Feathering the lily, gilding the nest.

Once you have a well-stocked store, everything gets easier. You can start cherry picking or picking up bargains. Little additions here and there, plus the constant reordering of what sells well and an ear for what is new.

By ignoring the bestseller lists, I'm not impelled to spend money on titles I don't know anything about (other than the fact they are on bestseller lists and will be carried by almost everyone else, probably in larger quantities and cheaper.) By concentrating on known and established titles, I can constantly upgrade.

Whenever I go into another bookstore there are always a few covers or titles that leap out at me. So I write them down and go back and order them for the store.

It's a constant upgrading. Sometimes what I think is cool will sell, and sometimes it won't, but I know at least that the new books are good, that they had something that grabbed me.

In a sense, being a bookstore is discovering what books sell and what don't. I mean, that sounds obvious and simple, but it's a constant learning process.  Basically, if I can assemble enough titles that will sell on a regular basis, then I've got a going concern.

I mentioned that I ordered a lot of cult books--that is, books that have a small but fervent following. I've learned in the past that these types of books sell well. Sometimes it's obvious, like carrying the Vonnegut or Palahniuk books. But sometimes they are a little off the beaten track.

So one of the books I ordered was a Celine book. I had a woman come up to the counter excited that I had the book and was getting ready to buy it when her husband came up and said, "I have that."

"Damn," I said. "You were just about the justify my taking a chance on that book." (I say this in a joking manner, of course.) "Hey, have you seen all the Bukowski books I have?" (Pure guess.)

"As it happens, I learned about Celine because Bukowki talks about her."

Ultimately, they left without buying anything, which is frustrating. They like offbeat books as long as they are offbeat books they already like.

Sometimes these books serve as advertisements. The very fact that I have them gives me credibility, even if they don't sell.

I'm refining the process all the time. For instance, I've learned that cook, funky covers are always a good choice. Often, a more elaborate and expensive cover sells even better than a mass market paperback. After all, if they want to have Dune in their library, a cool leather bound cover will be very attractive. I've sold the deluxe green Hobbit book many times over the years. In other words, it's not the cheapest option I should be going after, but the coolest option. That's the nature of my store.

With SF and fantasy readers, mass market paperbacks do well. With mysteries readers, mmp's also do well, but they tend to want used copies more often. With literature, the nicer the book, the better. With new fiction, trade-paperbacks (larger paperbacks) fit the bill.

The true irony of what's been happening is that for several years now I've been frustrated by the young families that come in. Kids can be rough on the product sometimes (I only can afford to have the one copy) and they can be rather picky--not a lot of exploring, they want what they already want. Plus, there are thousands of young adult series, and hundreds of them that have a following. Even with a much, much bigger store there is no way to carry them all.

Nevertheless, in conjunction with the fact that I can often get the younger books cheaper, and that young adult graphic novels are a "thing" I've been slowly but steadily moving in the young family direction.

And suddenly, they have become a major part of my business. Partly because I gave up several years ago trying to control the situation, and partly because I've apparently finally got enough of those "good" series to make a difference. That is, I will more often make a sale to a vacationing family than not.

Once again, I've reached the limit on my space. I still have plenty of room in literature and SF, not so much in mysteries and young adult and young readers. So I'll have to get creative again, because the response has been strong.

All of this is also a lot of fun. I love figuring it out.