Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Step-by-Step Instructions for Remainder and Bargain Book Buying

A few weeks ago I was showing Wordsworth Classics at the New England Independent Booksellers Association (NEIBA) annual fall conference in Providence. On Sunday, October 6, two days before the trade show portion, I was on a panel discussing how to to use remainders and bargain books to grow your business, make your customers happy, and have fun doing it. I was joined on the panel by the organizer, Vicky Titcomb, owner of Titcomb's Bookshop in East Sandwich, Massachusetts, Alie Hess, buyer at Brookline Booksmith, in Brookline, Massachusetts, and Henry Zook, owner of Book Court in Brooklyn, New York.

We had a healthy turnout, all booksellers, some owners, some buyers, some both. We talked about planning, buying, merchandising, and managing remainders and bargain books. Vicky had lugged in about 200 pounds (100 per shoulder bag) of her favorite examples. We took turns at guessing prices and talking about sales potential and merchandising ideas.

After our presentation there was time for questions, and one of those questions illustrated what is, for me, the reason for being: 

"What is the step-by-step process for buying remainders?" 

Alie summed it up best:
1. Order them. 

I'm not sure what it is that makes this part of the industry so inscrutable for the uninitiated. Maybe there is a fear of the non-returnable. Or maybe it's the layers of Edelweiss, Ingram, industry data, and customer service between the bookseller and the buy for new book purchasing, whereas with remainders and bargain books, it's pretty much just you and the books. 

I am working on a post about overload, and one of the ways in which I am overloaded today is that, like my last post and the one before that, I am writing in my hotel room at a trade show. The one I am at now is CIROBE, the granddaddy of remainder shows, and I got completely caught off guard by the demand and have been standing, or sitting, for 8 hours straight, 2 days in a row, inputting orders. The customers are bringing me stacks of books, I scan one into my database, and the customer says whatever the number is they want, then it's on to the next. This is my experience at trade shows. At a busy show this can go on, non-stop, for two or three days in a row.

These customers are not second guessing themselves. They know their businesses, their customers, and basically what they need to bring in. There is not much science to it. They place their orders, leave sheets or cards with their store addresses, credit information, shipping preferences, and move on to the next vendor.

This is admittedly a tight bunch. There are too few booksellers in the world, and far fewer buy remainders and bargain books. Therein lies the mystery. There are so many doing such a good job of it, making good money, day in and day out, and for others it seems to be a puzzle.

Don't think too hard about it, don't look for reasons not to get in. Order them and they will come.

Also see my post at

In case you were actually looking for instructions on how to order from little old me...

By Email, Using the Excel Lists I Send You as Order Forms:
Save the Excel lists where you will remember the location (desktop or a file folder) and then enter your order quantities in the "order qty" column. When you are done, save again and close, then send to me as an attachment to an email.

By Fax: 
Write your order on paper and fax me at (800) 576-2703 (that only comes to me). If you create your order in the Excel sheet as described above, you can sort by quantity ordered and then just print that bit and fax it to me. Make sure to include enough contact info so I know who the order is from.

By Email Without Attachments:
You can also copy and paste ISBNs, titles, and quantities into the body of an email. Orders are okay without titles, just ISBNs, however I prefer at least a keyword or two from the title to make sure I’m getting it right.

By Paper Mail:
If you like to help keep the Post Office in business, mail your orders to me at PO Box 8143, Pittsburgh, PA 15217.
If you do decide to mail via the Post Office, I will send you postage stamps to cover your cost, up to $5.50, or the current Priority Mail rate.

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