Hello from the latest incarnation of the Wine Country Books office
Happy New Year!
Baby New Year with Father Time from Wikipedia
2013 was very, very good to my family and a wonderful start for Wine Country Books. We wish you and your family every blessing and success.
The blog has been quiet because
WE MOVED! Spur of the moment found a place put ours on the market closed on both places within a month! Unheard of, and hurry up and wait in the dark the whole time, until suddenly we had one week to vacate our home to get into the new one. And we’ve been unpacking ever since, with a break for joyful holidays and of course more unpacking to go.
The new place has ever so much more room for the Wine Country Books warehouse, offices, and Shipping Annexe. I just got done shelving all of the books we have listed for sale. This is about 1/5 of our total collection. Which means… I must get to work!
We took some time off for the holiday. It should tell you something that the gift I give myself is putting in time shelving, photographing, researching, cataloging each book. What a joy, and what a relief to have a better space for this new endeavor.
Now… to sort out this tax thing. Sigh. Ugh.
A little bit of ambient productivity music as I start the year off right- with my books!
Part deux of the amazing journey that has been the last two months was going to my parents’ house to pack up twenty years’ worth of inventory. They had been waiting a year for me to come and get them so they could reclaim their basement and garage, both wall to wall books, with my Dad’s desk squeezed into a little tiny corner. I mean… so. many. books.
My mother and I sat for days checking the prices of the books, donating those that might not fetch enough to justify the expense of shipping them across the country. It was an endless process. I might be blissed out and zen one moment, and so anxious I was sick at my stomach the next. I flipped out on a daily basis, afraid I might not have time to get them shipped before the day I hoped to go see my best friend in NC or even before I had to be back in Wine Country a few days later so that I could be with the kids when my husband left for work travel. In a way it was traumatic. But then, even in the throes of it all, I would step back and look at it and think, Heck. Sitting in the comfy chair, surrounded by my parents’ books, plus their quirky book-related souvenirs and artwork? Pleeeease don’t throw me into that briar patch!
We went through SO MANY BOOKS. So many lovely, lovely books, from esoteric subjects to popular fiction, from beautiful valuable old ones, to an eclectic assortment of more recent ones. What a delight it is to just sit surrounded by books. If it weren’t for the rush to get done I would have been in heaven. (Now that I have the books home, i pretty much AM in heaven when I am working with them. I hate leaving them to eat, even. The online bookselling weightloss solution?)
It was quite a journey emotionally, historically and culturally as well. Many of the books had touched my family in some way. These books represented estates sold by heirs after their loved ones died. They represented my childhood. My grandfather’s career in the early days of computers and digital communication. My father’s career in conservation of natural resources. My mother’s aesthetic and good taste, and the books my parents shared with me when I was a kid, Zane Grey westerns or the Kristin Lavransdatter series, my grandmother’s love of cats, angels, Sweden and all things British. They represented the history of and impact upon two generations who served in two very different wars. The cultural shifts of the glamorous fifties, the erudite and earnest sixties, the droll and disillusioned seventies. They represented the wax and wane of the art of design and production of books and dust jackets.
So, so many good books, from the esoteric to the popular, from lushly decorated turn of the century books, to sophisticated block print effect of thirties dust jackets to fifties pulp fiction-esque covers to the photographic dust jackets of today. I got to know some of those dear departed whose estates wound up in my parents’ inventory pretty well too, like the old minister from Denbigh or the woman who had kept a few treasured childhood titles with her all her life, as evidenced by her name in the front growing from careful childish block letters to graceful to shaky yet still genteel cursive.
And here is what I learned.
The worth of a book is absolutely, stunningly, situational and arbitrary. The most authoritative book in some field of knowledge might not be worth a thing in the marketplace. A book someone in my family or one of those dear departed had treasured for its beauty, age or content, might be worth nothing- suffering the ignominous fate of the one cent or one dollar book..And here is the corollary: Even if your signed Stephen King is worth thousands of dollars, if nobody is willing to pay what it’s worth, its worth is greatest as a paperweight, or firewood as one of the authors in ‘the biz’ likes to say..
As a public librarian in a small southern town I found that people will donate their most tattered paperbacks, their moldiest hardbacks, their children’s battered and sticky picture books, their 30 years’ worth metric ton of National Geographics. We couldn’t use them in the library and sometimes people didn’t understand. It’s a BOOK! How could it not be worth putting in your collection? Someone could still read that! (That is a conversation for another day.) The pokiest, boringest, embarrassingly 70’s/early 80’s cover illustration-est book- It was like it was made of gold. it is touching the way people hold their books in such awe and feel they are ‘still good’, a real gift, when they give them away. It is also a storage nightmare.
In the selection process at my parents’, so many times I looked at a book and said Well that one’s a classic of Southern Literature or children’s literature or biography or what have you. Then we would look it up and it wouldn’t be worth the cost to ship it back to Wine Country, and we would send it back where it came from- the thrift store, the friends of the library book sale, and so on. And then I would skeptically look up a book in cheap brown or manila paperback- some ridiculous subject like the proceedings of a symposium on some little known woodpecker- and it would be going for a hundred dollars.
Donating so many (SO MANY) because they did not make the cut was incredibly humbling. People pass on, and their books survive them. Each book represents someone’s life, their education, their profession, their aspirations, their relationships with others, what they enjoyed, what they believed in. Throwing away a book feels like disregarding a life.
As a friend pointed out, what a perfect new direction for me! Here is the irony. For many years I devoted my career, and then my household organizational efforts, to making sure we had just enough of just the right books, and ruthlessly discarding those that would no longer serve..Then, when I have finally been able to adjust to life outside, that is outside the library/information profession, I am covered in a veritable Alpine avalanche of BOOKS! It must be a circle of hell, having to choose between this book that made the cut and this book that didn’t. The IRONY!
But what a joy it is, too, to have my own collection that I can truly manage. As a library director I didn’t have time to manage like i would have liked (and had a good bit to learn about public library collections to boot). As a branch manager I was under the supervision of the collection developer up at Main Branch. Now- it’s mine, all mine!
Good morning, darlings. There it is, the new Wine Country Books office, between the Wine Country Books Shipping center,
And the Wine Country Books Warehouse
And <sigh> the Wine Country Books Cat, who asks, tea? For me?
It is stunning, the distance between the way I dream it will look, and the way it is. The process defies any attempt to plan. That is, I can plan all day long. But to paraphrase one of my heroes, Planning is everything. Plans are nothing.
So, I start as I mean to go on.
I make a plan to balance family and business:
Mondays, housework, cooking, menu planning, cooking (and, this past Monday, unpacking the books from six until dark and, in spite of all my work cooking, supper of Taco Bell).
Tuesdays, fun with homeschooled and vacationing children – this past Tuesday, to include Frisbee Golf with Favorite Homeschool Mom Friend and our several biological and acquired children, followed by enjoyable lunch and chat while the kids gamed, followed by our Tuesday Gott’s ritual, followed by collapsing into bed with a very good book about success in online book sales, only to pass out from exhaustion due to frisbee golf.
Wednesdays (today) all day in the book business, keeping the books listed with online vendors, packaging and shipping (Lord I hope), and keeping the collection in order, followed by a dinner I planned and prepped Monday.
Thursdays, morning domestic goddess, afternoons our longstanding playdate with homeschooled and vacationing kids.
Fridays, work on the business unless something special like camping or travel is going on.
Daily, check the email to see if I need to package and ship anything.
Daily bedtime reading, one of the many books I have about collecting, selling and preserving books. Occasionally, attend classes that will help with writing business plans, book keeping, taxes and marketing.
So I got up, had my coffee and a slice of blackberry buttermilk cake, made a pot of ginger tea, and took the laptop, phone, and tea out to the Office/Warehouse/Shipping Space to get started. So far I have touched two key parts of my plan for Actually Selling Something: Unpacking and shelving books 11 boxes today, 40 to go; and marketing, to include an interesting and attractive blog.
I will eventually hit some sort of reasonable stride, posts highlighting books in our collection that are special for some reason whether sentimental, historic, artistic or literary, and sharing the quirks of building my new business. Welcome. Please come back any time.
Visit our shops at abe.com and amazon.com