When I began to plan my business, I thought long and hard about logos. I wanted an image that would be memorable to my customers. I also wanted my logo to be a kind of talisman for me, a reminder of who I am and why I love this business. I considered lots of possiblities, among them the ubiquitous images of old books, shelved or stacked in some artful manner, or a quill pen in an inkpot. Ultimately, though, I chose a drawing that at first glance would seem to have little to do with books:
My great-grandmother on my father’s side was a true lover of beauty and art. She lived part of her life on an old farm in Orchard Park, New York that she and my great-grandfather, who was an interior designer, had bought in order to restore it to its former glory. (Oh my goodness, perhaps this farmer girl streak in me is genetic!) Romantics, the both of them, they never did make the farm do much other than look charming and bucolic. At the start of the Great Depression, they lost much of their income and moved to California to live near my great-grandmother’s sister.
From the time she was a young girl, my great-grandmother spent much of her time writing poetry, drawing, and painting. She never, to our knowledge, sold her art. (Well, she may have. Another post about that to come later.) She wrote poetry and drew and painted purely for pleasure. The world is a poorer place for that. Much of her work is lovely, and I wish she could have known that others saw and enjoyed it. A few days before he died in 2003, my 92 year-old grandfather gave me a box of books, notebooks, and drawings that once belonged to my great-grandmother. The sketch above, which became my logo, was one of dozens inside the box, many of them sketches of young women and books (maybe my love of books is genetic, too?).
I immediately fell in love with this drawing. Becoming a parent and bidding a final farewell to my grandparents in the space of a few short years had moved me up a rung on the generational ladder. The sketch reminded me of so many good things from my past — my grandparents, who had made the effort to preserve my great-grandmother’s work over the years — and so many things I hoped for my future — preserving that legacy for my own children and starting my own book business.
I began to call the girl in the sketch The Book Hunter. Her paintbrush (or quill pen) reminded me of a spear. I decided to show the choice of logo to my relatives and friends, seeking out their opinions. I wanted to know what they thought of the name Book Hunter’s Holiday for the business as well. Below are just a few of the responses I received.
From my cousin, who worked at the time for the publisher of the famous Dummies books (as in Bookselling for Dummies):
“As for your business – I rather enjoy your logo and think it rather special you can use something from our great grandmother. However one thing to remember with logos is size. How will this logo look on something small – for instance an invoice, a bussiness card, stationery, etc? When I created logos in past – the rule was always to keep them simple and easy – think McDonald, Nike, etc.”
Good point, especially if one has a high volume business. However, as has been said by the writer Nicholas Basbanes, antiquarian bookselling takes patience and fortitude. Its pace is not what I would call fast, though it can be busy. And I certainly didn’t want to develop a reputation as the McDonald’s of antiquarian bookselling.
From my brother, who thought the girl in the picture was holding neither a paintbrush nor a quill pen but a spear:
“For your business name, how about ‘It’s Not a Spear, It’s a Quill Pen Books’? That way everyone knows what that girl is holding. How is that a pen? It’s as big as she is!”
Growing up the only girl amongst brothers with no artistic vision can be a challenge, and the above quote is just one example of why. I guess I have my brothers to thank for helping me to develop a thick skin.
From a friend with whom I used to teach:
“How about ‘Smokin’ Hot Bookselling Babe’?” (He’s referring to the girl in the sketch, not to the bookseller.)
I decided that bookselling by committee was not going to work for me. Ignoring their feedback, I plunged ahead confidently with my new logo and my business name, Book Hunter’s Holiday.
Last week, after I got home from the Sacramento Book Fair, I received an inquiry from a customer who’d taken my business card home with him. At the end of his message, he added,
“I liked your booth very much–good stock in great condition and well displayed. The young woman on your card almost looks like she’s on longboard skis in the snow and holding the steering pole–or maybe that’s just what I’d like to think it is. I hope you did well at the fair. It’s really nice to see some new blood in the out-of-print book business.”
Longboard skis?! On a business card, where the image is reduced, I guess the shadow of under her feet might look like skis. Maybe I should have listened to my brother. In my response to his inquiry, I explained the story behind the logo. He (very kindly) responded:
“Your description of your great-grandmother’s illustration makes perfect sense. The longboards were a bit of a stretch, drawn probably from the fact that my wife’s family has raced on home-made longboards up in Plumas County. I like the idea of the large quill pen ready to spear an idea. We’ll look for your booth at the San Francisco fair.”
Beauty is indeed in the eye of the beholder, but The Book Hunter is here to stay, ready, in the words of my customer, “to spear an idea”, or a good book.