Rubber carving print by April Pease
Violet Books: Ten Good Things

Top Ten Reasons
Why A Catalog Bookstore
Is Preferable to a Walk-in Shop


Hey, I know you're thinking about opening a bookshop, either now or when you retire. But you're wondering if you should do it out of your house with catalogs & a website rather than across from a bar on skid row, where you'll have to spray last night's winos' urine off the sidewalk in front of your store each morning before you open for business. Or in a run-down mall where you have to listen to the hallway's muzak all day long while crabby suburban mothers gripe at you cuz they can't get their twins' baby stroller through your cluttered narrow aisles & what kind of shop-owner are you anyway moron (says the crabby mom as she kicks a box of first editions out of the stroller's path & permits one of the twins to yank books off shelves as the other twin sets a sucked-on gummy-bear on a dictionary). Don't let me disuade you from a walk-in shop if your heart's set on one, but supposing you do want my opinion, here are:

The ten good things about bookselling
through catalogs instead of walk-in shops:

1) You don't have to keep any customer you don't enjoy. I felt like a sitting duck in an open shop. With a catalog you can build up a personal clientele made up of people with similar interests, & just stop mailing lists to folks who are no fun at all.

2) You no longer have to stock the "popular walk-in items" like tattery Stephen King paperbacks or The Zen & the Art of Motorcycle Repair, or whatever is the latest stinko fad-book whether about a mystical seagull or a bridge in Wisconsin, but can focus instead on cool stuff you can be honestly enthusiastic about.

3) If you've a genuinely interesting specialized stock -- whether the topic's Japan, anthropology, supernatural literature, whatever -- it's pretty easy to sell good stuff to devoted bibliofanatics around the world. Compare that to a general stock in an open store, where books seem to sell randomly with small sense to it.

4) You can spend more time on the road searching for good stock instead of stuck in a shop staring at bookshelves, feeling like a rat in a box & hoping the next bastard bringing you a box of cast-off books has something besides beat up The Exterminator paperbacks.

5) If it's still pretty hard to make much money, at least it's a liberating rather than a stultifying poverty.

6) If you bloody lose your mind no one will be standing across the check-out counter watching.

7) You can goof off, sleep in, scratch your butt, or dance around in your undies.

8) You can let your pets or kids run loose while you play your favorite CDs which are the ones that annoyed the walk-in plebes.

9) You can work in your pajamas, a tutu, or a suit of armor.

10) You can fart as loud as you want.

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