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18 February 2007

Breaking the Grip of Mid-Winter Freeze-In and the Block of Ice around Bookstore Sales

As in the Midwest and Atlantic Canada , as well as in Northern and Central New England, here in Montreal and the rest of Québec, generally, the last two weeks have been a virtual freeze-in (or snow-down if that suits your vocabulary) for bookstore owners and book buyers.

Yes, 'speaking for' my two closest bookstore friends, the crop of shoppers dropping in has been sparsely sewn on snow-packed ground regarding all but the mail carrier and closest friends. Yet, for at least two shopping afternoons, the sun did break through, for enough time to avoid a total disaster.

At present, as a sometime supplier, I do not have very many books placed on consignment in either of my friends' shops. In the locale with the most traffic (call it Jenny's), Jenny won't take on my McSweeney's titles, saying that McSweeney box sets are too sophisticated for the indigenous clientele (GRXNBX !! ?? I muttered to myself) and despite the FACT that everything she does take on consignment from me sells quite well. And Jenny gets 50% of the asking price.

Where there is less traffic, at Marilyn's, a few books that have my name tucked inside on a card have been sold and I've been rewarded at 100%. (I'd virtually written then off.) So things keep selling at 14 C below.

Two conclusions: 1) the deep of winter is not completely a 'death zone' in our neighbbourhood, where Montrealers are hardy folks who still get out in all sorts of weather, and 2) I must urgently come to a workable agreement with these bookstore owners in terms of what they will take on consignment and how we divy up the monetary returns.

There have been a couple books (entire genres perhaps) that all three of us have felt in our bones will sell fast: the nicely illustrated, clean copies of books featuring Marilyn Monroe on the cover plus and things like the Princeton Edition of the I-Ching. Search me why: we just knew they would sell.

What everybody is hoping for is that SUDDENLY the public's interest will suddenly turn toward exactly our own personal focus for some theme we each focus on in collecting old books.

Or that instead of having (as at present) only one single customer interested in, say, the Harlem Renaissance, or old poetry anthologies from circa 1925, OR EVEN anything about military insignia and regalia, OR instead of that one customer who wants and needs a book about Taoist approaches to male sexuality, . . that there be, INSTANTLY, four or five MORE customers ready and willing to buy up everything along the SAME LINE that comes into the store.

My friends and I need some sort of HANDLE of what people want in triplicate, not in dribbles and drabs.

The real question is precisely this: why, with thousands or tens of thousands of books on the shelf, must one be reduced to making money on the last and latest purchase of some handful of titles that fell out of the sky only yesterday?

All I can say to such questions is this: 'Where there is a will and a wish, there is a way.'

I would wish for a new boom of interest in African fiction authored by Africans . Or that Québec poets from the 1960s and '70s period become numero uno as a HOT ITEM. Fat chance, I know.

What I am thinking about investigating and collecting (no matter who else gives a shit) are VHS videos where there is some hero-star macho type whose job it is in the flic to put out well-head fires on oil rigs. Somehow I am convinced that there are more than one film title in this oh so specific genre. I want every one of them.

So much for my Report from the North this Sunday eve. Now YOU, for YOU my advice is to "Think layers." "Think cotton under wool under Gortex (TM) under down." Keep warm.

This is definitely not motorcycle weather: Forget the leather except for lined gloves . . And Keep Warm.

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