When you’ve got the hang of scouting books and are beginning to develop your stock, you’ve only just begun. In my opinion, the most challenging part of bookselling isn’t finding the books — it’s knowing how and to whom to sell them. To sell books, you need two things in abundance: information about your book that could make it more valuable and information about how to actually sell books.
Should you open a shop or sell on the internet? Both? What internet sources should you use to sell your books? Are images of your books necessary if you sell on the internet? Are print catalogues worthwhile, and if so, how do you go about developing a mailing list? How do you sign up to sell books at a book fair? How do you know which book fairs are right for the kind of books you sell? What kind of computer program is best for keeping track of inventory? What kind of agreement is necessary for accepting books on consignment? How do you appraise books? How do you find out which reference books are the most appropriate for the type of book you sell? How do you develop a network of booksellers who are willing to share information when you need it?
To answer questions like these, you should attend the Colorado Antiquarian Book Market Seminar. Held for about five days in August each year at Colorado College in Colorado Springs, it’s an intensive week-long course that answers all of the questions asked above and more. The faculty are an impressive range of book people that include those with open shops, those who sell on the internet, a Librarian of Congress, a book conservator, and a few ABAA members. The faculty represents a good spectrum of all of the types of antiquarian bookselling, and make it possible for a new bookseller to see where she wants to position her business in that spectrum. Better yet, the Denver Book Fair is held the day before the Seminar begins, so it’s a great place for book hunting, too. What could be more spectacular than to be at a beautiful setting at the foot of Pike’s Peak talking about books all day long with others who love them and want to make a living from them as much as you?
I attended the Seminar in August, and I met collectors, booksellers, librarians, people who volunteered for their local FOL, even people who worked for ABE and Alibris. It was so nice to meet other new booksellers, and I have kept in touch with quite a few since our week in Colorado. The faculty was always interesting and informative, genuinely wants to help new booksellers become professional, and continues to answer seminarians’ bookselling questions to this day. You can get more information on the Colorado Seminar here. Most importantly, there are several scholarships available, which are listed on their website. Bookmark the site for this seminar and make plans to go as soon as you can. You won’t regret it.
Once you’ve learned of the myriad options for selling books at the Colorado Seminar, you’re ready to attend Rare Book School at the University of Virginia. It’s courses like these that can expand your education in fields like History of the Book, History of Bookbinding, and Descriptive Bibliography, to name just a few. Founded by the amazing Terry Belanger, Rare Book School is a rare haven in the United States for teaching those who love antiquarian books all about how books are made, collated, printed, and collected. Rare Book School, too, gives scholarships. So bookmark that site, too, and apply early and often. I recently received a scholarship for Rare Book School,and plan to attend in Summer, 2008 or 2009. So, if a new bookseller like me can do it, you can, too!
One thing I learned during my years as a teacher was that good teachers are lifelong learners. Good booksellers should also continue to build on their education, and the Colorado Antiquarian Book Market Seminar and Rare Book School offer wonderful opportunities for them to do so.