“One or Six but not Two” (the buying bookseller dilemmas)

Booksellers or often books buyers. They are visited by editing companies sales representatives, who present them books they’ll sell a few months in advance.

For example, these weeks of September I order Christmas books…

This is something you can teach (there are a few “principles”), but mostly, you need a few years of experience to be a good buyer.

Flaws are obvious : you can order too many books, or too few. You can have a crush for a book which dismally fail, or you can hate a… future hit.

When you order books, you logically have to think about… where you’ll put the books when they are delivered later.

You order none if the book is impossible, or too complex for your customers, or… if you really disagree with the subject – which is rare, because most booksellers have this phrase in mind (often told as a Voltaire quote but it is not) :

I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it

  1. You order one if you need one on his shelf : you have to have it, but you don’t need to “show” it on a display (specialized books, unknown poets…) or you don’t have the room.
  2. You can show books on long lecturns (then you order 4 or 5 – one on the shelf (you HAVE TO), the others in sight), or on tables (then it’s a stack : 6 or 8), or on front displays for big authors or probable success books : 10, 20 or more.

 

Booksellers have private jokes. One is “You never order two!”. Why? Because it would be one on the shelf and an orphan volume you effing don’t know what to do with.

In fact, you sometimes do it (when you have to put it aside for you or a customer, when you’re pretty sure you’ll sell one quickly, etc)…

0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 10, 12, 15, 20, 25…

Never 7 or 11 or 13, or 17 books ordered. Why? Who knows?

I endeavor to once order 7 books during each appointment I have with a salesman. It’s a lucky charm, and it makes people smile. “Seven are you suuure?”. Yep!!

My instinct knows when to do it : in front of an improbable lovely book, the oblique one, the unexpected one. This job is very cool, you know?

One or Six, not Two, nor Seven. Could be a rhyme, right? In which other territories do we have “holes” like these. Numbers, but “you’re not supposed to use this one”. 13th stairs? What else?

Thanks for reading!

Boy with a Pipe [1905].JPG

(Picasso : Boy with a Pipe)