I am a freelance author, writer, critic, artist, and entrepreneur living in the Heart of the Texas Hill Country.
Back to Blog
I sold books online. And the process was time consuming. Abebooks.com has a reputation, among collectors, as a site for rare and collectible books, people do sell the average book, but only because it's so commonly referred to in the book world.
A few years ago Amazon bought Abebooks.com, and, of course, my initial reaction was frustration, irritation, a little shock - for whatever reason - ultimately, it didn't make a difference, the site isn't run all that differently, and the same people are "In Charge." ...but this blog isn't, particularly, about Amazon, or Abebooks.com, I uploaded hundreds of books, one-by-one online: I went into detail abou the condition of the books, and listed author, ISBN, title, edition, format, price, the process was unbelievable. I reached a point though where I realized that selling books online wasn't the avenue that I wanted to pursue, and I started considering different avenues while I went through the process of developing the actual storefront.
I looked into selling books from my trunk, and did, on several occasions, use my car as a mobile bookstore. I thought about buying a truck that I could convert into a bookstore. I even toyed with the idea of setting up a shop in the foyer of my house, an idea that I referred to as Blue Door Books, on account of my blue front door.
There is always another way to get your business off the ground, and being creative about it, can develop into something more than what you had originally imagined.
I moved back to Boerne, Texas, making the drive in a 10" U-Haul filled with a few personal items: clothes, a flat-screen TV, a guitar, a banjo, my djembe, but the space was occupied by dozens, and dozens, and dozens of boxes of books -- I had over a hundred boxes full of books.
The idea of selling books mobile never left my mind, and I looked into that - and still do - within the first few days of resting my head on the pillow in my new place in good ol' Boerne, Texas. In the meantime I also looked into renting space in multi-vendor shops in town. There were at least three multi-vendor shops right on, or just off of Main Street in Boerne, and I thought it would be a good way to gauge my customer base, to experiment with new marketing techniques, and to establish myself in town.
I initially agreed on a small space on the 2nd floor of the most traveled of the three, The Boerne Emporium. When I say small, I do mean, it was quite small. It was the size of a closet. After I had built, and stocked the shelves, the was room enough inside for two people, cramped. It was a closet, so it was only fitting to name the place, Wardrobe Books.
The benefit, I decided, to utilizing a space that was so small to start a business, was that the majority of my time could be devoted to understanding my market. I explored different marketing techniques, and demographics, I tried different ways to bring people into the building, and upstairs, specifically to my bookstore, to Wardrobe Books.
It was an enjoyable challenge coming up with new ways to convince people to walk into this three story multi-vendor building Main Street, to disregard everything they see on the first, and second floors, and to walk to the end of the hall, and explore a closet, and of books no less. A product that the media, and the conversation, has told us is "a thing of the past." "On it's way out."
In this closet I could only display a third of my inventory, so I eventually moved into a room, around the corner from my closet, that - for all intents, and purposes - was perfect for Wardrobe Books (for what I was trying to do, at the time). I was able to display the majority of the inventory I had, then. I built the shelves, just as I had in the closet, with ply board and bricks, and I challenged myself to recognize the differences, all the differences, from marketing to clientele, that the move, and the room size would make.
This was all in beta.
I was selling only used, and remainder books, and through the limited space and inventory, the intent would be to see who shopped there, how often, and what they bought. What are the differences between the authors, and titles, and genres, that sold in Boerne vs. Salt Lake City, Utah; New York City, New York; and Santa Fe, New Mexico? How could I predict that, and was it possible to manipulate what sold, if II could introduce new interests and tastes into the market.
If I could through this beta version of my bookstore, I would try to learn to gauge whether introducing teas, and tea smoothies, and coffees, into the equation would make a difference, or enough of a difference, assuming books wouldn't pay the rent on their own.
...then again, I thought, the whole point of this is to create a place that is a town center, a hub, and something Boerne has never seen before.