Chapter 192 The Leap of Faith, Or, What It Takes to Be a Bookseller

One thing I love about being a mother is that my kids inspire me. When I look at this picture of Tom jumping off a large boulder into a lake, I am reminded that most of life’s successes require a leap of faith at some point — a belief that taking the leap off the rock won’t lead you to hit bottom and smash to shards when you land. This doesn’t mean one should go around throwing all caution to the wind and leaping off tall boulders into shallow ponds. Much fun as that can be, it can also lead to serious injury. A leap of faith should, of course, be tied to a reasonable assessment of the facts. Keep in mind, too, that sometimes, despite a consideration of the known facts, a leap of faith is rewarded with resounding failure, anyway.

You already know from yesterday’s post that I have a chance to buy some good books (at a good price — that part is crucial) but that I really shouldn’t spend the money to do so given my recent lack of profit at the Gold Rush Book Fair. Should I take the leap of faith and buy the books, planning to sell them at a later date for a profit, or should I pass on this opportunity and keep saving my money for things like printing the Dante catalogue when it is finally finished? (No, it’s still not finished.) There is, after all, no guarantee that I will sell the books in question at a profit, though I believe I can. Right now, I am leaning towards taking the leap off that boulder, and buying the books, even though it means I will either end up swimming in a lovely pool of water (sell those books) or whacking my head on a rock in previously unnoticed shallows (buyer’s remorse).

Does it sound awful to you? Remember, I have researched the books and they are offered to me at a good price, one on which I think I can make a profit. I am not leaping blindly. Though sometimes agonizing, such dilemmas are also the fun part of bookselling, and while I wouldn’t necessarily want to leverage my entire business to make a large purchase (well, maybe . . . for the right book), I do think taking calculated risk is sometimes necessary to acquiring good stock. I remind myself that even when I have the funds to spend on new acquisitions, I am still taking a calculated risk, purchasing books I think I can re-sell at a profit.

Are you, like me, new to bookselling and wondering if you have what it takes to be an antiquarian bookseller? I think that the way you would choose to respond to the above dilemma will give you the answer to your question.

P.S. Yes, I know there are several options I can also consider to reduce my risk, such as:

1) asking the seller to allow me to pay for the books in increments over time or taking the books on consignment (I don’t like either of those options very much in this case).

2) asking another bookseller to be my partner on this deal and to split the cost of the books, and, later, the profits from their sale,


3) trusting that those books may still be available after I sell off a few books (but then I’ll be asking myself if they are really all that great if they are still available).

I’m on the precipice, about to take that leap into thin air, trusting my assessment that the water below is of sufficient depth to keep me from hurting myself. Any other options I should entertain? I’m sure that in my inexperience I may have missed something.

P.P.S. The reason I feel comfortable taking a leap of faith when buying books is that I’ve already done two other jobs that require a much larger leap of faith: 1) parenting and 2) high school English teacher. 🙂

See you in the stacks!

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Filed under A Bookseller's Education, Getting Started

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