11 Things Your Indie Bookseller Wants You To Know

11 Things Your Indie Bookseller Wants You To Know

Independent bookstores are a wonder to behold. Stuffed with ancient treasures, the indie bookstore can be an amazing place to spend a spell-bound hour or two. Many used bookstores rely on books coming through the door to keep their inventory up, so they can also be a great place to get a little cash or credit from the books you have at home collecting dust.

As someone who has spent a significant amount of time on the other side of the dusty counter, allow me to give you a few words of advice when it comes to selling your books to a used bookstore.

1. Old Does Not Necessarily Mean Valuable

HRH Queen Vicki loves a good Danielle Steel novel after a long day of ruling the Empire. 

HRH Queen Vicki loves a good Danielle Steel novel after a long day of ruling the Empire. 

A crumbling prayer book of your grandma’s from 1882 is probably worthless, unless your grandma was Queen Victoria. Supply and demand drives the book trade as it does with any other product, so if there is no demand for your book, it isn’t going to be worth very much, no matter how old it is.

2. Sentimental Does Not Mean Valuable

It may be beyond valuable to you because it was a gift, or was read to you every night as a child, or was brought home in a suitcase from a Hawaiian vacation, but unless the book has actual market value, we’re not going to pay you $20 for your tattered copy of Love You Forever.

3. Signed Does Not Mean Valuable

Believe it or not, a signed book is not necessarily valuable either. Once again, supply and demand plays a huge role. If the book is signed by someone who is in high demand but does not sign a lot of books, someone like, say, Cormac McCarthy, then that signature will have a great deal more value than something you got signed by an obscure Sci-Fi writer at your hometown’s version of Comic-Con.

4. First Edition Does Not Mean Valuable

A first edition of David Copperfield is only worth about $200, while a first edition of Great Expectations is worth about $100,000. Crazy, right? They’re both Dickens novels, so what gives? Once more, Supply. And. Demand. Whether or not a first edition is valuable really has to be evaluated on a book-by-book basis and can be dependent on any number of factors.


5. You Will Only Get 20-25% of the Re-Sale Value

We are going to buy your books at a percentage of the resale value, otherwise we will never make any money and indie bookstores will become a relic of the past for good. If you spent $30 on a hardcover new release, you aren’t going to make nearly that much back. Re-sale value is $12-$15 on most general stock hardcovers, so you are at most going to get offered $3-$4 for it.

6. Condition is Important. Like Really Important

A torn or missing dust jacket, water or insect damage, missing or torn pages, severe foxing and/or toning, and underlining are just a few of the things that can take a book from fairly valuable to utterly worthless. If you’re selling us trade paperbacks, they’re not worth much to start with. Throw in some condition issues and save yourself a trip: just throw the books away.

7. Our Needs Change From Day to Day

And sometimes from hour to hour. If we just bought 7 volumes of To Kill a Mockingbird, we’re probably not going to take yours. Other factors may include how much shelf space we have at a given time, what our budget is, and how fast we can sell what you have. A well-rounded store will be stocked with the classics of literature, but the truth is some classic works sell better than others. Hawthorne does not sell as well as Salinger and Orwell sells better than them both. It’s just the way it is. So if we turn away your copy of The Scarlet Letter, it’s because we already have 5 copies that haven’t sold in 3 years.

8. We Don’t Want Your Encyclopedias & Neither Does Anyone Else

With the rise of the internet, encyclopedias became superfluous. With anything you could possibly think to ask being only a casual google search away, no one needs a 20 volume set of books taking up massive amounts of space. We can’t sell them and neither can any other bookstore. Donate them or fob them off on a young niece or nephew as a graduation present.

9. Dust Every Once In Awhile

It’s a wonder every used book seller doesn’t die from black lung with the state some people bring their books in. Be considerate. If a box has been sitting in your garage or attic for a decade, take the vacuum and clean the books and the box up a little. If it isn’t something you want on your hands, clothes, or lungs, it isn’t something we want all up in our grills either.

10. Don’t Haggle

We have a policy and system in place for how we buy books for a reason. Trying to drill down in to the algorithm to figure out which book is worth what exactly when you’re trying to sell us a pile of Dean Koontz in questionable condition, is just a waste of everyone’s time. We made you an offer, you’re free to take it or leave it, but don’t haggle.

11. We Won’t Buy Books We Can’t Sell

I can’t count the times a person has desperately asked if we will take everything they have off their hands for a dollar a book or a quarter a book or anything, and the answer is no. If we turned a book away, it’s because we can’t sell it. Why would we buy inventory we can’t sell? That sounds like a great way to go out of business. If you’re truly hard up, donate to goodwill, libraries, schools, non-profits, or anywhere else a casual google search may send you in your quest to get rid of your books.

In summary, be respectful, and trust that your book seller knows what they’re doing. People who work in the independent book business don’t do it for the money, but for the love of the trade. If you do have something special, we will be just as thrilled as you are to find it. Until then, keep reading and buy more books!

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