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Thursday, August 14, 2014

Putting My Money Where My Mouth Is, Part I (The Big Unveiling)

UPS came today with the shipment I’ve been eagerly awaiting. Here’s the story.

People often ask me (because so much of my stock is used books), “Do you buy books?” Yes, I do, both new ones and old ones--it's impossible to have a really good collection without making at least occasional good purchases--but I buy, of necessity, very, very selectively. No bookseller lasts 21 years in the business by buying everything. Dog Ears Books was originally Dog Ears Used Books, and it was only after half a dozen years of sending potential customers elsewhere when they asked for new nature field guides that I set up my first account with a new books distributor. Guides to birds, wildflowers, trees and such, then, were the first new books I stocked. Next came specific Michigan titles and children’s books. After a few more years I connected with a second, larger distributor, giving me the capability to order almost any new book anyone wants.

As for which new books I order for store stock—“on spec,” as it were—I'm still careful. Demand for hardcover bestsellers usually sends people to cut-rate online sites, and paperback bestsellers are available at grocery and big box stores. So I’m careful. Buying inventory is an investment, and deciding where to put the money in a business is an important decision, regardless of how small the business may be.

One of my personal interests for decades, however, has been agriculture. My fascination may go back as far back as childhood, when one Ohio grandmother had a cow and chickens (and an outhouse and pump for plumbing), and at home in Illinois we watched the sun set behind the cornfield—soybeans in alternating years—across the road. Oh, yes, and I yearned for a horse, too. But whenever that farming seed was planted in my soul, it took hold early and stayed strong. I’m always happy to recommend Louis Bromfield’s Malabar Farm, the books of Gene Logsdon, and anything by Wendell Berry. I have old Yearbooks of Agriculture in stock, and just the other day a customer came along for an old copy Forage Crops. I’ve also (and have written about this before) subscribed for a couple of years now to AcresUSA...

...And so (flourish of trumpets), meet my new distributor, AcresUSA, and the first order I've received from them:

I am very, very excited to expand my new book offerings in agriculture this way. Added to what I was already carrying, the section is looking very good indeed. 

But poets, never fear! New poetry books, already a mainstay, will continue to be prominently featured in the front of the store.

Farming and poetry. Poets and farmers. I stand behind them. I support them by putting my business money where my mouth is.

Part II of "Putting My Money Where My Mouth Is" will have nothing to do with books. Stay tuned for that surprise project, to be announced as soon as I get it together.


Susan said...

Can't wait to check all these out, since I am a wanna-be farmer.

P. J. Grath said...

Yes, that's me, too, Susan. Having reading farmer customers, though, is a big joy in my bookselling life.

Karen Casebeer said...

These look wonderful, Pamela. With the trends pointing towards agribusiness, you should have some instant bestsellers here. Karen

P. J. Grath said...

Karen, I'm not sure in what context or how you mean 'agribusiness.' The facilitator of one group that was meeting in Northport used 'agribusiness' to describe farms in our township, but to me the term refers to huge, corporate entities, the kind we don't have here at all. The direction of my new book offerings in farming go in the direction of organic farming or what AcresUSA magazine calls eco-agriculture. To me this direction is the opposite of what I think of as agribusiness. The latter treats farming as an industrial process, using chemicals to dominate nature; the former treats it as a way of life working in partnership with nature.

Barbara Stark-Nemon said...

Me three on the fantasy of being a farmer; my next novel has an entire subplot about it! Looks like I'll need to add to my research library!

P. J. Grath said...

Isn't research fun? History or soil or whatever--.