Rules of thumb – Road Tripping

Okay so I took yesterday off for a little road trip. Rebekah Bartlett from Coelacanth Books and I took in a book auction up in the wilds of New Hampshire. (why are auction houses ALWAYS hell and gone from civilization?) Here’s a few thumbs I cobbled together –


BRING MAPS – Buy new ones at least once a decade – mine tend to find their way to the floor of the truck and then acquire decoratively placed muddy boot prints. Regardless of how many I have, I always end up with 3 of one state and only half of another. I hate it when I drive off a map and onto a new one I don’t have.

I like to make small marks on the maps with MM/YY when I find an out of the way goodie, like an off the grid bookshop or good place to eat. I even scrawl radio station info, so I don’t have to spend ages scanning the dial. If this bugs you get a seperate set of maps for notations.

BRING A DIRECTORY – the regions Book Association Dealer directory – ALMOST everywhere has an association of old bookies and any org worth their salt has a directory with a map. When you see them grab FOUR – one goes in the car, one goes on your desk, one gets lent to someone else and one gets lost. You can always visit an association site and print out stuff before you go. Also bring any directories of Antique Malls or thrift stores. You may not plan your trip around them, but if you are off on a stretch between bookstores you may do some exploring. I found a antiuqe mall booth with 50% decent books yesterday cause I was killing time waiting for the auction to start.

BRING YOUR CAMERA – it’s not just for travel snaps anymore. With the no cost of digital photos, I take pictures of things I want to remember instead of writing them down. A signpost, a store front, a restaurant, even a meal or a book. A phone with a camera is a terrific toy for surreptitiously shooting a book in a store.

BRING YOUR OWN BOX and/or bags – I hate it when I buy an expensive book and they put it in a grocery bag or if I buy several and all they have is a banana box with no decent bottom. I save them money and me aggravation, by putting them directly into my own box or bag with handles. You can tear up whatever they gave you and use it to keep them from sliding around.

BRING A TO-GO BAG – my glove box is already full of garage receipts, flashlights, wd-40 and whatnot. So, I keep a canvas bookbag hanging on the chair by the door – with maps, directories, pens, notebook etc . . . It all comes back it the house on top of the box of books. If anything it is a place to put the days receipts and flyers.


HAVE A FLEXIBLE DESTINATION – I learned this doing photography, find a destination point. It doesn’t even HAVE to be a bookstore. You may stop many times before you get there you may even change your trip and NOT get there. But when you have one, you can always swing your compass back to it when you are stuck for a decision.

TAKE THINGS – flyers, anouncements, free mags – the flyers and annoucement cards can lead you to a store or a sale you didn’t know about and may help you plan your next trip. And the free mags are good for packing material after read them or decide your aren’t going to read them.

FOLLOW YOUR NOSE – if you see someplace curious STOP – the odds are good you won’t remember it the next time you go back there. You never know what you will find. There are ENDLESS tales of booksellers stopping unplanned at a thrift store and finding a gem.

USE THE FACILITIES – remember when your mother told you to go before you go? booksellers you don’t know personally may not have a public restroom. Use the ones in the fast food joints, like Mickey D’s, BK adn Dunkins – you DON’T HAVE to eat there – trust me it’s okay – they really don’t care.

STOP AND EAT – regardless of whether you are just starting out or writing off the whole trip. TAKE time to stop and eat. It will at least give you a chance to make notes, check your time and map and make your next decision. If you are on a strict book only budget – bring food and drink in a small cooler with ice and don’t bring crappy road food, bring a treat – something nice you don’t normally make and stop at those odd side road monuments, that’s what they put them there for! I once made my own lobster rolls and ice tea and was eating by a babbling brook off a side road in Warren, New Hampshire when a deer walked right past me – I kid you not! If you have a more flexible allowance – stop someplace that LOOKS interesting – not a chain. Either the food will be great or just as mediocre as fast food kind – either way it is better than eating in your car.

TAKE A LOAD OFF – If you aren’t driving your own vehicle or are somewhere you had to fly to get to think about shipping. If you are visiting a bookseller you know collect up your hoard and ship it home ahead of you from their place. (I did that from California and was sooo glad I did) It may be pricey to stop and ship from a ‘shipping’ store – but depending on the weight of your books, their value and your chiropractic bills it may be worth it. If you are worried about your new acquires, ship your clothes home and put your books in your luggage*. I like to bring empty soft suitcases stuffed inside each other JUST to fill with b

KEEP AN OPEN MIND – Don’t clutter your head with a search for just the stuff you WANT to find – you will blind yourself to stuff you didn’t know you were looking for. So? you find a few non-book things that you can eBay, or you find some decent books that AREN’T your specialty you can resell to another dealer.

“Never THINK you are going to find anything when you look, just look, with an open mind. Most people CANNOT DO THIS, what with their egos getting in the way, etc. I mean it. One of the absolute hardest things to do is NEVER THINK YOU WILL HIT THE LICK, just have an interest in things and OBSERVE, trying to LEARN SOMETHING. There is a certain chemistry involved with luck, I believe, and, if one does not lay the groundwork for the luck, ie; do the open mind thing and don’t let GREED enter in to your preparation, you can pick up every book in sight for the next million years and all you will be doing is “lifting.” * in from Ed Smith Books

TAKE SOME CHANCES – Blind buy stuff. Most booksellers DON’T live and die by ScoutPal, we use our head and instincts. We buy stuff, we research it and we file that knowledge away so that we can make better guesses the next time. What you learn by merely researching a book can usually outweigh the cost of the book. You are honing your knowledge and over the years you make fewer and fewer ‘bad’ buys. One of the first things a bookseller ever told me is that “You never regret the books you buy as much as the ones you don’t” You HAVE to take some risks, because THOSE are the lessons you remember.

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