On Booksellers

booksI’ve had a couple of experiences this week which I feel needed an airing.

Firstly, someone I know a little phoned me and asked to interview me around the topic of booksellers and how they relate to libraries and whether there was ground for a developing relationship, and a bunch of questions on were we able to find what we wanted in bookshops and a heap of other really interesting and good to make you ponder questions.  And so I got to thinking about this, as always after he had asked the questions and recorded my answers, so far, so why do I always get intelligent after the event rather than during the event, but anyways …..

  • Why don’t Booksellers court me and my not insignificant budget?
  • Why don’t booksellers automatically assume that if you are buying a popular series you might want all the series, not just the latest one?
  • Why is it that some big chain booksellers offer 25% and others only 20?  And why in some cases with these same big chain booksellers wouldn’t they offer it automatically when they know you are buying regularly?  Don’t make me remind you that you need to give me my discount!
  • School libraries must be one of the biggest spenders of bookdollars in the country, maybe second after public libraries – why is there no sponsorship from booksellers for our association and events?  Wouldn’t it be great to total up how much is spent across the country in bookshops by school libraries?  It would certainly make me loyal.
  • I feel like there are a bunch more bullet points here but this is where I’m at to date.

Secondly, today I have had two book reps visit and received an unsolicited book, complete with invoice.  I’m going to deal with the unsolicited book first.

Unsolicited books: If you send me an unsolicited book (even if I know you) I do not have to return it, you have the opportunity to collect it from me, but the obligation all rests with you.  Don’t send me unsolicited books.  Ever!  See this link for the actual rules.

Book Reps, ok, two visits from two completely different reps today.  Rep 1, works for a well known library book supplier, brings in boxes of books.  Lots of cream pages and books for dyslexic students – average publication date is 2010 – they cost $21.00 each.  I check the prices on both Book Depository and Wheelers.  There is a $10 difference in price, in one book and $4.20 (about 20%) difference in another one, obviously cheaper online.  I mention this to the rep who is shocked.  She phones her head office and they tell her to take 15% off the total cost of anything I buy, by that stage I am thoroughly peeved.

Offer me discount straight off – I am not so foolish that I will pay your overpriced costs for rather old books.  Particularly when I have done the rather meagre order and you had packed up and left.  You are lovely and it is maybe not your fault, but this is crap.  You should have told me that the price on the books was not the actual price, you made me feel you were trying to get away with ripping me off.

Book Reps (again)  If you phone me to arrange to come and show me books you should be nice.  I’m getting a lot of:

  • All the schools are buying these books and your students will miss out if you don’t buy them too. I don’t actually care what the others are buying. I’m working on MY collection, not the school up the road’s collection.
  • If you are pushy, I will also be pushy.  And again with the discount – see above.
  • And, it is not your business how much my budget is Mr Book Rep.  I will spend it where it does the most good for my students.  That may or may not be your product!
  • It is so not appropriate to say to me that history students all need to study British history if they are to understand any New Zealand history.  That will make me wince and show you the door.  Seriously, have a look at university papers, they are teaching NZ history, our students need to know NZ history, it’s been a while now since we needed to know about the Reformation to be able to understand how things went here – I kid you not, this is what he told me.  I reiterate my point in case you missed it, BE NICE!

And here is a plug.  I have two favourite Book Reps.  One is Austin Kyle.  He is based in Christchurch, he sells fantastic popular non-fiction that I never see anywhere else.  I look forward to his visits, he is quirky and funny and full of good humour.  And he is so nice!  The other is Bob Anderson from John Douglas Publishing also based in Christchurch.  He is interesting, his books are reasonably priced, he sends me sample copies to see if I am keen, but always asks first. He is great to have in the office and is genuinely interested in what I need and whether he can really help me.

Anyway, there you go.  A rant for the end of a busy week. If you wanted to share your gripes and whines and the names of the book reps you love I’d be keen to hear.






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  1. #1 by Fiona Mackie on May 27, 2016 - 6:52 PM

    Add into that the companies who put their large sticker over the ISBN on every book you ordered, even after you’ve specified NO STICKER because you know how impossible it is to remove the blimmen sticker without removing the cover. And then the company gets huffy when you request replacement, non-stickered books!
    If I say to you that I am swamped with a backlog of books, and that you can’t leave lots of boxes to look at because there is no workroom or secure space, please believe me. We don’t have a workroom, everything happens in the library, and there is NO room to leave anything. Being insistent about this will mean you are not getting money from me!

  2. #2 by Bridget Schaumann on May 27, 2016 - 7:15 PM

    Oh the sticker thing! Especially the ones which don’t come off. I don’t buy from the company who do that anymore. I feel your pain. I do like to see the books, really I do. But I don’t want to see the same books you showed me a year or even two years ago. Felt very sorry for one of these book reps, tired old books and no reward for lugging them into me.

    • #3 by ListServ reader on May 30, 2016 - 10:05 AM

      Have you tried Eucalyptus oil? Oil Flo? Meths? for removing the sticky residue? 😀

      • #4 by Fiona Mackie on July 7, 2016 - 1:49 PM

        Oil Flo is my friend and we use it constantly, but these particular stickers defeat even the mighty power of Oil Flo or meths!

  3. #5 by Sandi on May 27, 2016 - 9:24 PM

    OMG this is freaking #AWESOME. And sooooo true.

    We have the most amazing local book-seller rep – Adele Broadbent (yes the author) – who I buy from because of her thoughtfulness, knowledge, willingness to listen, and absolute enthusiasm for books and life. Even when her previous employer initially only offered 10% I would buy because of Adele. And now she works for the most amazing bookshop – Wardini’s.

    I also had a visit from the rep of said ‘cream paged, old freaking books’ publisher. Discount offered after I queried … 0%. Apparently it depended on how much I spent. BTW it was over $600!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Last time they gave 10% after enquiring about discount (different person)… but only as free books!!!! Note to self – don’t freaking use them EVER EVER EVER again !!!!! EVER!!!!!

    And if you don’t have an appointment DONT freaking cold-call and expect to be seen!!!!!
    My exception to this rule is Scott & Jill MacGregor (Children of the Pacific series) & Shayne Rosemeyer (Jahri Jah Jah books).

  4. #6 by Bridget Schaumann on May 28, 2016 - 11:10 AM

    Totally with you on all of this. The discount thing is a disgrace, especially given these are an ‘educational supplier’ I’m thinking they are falling upon tough times. I’m told they import these books so for them to a) not discount unless pressed and b) not have current stock is terrible. I’m thinking they bring in container loads and take what they get, this is a thing and often what comes in is damaged or old stock unsold from the UK or the US.
    The just dropping in thing, is really crap. It makes the assumption that we are available all the time i.e. not working with students and the actual worst is when they want to wait and wait until you are free, it is passive aggressive and I’m not taking it anymore. Even if these are nice people, they need to have a little respect for time and space.

  5. #7 by Fiona Mackie on May 28, 2016 - 12:49 PM

    We had one rep who refused to believe that we had classes in and zero time/interest in seeing him or his wares. He would drop in unannounced and often, as the warehouse is close by, and my predecessor was happy to have people come in any time. He didn’t even sign in at Reception, so I could be rung, just bowled up & expected me to leave the class for him. He was told on no uncertain terms that was not on, but I had to show him our timetable before he would believe me about only having 1 non- contact period a week. That was when he was informed that he was no longer welcome, don’t come back ever! Perhaps that prompted his decision to retire…..

  6. #8 by stephellisnz on May 29, 2016 - 2:46 PM

    *nods head at everything*

  7. #9 by Christine Hurst on May 30, 2016 - 8:25 AM

    Found myself nodding and ‘aha-ing’ while reading this. Not all suppliers/reps are created equal, that’s for sure. I have a couple of favourite booksellers who bring me actual books, and then an online one where I order the things I know I want. As a previous owner of a book business that supplied to schools, I know how hard it was to get in to see some schools, but because I came from the library-world into the bookseller-world I was never pushy or rude, and understood where people were coming from when they said they didn’t have time to see me. And as a self-publisher of books, I can also understand the mindset of those who leave books unsolicited, but would never do that myself. I would die a thousand deaths if I was told to go away by a librarian! And as for the stickers, don’t get me started! But overall, I cherish the selection and acquisition process of being a school librarian, and look forward to seeing and hearing about whats new and spending someone else’s money!

  8. #10 by Carole Gardiner on May 30, 2016 - 9:16 AM

    I totally agree with you on all of this Bridget! I was phoned by the 2 reps you had visits from this week, but said ‘no’ immediately and it wasn’t up for discussion! I guess at least they phoned first. I don’t like the pushiness of being told that lots of other schools are buying a particular book – as you said, I’m not interested in what other schools have either. It’s my students that I’m buying for (and given these other schools could be totally different to mine, they are never going to persuade me with this kind of pushy marketing). I remember having an argument with one guy a few years back who tried to tell me that he knew better than me what books I should be buying. He had assumed all school librarians were pretty much just people who covered books, but even when I told him I had an MLIS he tried to tell me I didn’t know what I was doing. Needless to say, I told him that I found his comments offensive and hung up. Never going to get me to buy your book that way, mate!!

  9. #11 by Trish Webster on May 30, 2016 - 10:21 AM

    Goodness, there are some very unpleasant, pushy book reps out there! I insist on an appointment made ahead of time, preferably made at the beginning of the term. The books have to be left with us for at least two days (we do have an office luckily) so we can let students choose and contact teachers if there is something of interest for them. I take no notice of ‘all the schools are buying this book’ and decide what to buy based on our collection and teachers’ recommendations. I get frequent emails about new titles, and the occasional unsolicited book, but I usually check them out on an online sellers website and even Goodreads before I think about purchasing. Thanks for the heads up about how to send them back, Bridget; in future I will leave them at the main office for collection!

  10. #12 by A pinch of salt on June 1, 2016 - 7:45 PM

    Well said!

  11. #13 by Mandy Ditzel on July 7, 2016 - 11:58 AM

    I totally agree with everyone you said here (and the unsolicited book info was extremely timely)! But one point that really resonates with me is this – I have a healthy budget for book buying (I am very lucky) but my local bookshops make NO EFFORT to encourage me to buy from them – no emails, no phone calls, no lists of upcoming titles, nothing. I am all for supporting local, and I do make a point of buying from both of them during the year, but they get a fraction of my overall budget. Until I read this, I felt a bit bad about that, but you are right, if they want my money why don’t they make an effort?

  1. evita

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