The Hang Fire Books Blog

The rantings of a bookdealer in Brooklyn, New York.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Bottomfeeder Books

So the editor-in-chief of Nightshade Books called a jihad on me. Thankfully it was brief.

"Whispersmith", a commentator on the Nightshade boards whose name also happens to be William Smith (there are MILLIONS of us...I am Legion), was taking issue with the publisher's sale and discount policy because it cuts into his bottom line as a bookdealer. This went back and forth over a few threads and eventually--like most threads of more than 5 comments--got ugly. The editor carried the feud to his LiveJournal blog and offered this analysis of my business/web presence (which he took to be that of Whispersmith).
He's not even a bookstore. He's an online only book dealer. Kind of a bottom feader from what I can tell... doesn't even have his own web sight... just listings on ebay, and biblio and other used book indexes.
I came into this fairly late when a friend and former co-worker corrected the Nightshade editor and clued me in. The editor had already amended his original post and apologized profusely before I even found the thread but I'm picking it up here because A) It's amusing and B) It ties into things I want to blog about anyway.

How is one "not a bookstore" if one sells books as a full-time occupation and has--let's see--3483 individual titles available for global delivery (and the packing calluses to prove it)? No, I don't have an open shop but this is true of many high-end stores as well who sell only by appointment or through auction houses. Also I visit "real" bookstores constantly and more often than not I have better stock and--minus overhead--make more money.

At the moment I don't have a standalone website. This is something I plan to remedy but even when I do most customers will still find me via Amazon, eBay or ABE (at least for the initial sale which is all you get from 95% of internet customers) and I can hardly hope to keep up with their Google presence which is how most used book searches are performed. Once you hook someone and deliver a positive experience and a good product, you may make a loyal customer but for a one-man operation the cost/benefit analysis keeps pushing this to the back burner (on top of this ABE's recent purchase of Chrislands has shown that when you strike out on your own in a sensible and cost effective way, you can get gobbled up again anyway).

On bottomfeeding: While sitting around my apartment/place of business the other day, drinking a blood-orange and vodka cocktail in the middle of the afternoon, I was picturing myself as a hermit crab, happily adding shiny bits to his shell, while the nervous and toothy fish rush around and tear each other apart up above. Yes I was drunk but the point is I respect the bottomfeeder and if I didn't already have a perfectly good bookstore name, I would change it right now.

Alright that's that. All is forgiven and I will continue to enjoy Nightshade's output (which thankfully is mostly fiction since their fact-checking leaves something to be desired).


Bookn3rd said...

His grasp of spelling is quite amusing.

William Smith said...

Speaking of potential cases of mistaken identity are you the "Booknerd" that called into the Brian Lehrer show yesterday?

Margaret C. said...

I honestly can't believe you show your face ANYWHERE. There are so many people after you, dude. Watch yer back.

Bookn3rd said...

Nope, wasn't me! It was an interesting interview though, I'll have to find the book.