On October 30, 2023 Raven & Gryphon Fine Books celebrated its 6th anniversary. Our on-line listings on Abe state “Abebooks seller since October 30, 2017”. We sold our first book on April 18, 2018 Michelangelo off to NYC for US$50.
Our revenue and inventory have grown steadily over the six years and in 2021 we added two great sliding door bookcases. I think we will have to add more bookcases in the near future, if we can find suitable ones.
We have four principal avenues when it comes to selling our books.
On-line via Abebooks
This is our largest and steadiest sales outlet. Abe is the largest on-line rare book platform. They are based in Vancouver and a few years ago were purchased by Amazon. Sometimes the order flow doesn’t seem steady and a month or more can go by with no action and at times there is a flurry of activity. Here is the pattern over the past few months: 5 orders in July, then none from July 23 until September 5, 4 orders in September, 3 orders in October and 6 orders so far in November.
I tend to provide much more in-depth descriptions of books that are posted, minimum $50, and almost always with the maximum of five photos per listing. It takes more time but I think it is worth the effort.
Customers in the bookstore
Unfortunately, these are few and far between. We are in rural Nova Scotia and are by appointment only. Our website features some expensive books, and this may deter the casual browser. But everyone who has visited the book room has bought something. Interestingly, in 2023, we had two calls from people in Nova Scotia, who saw a book they were looking for on- line, noticed that we were located in Nova Scotia, and so arranged to come out to see the books. In both cases, not only did they buy the books they came to see but bought others as well, resulting in a $504 visit and a $1,050 dollar visit.
Visitors are welcomed by our book savvy Belgian Shepherd Freyja. As they browse, she lays on the carpet in front of the bookcases and occasionally strolls over to our guests for a scratch behind her beautiful ears.
Helping clients build collections
I very much enjoy this activity and always feel a sense of satisfaction when these clients thank me for finding their treasures. Collecting interests have included Stephen King, Star Wars, Canadian Prime Ministers and European photography.
Antique and Craft Fairs
We have done two fairs – The Scarecrow Antique Fairs in Mahone Bay and Christmas at the Forum in Halifax. Both went into mothballs during COVID and in 2022 Mahone Bay was wiped out by Hurricane Fiona. My friend Gary Humphries attends these fairs with me and you can get a glimpse of him in one of the photos above from this month’s Christmas at the Forum. We are getting much better at knowing what sells at these venues and how to group and display the books. I proactively dicker and don’t bother charging HST – it is only 5% and I put it in after the show is over. Keep it simple and friendly.
New this year
Postage has been getting more and more expensive especially when going overseas. In addition, European countries are starting to put disposal fees on packaging materials. Some countries like France simply adds a small charge per package. Abebooks will pay it and collect from the booksellers at the end of the year. Very acceptable. Germany, however, insists that each importer register in advance, and this costs some 80 Euros. I refuse to pay this when there is a strong likelihood, I won’t sell any books into that country.
Speaking of packaging. I take pride in packaging up the books we sell through Abebooks. I wrap the book is an elegant white sheet of paper, wrap it in bubble wrap, wrap it in card board that has a white face, and then wrap in in brown kraft paper. Lots of tape! It takes about half an hour to do. But, I have received some very nice feedback from customers. So this year, we added a Testimonials page on our website. To date, there are a dozen listed including the following:
David G, United Kingdom, October 2023
Nine Lives; by Group Captain Alan C. Deere, D.S.O., O.B.E., D.F.C., Hodder & Stoughton, London, 1959.
“The book arrived yesterday. Perfect condition thanks to your bulletproof packaging.”
Robin C, Nova Scotia, May 2022
Francesco Iacurto, R.C.A, Hugues de Jouvancourt, Montreal, 1988
“Wow, Andy - what an absolutely incredible book! I love his running commentary on each section and each painting, really adds to the experience. And the wrapping job you did is art in itself--major kudos for that, and of course for making this happen in the first place. Cheers and much appreciation.”
And not new this year
The success Glenda and I are having with our book business is very much dependent on the
fine work contributed by Renée Gruszecki, who looks after our website and postings there and
in Facebook, Gary Humphries who is my partner in crime at the fairs, and he is becoming quite
the charming seller of books and to Freyja who is 100% a class act.
And thanks to you for reading my musings.