I figured I owed you guys some explanations for slacking off so badly. You may not find nice juicy bookish tidbits every day, some days it’s just rehashed news but it seems there are plenty of bookseller blogs to read instead. Not that that’s a bad thing, when I started the Bullpen last January, I couldn’t find a decent blog of interest to used booksellers. Now, there’s a shitload of them – which is a lot cooler. Like used bookstores themselves, more isn’t competition, it’s just more. And if some is good – more is better.
Joyce Godsey 12/16/62, 5’2″, 1– pounds, brown and brown. I have been trading in books since I was 15 – and volunteered at my first library sale. I was hooked – big time. Handling so many different books all at once – it was like getting high. The lag time between sales was painful – so by the time I was 18 I was running it. A book addiction is hard to resist, like illicit drugs you start selling some on the side to pay for your personal stash. Somewhere in there in between straight jobs, I started selling books in group shops and co-ops, and doing a bit of scouting for bigger fish. Working under the table for other booksellers, minding their shops, fetching and carrying at bookfairs, you name it I have done it. Everything I ever learned I learned from other booksellers. Many of them long since dead – some freshly dead.
Messing about with books, I found I had a talent and a fondness for resurrecting the dead. And since as a new bookseller you buy an awful lot of shit, I had a lot of sacrificial victims to play with. As I could afford to, I took classes from professional bookbinders, non-professional bookbinders, seminars at binderys and schools – anyone who knew something I didn’t. And I accumulated a really large collection of books about fixing other books. Since I dwelled in a land of moderately priced books and there weren’t any books on fixing moderately priced books – I developed a lot of my own ‘fixes’ including mixing up my first batch of deodorizer. And after offering free advice for ten years, I finally compiled a list of my best fixes into a book . . .well . . . a book like substance.
I started selling books on the net in 1998 more or less . . . and I did very well . . . really well. I was still keeping a part time job at Barnes and Noble for the medical coverage – and after 8 years of working for myself too, I didn’t have to keep it. I had my own health insurance, my own employees and I was shipping a few hundred books a week. Life was sweet. Then it all went to hell. Instead of professional tax reporting – overhead covering booksellers, the internet became flooded with penny resellers with day jobs. I learned a painful lesson. Don’t trust the internet . . .and I don’t. B is for bankruptcy, baby.
Until last month I was doing the scut work (office managing, bookkeeping and cataloging) for a high end bookseller outside of Boston, but he went and opened a shop next to Harvard University and decide a fat little working class bookseller wasn’t a classy enough image for an open shop. So, I got a deadly blunt email explaining how my services were no longer required and by the way could I like to train my replacement before I go? Yeah right.
Of late I am once again working out of the living room in my apartment with way too many cats, and my mother in the next apartment, who is in short – crazy. She has been that way off and on for the last 83 years and now that way all the time. For the past few years she has been playing tag with some blood ailment and is about to have a lumpectomy on one of her breasts. . . and oh, did I mention she was crazy? She drove her car to McD’s this morning to buy coffee, paid for and forgot the coffee and then drove home. No, she isn’t supposed to drive. I would have had to tackle her to get her last set of keys – and ended up disconnecting her car’s battery instead. Then I had a few words with her sister who has been discouraging her from keeping contact with her last living friend: my 95 year old ersatz grandmother in the nursing home down the road. Everyday for 20 years my mother would have coffee and kvetch with her which helped keep her ‘crazy’ from corrupting the rest the world. Since my mother has been ill, she has avoided calling her only friend at the advice of my meddling aunt. So my mother is getting crazier, my fake grandmother is getting depressed and my aunt is well just getting on my nerves. Did I mention I have a brother who is playing the role of good son, he shows up for a few hours of concern every now and then runs back to his ‘real’ family. Fucking coward.
So. . . that’s me at this exact moment in time. Ask me again tomorrow and I will write an entirely different post. Regardless of all the other jobs on my ridiculously colorful resume. I sell books, professionally and for real. And I’m another know it all blogger, making it all up as I go.
– please don’t bother sending condolence emails about my mother’s ill health or her eventual loss. i don’t like my mother. she hasn’t liked me since i was 11 and blew the doors off my IQ test. she has been playing the dying swan for 30 years and i’m finding her cancer to be anti-climatic. ed. –