerds. (I speak as a cycling nerd myself.)

Snarlygog - 25 Oct 2017 15:14:25 (#40 of 99)

Three men on the Brummel is the only Cycling fiction that comes to mind.

Fatjack55 - 25 Oct 2017 15:30:42 (#41 of 99)

I search for climbing memoirs if I've got the opportunity. Picked up 2 firsts by Eric Shipman for £60 some years ago, Nanda Devi and Blank on the Map. Our clubhouse has a copy of Colin Kirkus' Let's Go Climbing, which we reckon would pay for a new roof if we could bear to sell it.

BuddhaPest - 25 Oct 2017 15:58:26 (#42 of 99)

Among non-fiction cycling books there is Bicycle Diaries by David Byrne. He is in the habit of taking a fold-up bicycle on tour with him, and cycling around the various cities of the world he visits, as a way of gettig more of a flavour of the places than a touring musician would normally get. Reportedly good - I enjoyed reading his How Music Works, although it was really more about how the music business works than how music works.

deadmanwalking23 - 25 Oct 2017 18:53:22 (#43 of 99)

I found that for free a while back but never read it and lent it to a mate (you know the rest)

LobsangRampa - 26 Oct 2017 09:52:01 (#44 of 99)

you know the rest

Hahaha. I'm such a hypocrite. One of the things that annoys me is that all my favourites are missing from my bookshelves. The dross remains. That's because I press the good books onto my friends. Who, of course, never return them.

Just as I never return theirs.

cozzer - 26 Oct 2017 10:22:44 (#45 of 99)

From which we can conclude that your friends only ever press dross on to you, right?

uranrising - 26 Oct 2017 14:14:34 (#46 of 99)

And that you don't but your faves more than once?

uranrising - 26 Oct 2017 19:36:10 (#47 of 99)

Should have read

And that you don't buy your faves more than once?

LobsangRampa - 27 Oct 2017 08:16:49 (#48 of 99)

I think the books I've read twice are in single figures. A thread?

From which we can conclude that your friends only ever press dross on to you, right?

I fear that is true. Most of my friends aren't terrific readers.

RosyLovelady - 27 Oct 2017 09:40:49 (#49 of 99)

I've read hundreds of books more than once. I thought most keen readers did.

FestinaLente - 27 Oct 2017 13:06:43 (#50 of 99)

Same here. One of the joys of my life is revisiting old friends.

LobsangRampa - 28 Oct 2017 09:26:04 (#51 of 99)

Rereading might be one of those indicators of a great psychological divide - like somewheres/anywheres or dogs/cats.

Tomnoddy - 28 Oct 2017 11:31:49 (#52 of 99)

You may have something there. My wife can't understand my rereading books. If I followed her book-collecting advice, I'd bin everything once I turn the last page.

Tomnoddy - 28 Oct 2017 11:32:29 (#53 of 99)

She does like reading, just - once is enough.

uranrising - 28 Oct 2017 13:23:44 (#54 of 99)

My impression is a lot of women are very plot-oriented. Once they know the end, there is no reason to re-read.

RosyLovelady - 29 Oct 2017 08:39:24 (#55 of 99)

I rarely remember the endings of books.

uranrising - 29 Oct 2017 12:54:07 (#56 of 99)

I was totally, completely and utterly wrong.

HerrWalrus - 29 Oct 2017 13:38:22 (#57 of 99)

In most bookshops it's true that the biggest buyers of fiction are female (but not exclusively so). Men tend to buy more non fiction, but there are exceptions. In our shop cookery books are around 50-50. Women are the biggest buyers of psychotherapy titles. History books tend to be more popular with male customers, and, not surprisingly, military history books are bought almost entirely by men.

thismorning - 04 Nov 2017 03:37:50 (#58 of 99)

Something about shelves of books and the mousey intelligent women in used book stores that turns me into Errol Flynn. But apparently said women to not share my fantasy. Ah, a copy of Kiss Me Deadly...hmm.

RosyLovelady - 04 Nov 2017 08:07:55 (#59 of 99)

It made a great film, did that.

thismorning - 04 Nov 2017 17:15:50 (#60 of 99)

looks sharply to left where voice came from just in time to see a rustic skirt being pulled slowly up over a smooth knee...then tauntingly lowered....

HerrWalrus - 13 Jun 2018 12:26:08 (#61 of 99)

A mixed bag this morning. A local worker just popped in to tell us the PDSA charity shop on the high road has been robbed overnight. Seems there is a gang operating locally that targets shops/restaurants that keep takings instore overnight - the south Indian place opposite were robbed last month. I have my suspicions on two young scallies who turn up occasionally asking to change a tenner (or fiver) as the guys casing the joints.

A useful box of donations. When the book on top has the title "The Encyclopedia of Witchcraft and Demonology" you know there are going to be interesting books in the collection.

Another couple of donated books from another source included this gem ISBN 9780907694076 "What is a Soviet?". If you search on Amazon it's got an unrealistic value of £99. I've put it in the half price box (so instead of £3 people can have it for 1.50). Even at that knockdown price I don't think it will sell to our local crowd.

HerrWalrus - 14 Jun 2018 11:52:45 (#62 of 99)


Well, I managed to sell some books yesterday, which is better than Tuesday when with the exception of one children's book (at 1.50) we sold none. At least we have the coffees and ice creams that can sell on such a day, but the drawback is we don't make much margin with them.

Also sold a book on Amazon marketplace the second day running - we rarely sell more than one or two that way on any particular day, but since we price at 10 to 25 pounds (many of our local customers are very stingy and won't go above £4 or £5 for a book) it makes a difference.Speaking of which the £99 on Amazon book remained untaken at £1.50 in our discount box. Also bought some books from customers yesterday. One nice history of art book proved to be a good buy as I sold it later the same day. The seller was upset that I only offered £3, but as I pointed out, it was selling for 50p online and there wasn't much scope for me to offer more. Sometimes I buy a good looking book and it just gathers dust on the shelves. In this particular case I was able to sell for £5.50. That 2.50 profit won't make a huge dent in the rent, but as they say, every little helps.

Best bit of yesterday was seeing an old supplier pass by. We'd given him the nickname Ciderman, as cider was his preferred tipple when he was homeless. He used to recycle things he found on the streets to various local shops, and he had an excellent eye for finding us art books. His gain (getting accommodation and getting off the booze) was our loss, but he assured us yesterday he'll keep an eye out for discarded good books. We do have other "suppliers" but rare for any of them to bring books that we are able to sell at a good price.

Meanwhile, what I thought was going to be another slow start this morning (grey miserable weather often means a couple of hours with no customers) hasn't been too bad. A couple of local shop assistants managed to lock themselves out, so decided to wait in my shop with a coffee. And for once a couple of customers buying books (very rare for a mid-week morning). It won't last - it never does..

uranrising - 14 Jun 2018 12:55:17 (#63 of 99)

If you come upon any Mahleriana, do please drop me an email. Ta. I have a fair bit already, so i might have already.

HerrWalrus - 14 Jun 2018 13:12:33 (#64 of 99)

Not yet seen a book connected with Mahler pass through, but will keep an eye out..

flowbagging - 14 Jun 2018 16:05:14 (#65 of 99)

HerrW, I have a collection of pamphlets from WWI, would you be interested in finding a home for them for a commission?

HerrWalrus - 14 Jun 2018 16:35:34 (#66 of 99)

Flow - below is a list of 2nd hand bookshops that specialise in military stuff. Probably best you have a word with one or two close to you.

flowbagging - 14 Jun 2018 17:30:22 (#67 of 99)

Thanks, I'll have a look.

HerrWalrus - 15 Jun 2018 16:03:51 (#68 of 99)


Not the best of days yesterday (did I mention June is normally the worst for sales?) but at least a couple of books were sold. We do have some good customers who will take away a haul of 10 or 12 books at a time, but unfortunately they don't come in every day..

This morning was even worse. Up until 12.30 we hadn't made a single sale, either of coffees nor of books. However in true feast or famine fashion, we've had a couple of customers come in and pick up five or six books apiece, as well as some coffee imbibers. It's not always the case but all our book buyers today were from other countries - France, Zimbabwe or, in one case, Belgium/Russia. We do get avid book readers who are native English speakers (rare they are English though) but we'd be sunk if we lost the customers from other parts.

Some interesting donated biographies too on musicians - Lennon, Bowie, Buddy Holly. So far, touch wood, we find music biographies of the old-timers sell well. Not so anyone who came to fame post mid-80s.

At some point I'm going to be able to pop out and grab some lunch. I normally survive on sarnies or breakfast cereal, but sometimes my body tells me it needs cooked food. Today I'm going to listen to my body and take advantage of one of the budget takeaways we have in the neighbourhood, probably the Caribbean place .

No books sold on the net overnight. Must look at expanding into the Europe marketplace.

HerrWalrus - 16 Jun 2018 17:43:17 (#69 of 99)


June again lives down to its dire worst. Sold at most £14 of books in the shop. Even the cards, coffee and ice cream sales won't make much of a dent on such a poor figure for a Saturday. Only real plus point is I sold a £17 book on the web overnight.

Now closing the shop for a few days, maybe even a week. This was already planned, and makes even more sense when trade is non-existent.

helbel - 16 Jun 2018 17:51:03 (#70 of 99)

Aw, I was just getting used to the daily updates.

nemo75 - 16 Jun 2018 18:40:00 (#71 of 99)

Herr > are you working as a volunteer?

HerrWalrus - 19 Jun 2018 17:35:29 (#72 of 99)


Well I decided to open up the shop today, partly because I needed to bag up some books for disposal.One of the big internet traders collect twice a month (typically 200-300 books each time) and they perform an invaluable service for us.In common with other 2nd hand bookshops and charity shops, we are inundated with books that do not sell - in particular the bestselling fiction of yesteryear. Reducing the price does not work and merely deters the genuine bookbuyer from perusing our other books. So they get sent off to be advertised at 1p on the internet... (actually we also include a few non-fiction that may sell for a pound or two online but again don't interest our shop customers).Another reason is that there may be a radical change in the shop's operation by Saturday and I'm making the most of being in the shop this week. I can't say more at this point because it depends on someone else's financial fortunes, but watch this space.

I managed to sell a religious book online for £32 yesterday - they say there is a market for everything, but I'm not sure that's the case with all genres.A strange day in the shop. We've had a few "tyre-kickers" - people who come in to look over various shelves but with no intention of buying anything. You develop a sense of sussing this type of time-waster straight away.Managed to sell a few books too, but nowhere near £32 worth.

helbel - 22 Oct 2018 10:02:56 (#73 of 99)

uranrising - 22 Oct 2018 10:52:07 (#74 of 99)

Thanks, helbel.

LordofMisrule - 22 Oct 2018 10:58:27 (#75 of 99)

Celeste Noche

Is that a pseudonym? I now have a Don McLean earworm.

HerrWalrus - 23 Oct 2018 11:17:58 (#76 of 99)

Browse: The world in bookshops.

Looks an interesting book. What did become of the famous Drif?

uranrising - 23 Oct 2018 11:52:41 (#77 of 99)

Wikinot very helpful about Drif. His guides to s-h bookshops were most entertaining.

HerrWalrus - 29 Dec 2018 14:16:17 (#78 of 99)

Big Green Bookshop closing store - moving business completely online.

B Announcement from Simon.

I’ve absolutely loved it here in Wood Green. We have the very best customers, who have supported the Bookshop every day, from the very moment we opened over ten years ago. These have been the most rewarding years of my working life, but sometimes things have to change. So it’s time for an exciting new adventure for us. My family and I are moving out of London and starting a new version of The Big Green Bookshop. The shop itself will be closing on Thursday January 31st 2019 and we’ll be continuing the Big Green Bookshop online from then.

HerrWalrus - 06 Jan 2019 20:32:07 (#79 of 99)

How cool is this?

nemo75 - 06 Jan 2019 20:57:31 (#80 of 99)

They’re great aren’t they?

HerrWalrus - 06 Jan 2019 21:28:07 (#81 of 99)

The guy in Japan has been overwhelmed by demand. Worldwide. Could be some time before we are able to purchase them.

LordofMisrule - 06 Jan 2019 23:52:14 (#82 of 99)

I love those, but the notion of having a gap big enough on my bookshelves is amusingly alien.

JennyRad - 07 Jan 2019 10:24:43 (#83 of 99)

That was my first thought too, LordofMisrule. (Especially as I have just gone rummaging in cupboards looking for DVD-RWs and found only books I had forgotten needed shelf space. We moved in two and a half years ago, this is normal, right?)

HerrWalrus - 22 May 2019 12:01:00 (#84 of 99)

Camden Lock Bookshop (actually located in the Old Street Underground) is closing.

Read on...the small print tells you we're closing down the bookshop.

A bit of a surprise this one. One of the bookshops that I thought were doing well, at least sales wise (along with Judd books and Bookmongers in Brixton). But the rent and rates are obviously a big weight.

HerrWalrus - 23 May 2019 11:10:39 (#85 of 99)

Fame at last! But suspect I won't be described as the Hugh Grant of Kilburn..

Ricolas - 23 May 2019 14:08:38 (#86 of 99)

After a very quiet day in the bookshop yesterday apparently (!) this morning bustled about a bit, with a few email orders to deal with, and a couple of phone orders too. Judith Kerr dying means a few more Mogs and Tiger Who Came To Tea go onto tomorrow's order.

The sunny weather brightens up the shop a bit, which sits on the shady side of the road for most of the day. I could allow myself to natter to customers for longer than usual as it was cheery and not too busy.

The phone decided to only ring this morning - without exception - when I was serving customers. So a lot of having to remember to check the messages.

A couple of out-of-towners, an American and a lady from Middlesborough were in too, and managed to leave happy with some bits and pieces, which was nice.

Short day today though. Off after lunch leaving the boss in charge, as I have to pack to leave for Madrid this evening.

MontyPeculiar - 23 May 2019 20:29:04 (#87 of 99)

#85 that’s a great idea HerrW. And you get a day off!

I suspect you don’t really.

HerrWalrus - 23 May 2019 20:39:34 (#88 of 99)

I suspect you don’t really.

If anything it means more work - but fantastic even so. The people who partake have been great - I tell them if they ever come back to London I'd host them (accoommodation-wise) as a gift.

HerrWalrus - 23 Jun 2019 09:20:50 (#89 of 99)

If he doesn't want to continue the Church Street bookshop, be a real shame.

Ricolas - 23 Jun 2019 12:39:57 (#90 of 99)

That's the thing, isn't it? Books have remained the same sort of price, overheads have gone up. Our independent bookshop (in which I toil one day a week) survives, but next year is lease renewal time. And if the Landlord asks for too much of a rent increase, that is that.

nemo75 - 23 Jun 2019 12:40:48 (#91 of 99)

What has the business tax impact been like at your places?

Ricolas - 23 Jun 2019 13:45:30 (#92 of 99)

Complicated. And expensive from what I can understand. It is not as if the owner does not have a good accountant - being a retailer carries a lot of overheads. It must be hard being a Conservative of the Thatcher mould if you are a retailer, as it is quite clear that the once party of small business is not that anymore.

On the other hand, who is?

Avonlea - 23 Jun 2019 15:07:41 (#93 of 99)

A small independent baker on a minor road in the centre of Twickenham looks likely to close, as its business rates this year are £11,000. Hard for any small business to sustain, I would think.

Ricolas - 23 Jun 2019 17:22:27 (#94 of 99)

Particularly when the big players have massive economies of scale, and tend to be, er, very tax efficient

nemo75 - 23 Jun 2019 22:47:18 (#95 of 99)

I’m talking about local authority business rates.

HerrWalrus - 15 Jan 2021 10:34:25 (#96 of 99)

This bookseller reveals some key truths to running a bookshop. Rings 100% true with me.

HerrWalrus - 14 Jul 2021 09:35:08 (#97 of 99)

Crowdfunder for Saqi Books in Westbourne Grove - hit very hard by the floods apparently. I know even the wealthy people here are probably weary of appeals, but would be a shame if this place went under.

HerrWalrus - 01 Aug 2021 12:39:30 (#98 of 99)

The Book Guide is back online:

This is the new incarnation of thebookguide, which aims to list every secondhand and antiquarian bookshop in the UK and Republic of Ireland.

uranrising - 01 Aug 2021 13:08:01 (#99 of 99)

It's introduction has useful, brief survey of other books past surveying the field. An earlier edition of the Sheppard one helped me in to the field.

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